Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Azizi Life

One of our favorite stops during our visit to Rwanda was to visit with the women artisans that are working with Food For the Hungry in their Azizi Life program. Christine and Tom at the FFH office open their doors every Thursday for artisans to bring in their work. Azizi Life helps with product development, quality control and placement of goods in the market. Many of the goods sold are made from banana leaves since they are plentiful (a banana tree goes through one life cycle in one season, so the trees are all burned after the bananas are harvested). The women have learned to make beautiful purses, bags, stationary and stationary gift-set holders among many other things. I just got a trial pair of banana leaf flip- flops while visiting the FFH offices in Phoenix! I will have to wear them around the house since Fall has fully arrived here in Minnesota. At the FFH office we shopped for baskets, purses, figurines, and other gifts to bring home. Finding markets for the goods is definitely one of the biggest challenges for Azizi Life. They are working on a website that will enable them to reach US b uyers more readily, and I will post that when it is up and running!

Artisan House

When we went to meet with the artisans, we gathered at a house where the y meet to do their work. Of course there was a crowd gathered (there is always a crowd gathered!), and Women sat on a bench all along the front of the house piecing sleeves on sweaters. The group in Gisanga borrows a weaving machine from another community and weaves all of the pieces o f the sweaters, then the pieces are attached by hand.

We all crowded into the front room of the house to hear about this particular women's association from community leaders. At the end of the speeches and weaving demonstrations, Troy and I were given a sweate, hat and washcloth from a young mother. I was told later that this gift was equivalent to a couple of weeks wages.

Out front of the artisans house.

We wanted to buy some of the goods that they had used in demonstration, and asked Christine if there would be a more private moment to conduct business. She told us that there are no private moments in Rwanda : )! Of course it is nothing to us to buy a basket for $2, or $5, and in fact we wanted to pay more for them, but as soon as the dollars came out of our pockets, there was a tangible tension in the room. It changed the dynamics of the whole situation in an instant. I could see that paying a huge sum for a basket would not benefit anyone, and would only cause trouble. It was one small reminder of how complicated things can get with money. I saw on this trip like I have never seen before how money alone cannot address a problem. Money is still sorely needed, and is often short, but alone it falls very short. It is fellowship, consistent presence and hands- on help that is SO invaluable.

The Rwandan and ex-pats that work for FFH are so committed to helping their communities in this way, and it is inspiring. I want to look for more opportunities to do this at home. Writing a check is important, but so is mentorship and consistent relationship and leadership.

Sara and a very generous artisan from Azizi Life.

Sara folds a beautiful handmade sweater.

Troy and Sara with a shopping bag full of handmade goods.

Kirby and his new Rwandan handmade skull cap...not another one

like it it Minnesota!

Sara with Christine and Tom, the FH Azizi life coordinators.


  1. I love hearing about your Rwanda trip, Sara, and I love that you're working with FH. We have many mutual friends there.

    Like you, I'm so impressed with the mission of FH (and others) to work in sustainable ways. It's not just about giving aid. It's about walking alongside and enabling the beautiful people in these communities to change the future.

    With God, anything is possible. I'm blessed to see it here on your blog.

  2. (Oh! And since I'm also in Minnesota, I second the idea of wearing the banana flip-flops indoors. Maybe they can get you some fur-lined flip-flops next time you visit?)

  3. Sounds great. This is certainly an increasingly popular way to raise funds and awareness. My wife and I love to follow your music and wanderings. You are a breath of fresh air in this muggy era of Christian songwriting. If you are ever interested in supporting a growing mission in India, let me know. My wife and I know a young couple reaching out to a people group in Western India, and they are trying to raise awareness of the needs in this unreached group. One way they are raising awareness is by inviting people to come and do prayer tours. I mention this because they have a focus on musical worship and intercession with these tours. It is a great way to get a sense of the spectrum of needs in India. I also know of the IJM office in Chennai (in the southeast) which you may know about. A long shot, but I thought I would mention it. If you are interested, my wife and I hope to lead a group there within the next year. Let me know.

    Thanks for the music,
    Joseph Brinkmann

  4. keep up the good work.....my wife and I saw you in N.C. last year.....thanks for the music!!1

  5. oh, if you want to contact us, I am a fan on facebook.

  6. Like you, I'm so impressed with the mission of FH (and others) to work in sustainable ways.

    Work from home India

  7. sara, ive had a song of yours from a cd the IMB handed out a coulpe years ago, "Esther". an amazing song, sparked my interest in your music. youtubed more of your music and came across "I Saw What I Saw" and "When the Saints". So very inspiring, both of them. I played both so often that my roommate would not let me pick the music choice anymore :).
    I say all this to say, thank you. your music makes me think, is inspiring, and always still has a focus of Christ at the center. pretty much amazing.
    I wish you could do a tour round Florida. i will be checking every now and then to see. maybe one day!

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience Sara. I'm working with AZIZI LIFE through Partnership in HOPE. We warehouse and ship their product here in the US. I was wondering if I could give out your Blog to people asking about AZIZI LIFE? It helps to have more information and since their website isn't up yet...


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  10. Hi- I found your blog through Tom at Azizi, whom my husband and I met while in Rwanda doing work with Dwight Jackson this summer (in Gacundezi, Nygatare sector). I enjoyed learning about the work you're doing out there. The good Lord willing, we've love to go back to Rwanda next year. I look forward to hearing more about your plans here and there!
    In Christ-
    Laura Correia
    Phoenix, AZ

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