It was April 7, 1994 in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Grace was six years old and her mom was working as a cook for a French man. After work, her mom returned home to be with the children, where she received a phone call from the watchman at her job. He told her that her sister and all her children (Grace’s aunt and cousins) had been killed in the night. “Do not leave your house,” he warned her, “Or you will be killed.”
Grace’s father was on his way home from work. The government-supported militia met him on the road and killed him with a machete. Grace’s mom received the news and fled with her two-year-old son on her back, holding six-year-old Grace’s hands as they ran. They fled from Kigali, hiding in the bush until they made it to Kibuye (walking nearly 80 miles) where they stayed in hiding with their grandfather. Finally, at the end of the 100 days of violence, they heard news that Kigali was once again safe.
The capital was safe from physical violence, but the genocide had left a cruel mark on the city. Returning home, Grace’s family found that their house had been burned to the ground. Their grandmother was safe in her house, but her crops had all been destroyed and thrown down a toilet. There was no food for them. Grace’s mom called her employer to see if he was still in the country and he immediately came to them, bringing food and clothes. He told her to begin work again.
Grace’s mom soon remarried a soldier from the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the group that had fought against the government-sponsored militia during the genocide. However, because of injuries sustained during the war, he soon had to resign, leaving Grace’s mother as the primary provider for the household. Life remained difficult for the family. As a result of the poverty caused by the genocide, almost half of Rwandan children stopped going to school, but Grace continued trying to receive her diploma.
However, being able to continue her education proved difficult. After being denied a second chance to take her national exams and get her diploma, Grace felt she had nowhere to turn. Hearing of Grace’s need and wanting to help her pursue her dreams, Noonday Collection Ambassador Wynne Elder and customer Jennifer Verme sponsored her to go to sewing school.
When you purchase handmade goods from Noonday Collection, you are making a direct impact in the life of someone just like Grace. Whether your support will help a genocide survivor rebuild her life, an HIV positive woman in Ethiopia reclaim her dignity through sustainable work, or a member of one of India’s most despised castes rise out of crippling poverty, you are letting our artisans know that they have not been forgotten.
Wear their story; share their story.