Arriving in the big city at 17 years old with a 2nd grade education doesn’t afford you many opportunities. The only work you are able to do is clean houses and that is IF you can find it. You begin selling yourself to make ends meet and before you know it, 10 years have gone by. This is Francine’s story. She is the 1st recipient of The Empowerment Project. A mama to 8 children, she is a no nonsense kinda woman. She doesn’t drink, she is disciplined, and quite cautious in how she spends her money. She has to be since everyone relies on her.
When we were dreaming up The Empowerment Project in Kigali Rwanda, I heard Francine’s story. The artisans work Monday through Thursday and the ministry feeds them lunch each day. One day a staff member approached the Director and asked since Francine has a small side business selling vegetables on the weekend, could we buy from her? And so they did. They would give her money on Thursday and she would bring the food on Monday morning. What they didn’t realize was that she took the money, bought vegetables, sold them in her community, made a small profit, and then would bring the food to the workshop Monday morning. Look at her- she is a little entrepreneur. I love it!! She is a hard worker and just needs an opportunity. She is currently enrolled in a literacy/numeracy program held in the workshop. Because of the generosity of a donor, her life is going to change but here is the important part. She has what I call “skin in the game.” While we journey and invest in her, she has to do the work. She will receive business training/coaching and an investment in her business but she will have to hustle like all entrepreneurs do. The goal of The Empowerment Project is to give her the tools to succeed.
What is Francine’s dream? She wants to own a large vegetable shop in Kigali. She wants all 8 of her children to finish school and have a better life than she did. Sound familiar? While you may not want to own a vegetable shop, you want to be successful in your job and want your children to have a better life than you have. While we may be in different parts of the world and have different opportunities, we are all the same.