Friday, February 22, 2013

Basket Making 1

The beautiful baskets of are they made? I had the opportunity to see demonstrations by several local women. The most memorable was driving to a remote community to meet the artisans.

Most baskets are made from fibers from a plant called Umugwegwe. It is also made from grass called Ishinge. They start with a green leaf from the Umugwegwe plant. It is then sliced lengthwise into strips with a knife. The pulp is pushed from the strips with the knife until only the fibers are left. You don't get many fibers from each strip so you need to cut many leaves from your plants or purchase them!

The fibers are then washed in soap and water until they are white. Then they are hung for 30 minutes in a partly sunny location. Keeping out some to stay white, other fibers are boiled with dye that they can purchase. Boiling for 30 minutes helps the fibers hold their colors. With a needle fibers are sewn into a small spiral for the center, the beginning of every basket.

See my next entry, Basket Making 2, for the rest of the process.

Basket Making 2

Clarissa, 23 years old, has been making baskets for 3 years. She went to an association to learn this traditional skill. Many times they will learn from a family member or older woman in the community. The basket she is making will take 4 days working about 3 hours a day. She charges $8 for the basket.

Now after all the supplies are ready and colored it is time to begin at the center. With a needle the fibers are sewn into a small spiral for the center.

Thick ends of the grass called Ishinge are pushed into the coiled fiber. Threads made from the fibers are then sewn around and around the grasses to make each coil. The coils are sewn together on top of each other.

When the grass bundles start to get thin she adds another bundle to the coil. The fibers she has colored bring the basket to life.

Dave and I visited this community driving on rutted back roads. They were so gracious to demonstrate basket making for us. When I asked to purchase the unfinished basket I received many chuckles. But I explained it is one way to share the technique with others in the US.

What is difficult is seeing how much time goes into making a basket and how little they receive in payment. A small basket takes 2 days to make and sells for $3.00, a medium size basket takes 4-5 days and and costs $7.00 and a larger wedding basket takes 2 weeks and costs $18.00. And some
more detailed designs with finer fibers take much longer.

I was thrilled to have this opportunity to be welcomed to the artists homes and meet their families and share our stories. That's what has been so special in Rwanda. Building relationships.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hearts for Rwanda

What a better way to support vulnerable children than to have our youth step up and make a commitment to make a difference. I have truly had the privilege to work with Haley Justice, one of the youth at St. Paul's United Methodist Church and senior at the State College High School. For her senior class project she agreed to coordinate Hearts for Rwanda, an art show and exhibit, featuring art by Rwandan youth and children from St. Paul's UMC.

The day featured art, opportunities for children to experience the culture by seeing traditional Rwandan dance performed by Grace Hakizimana and Janviere and experiencing other cultures.

As Haley shared, "It was about bringing community together to celebrate children's art. We raised $1,157.00 which is very exciting. The August mission team had raised $11,500 for the Cyakabiri Faith Primary School. With the help of this event, it was made possible to make the final $1,000 payment to finish paying off the classroom commitment. It turned out sort of ironic. It brings the whole project together. A senior project for high school in the end earning money for another classroom on the other side of the world. There is a much bigger picture than what I participated in, and I'm so thankful I got to be a snippet of it. I learned so much and had a lot of fun".

And Arlene Brown, founder of the Urukundo Children's Home shared her thoughts. "Hearts for Rwanda is such an awesome event. Haley needs to come to visit Urukundo and meet the kids. Our children are our strength for the future. Young people like Haley are making a difference. Please thank her for me and for all the Urukundo kids."

Yes, anyone can make a difference. Don't wait. Step up and give voice for vulnerable children in Africa and throughout the world. Make that first step...and continue one step at a time.

*The back of each piece of art featured the artist and a little about them
*Haley Justice
*Kids captivated by Rwandan dance
*Grace sharing her gift of dance
*Art from Rwanda

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Help Make Joy

Sunday School children, book clubs, alternative Christmas, preschool global giving projects. What do they have in common? Marc, 11 yrs old, says it best, "I got to help make joy for the people of Rwanda. We gave money for a pig and desks. It was really cool."

The end of 2012 brought many joys and examples of giving that I knew God was smiling and blessing all the hands and feet serving. One little boy gave at Sunday School for a pig and said it was, "Special. Heart soaking." Barb said with a smile, "For the past several years I've given a donation as an alternative to purchasing a Christmas gift for my parents. This year I chose to honor them by giving a gift of desks and chairs for the new primary school. My parents were so touched! They have always valued education, and this seemed like the perfect way to show our love for and support of the children of Rwanda."

Two women's book clubs were inspired to give towards desks, bookshelves and books. Gail shared, "Learning and loving to read is one of the most wonderful gifts given to us all. It opens the world around us. We chose having bookshelves for your classroom to enable you to fill the world around you with books, books, books!" And Darlene, from a book club said, "All children deserve the chance to receive an education. It is the building block for a nation."

So for 2013, be creative, think BIG and connect people, schools and organizations to the Urukundo Children's Home and Learning Center. They will fall in love with the children, understand how something small can mean something big in Rwanda and KNOW they are truly making a difference. Share the stories of Urukundo with others to give them the opportunity to "Help Make Joy" all year long!!!!

*A State College Book Club
*4th & 5th grade boys Sunday School class at St. Paul's United Methodist Church leading the fundraiser for "Hammy" the pig
*Cathy chose an armful of books to sponsor and write a special message.
*Gail/Nana and Caleb love their special time reading and giving to Urukundo.