It wasn’t a purposeful pursuit into Fairtrade that prompted the founder of Kagali Crafts, Amy Trumpeter, to start her own Fair-trade business selling the crafts of Rwandan genocide survivors. It was a trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2010 where she met a woman called Habiba, whose entire family, apart from her brother, were murdered. This meeting developed into support for another woman called Immaculate and the journey has continued ever since, supporting genocide survivors to bring purpose and hope back into their lives.
So how did the trip to Africa arise? Working as a religious education teacher at a secondary school, Amy and her class were watching Hotel Rwanda one lesson, a true life story of a hotel manager who helped over one thousand Tutsi refugees during the their struggle and terror created by the Hutu militia in Rwanda. Unsurprisingly it hit a nerve, “That’s when I decided to go.” she states.
Amy travelled with the Faith Victory Association and met a woman from Kigali called Immaculate at the FVA office. With seven children, an alcoholic husband and a victim of HIV, you would have thought Immaculate had no hope, what could possibly pull her out of this life of poverty? Apparently a jewellery kit from Amy would provide the answer. After teaching her how to use the tools, Immaculate was able to provide her family with a regular income making recycled paper earrings and beads that are now sold by Kigali Crafts.
As Kigali Crafts is a business and not a charity the financial side of the business is difficult to manage, “I have probably invested a few thousand pounds of my own money into the project. I also developed a business plan to take to HSBC and they gave us a £2000 overdraft to be able to keep going”, Amy states.
Six volunteers regularly run the office, posting the products the volunteers bring back with them from their visits to Africa. Several charity based volunteers on behalf of Kigali Crafts try to visit Africa as much as they can to bring materials to the people they support and collect the finished products to take back to the UK which saves a lot of money on shipping. However, they are training women to take items to Abraham, an artisan and a shop owner in Kigali so the woman can get their crafts sent to the UK more frequently. This summer the first official Kigali Crafts volunteers from the York office are flying out to Rwanda.
Buying products from Kigali crafts will not only mean you’re supporting these talented women but are also purchasing ethically sourced products, “The women use natural products such as sisal grass and banana palm for many products, so it is environmentally sustainable and doesn’t cost them,” says Amy, “we are encouraging them to use recycled materials such as bottle tops and paper. We actually take junk mail with us to Rwanda, and this paper is turned into beads!” The leftovers of fabric are used to make aprons and oven mitts ensuring no material goes to waste. Deposits are sent to Africa as some materials such as fabrics for bags need to be bought from the local markets, the materials are then printed with natural vegetable dyes.
Kigali Crafts donated a sewing machine to Habiba which enables her to make the beautiful bright coloured bags and scarves sold on the website’s online shop. The income she makes from her crafts enables her to pay for her electricity bills and provide food for her family which puts the reliance I put on my sewing machine through A-level textiles into a whole new perspective. Habiba says that since meeting Amy, who decided to try and sell her beaded pens, “life is improving all of the time.”
Kigali Crafts is able to make contact with the many families and individuals that need support through charities like FVA and Ubushobozi. With a translator, they are also able to help people they meet on the streets and use their charity network to introduce them to organisations who can give them long-term support. Amy quite rightfully claims, “this is a much better approach than giving money and hand outs because it focuses on long-term development, not just short-term aid.” Kigali Crafts now supports over 65 Rwandan families. The support from Kigali Crafts extends to teaching the women the business skills and accounting knowledge they need to sell their products.
In an effort to extend support to other communities and individuals in Africa, Kigali Crafts allows customers to purchase dictionaries for African children, support an orphanage, and on the wild side, take out a gorilla permit that gives an individual a chance to go gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, supporting environmental and wildlife conservation. Selling amazing ethical crafts whilst supporting African children, survivors of genocide and gorillas…what’s not to admire and love about Kigali Crafts?