I used to say that Kula Project’s job was to “stand in the gap” for those that do not have the opportunity to work in order to support their families. Last year, I learned that our job is not to stand in the gap, but to close the gap.
In 2015, our families in Rwanda taught us that there is hope in opportunity and dignity in work. Together, we work to help them create both.
The Kula Project team worked throughout 2015 to build a foundation that will support the ideas and innovations of our families in Rwanda. We learned to navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of growth and change, and emerged alongside our families stronger than ever ready to make 2016 even better.
It’s my hope that our supporters will always know the role they play in the stories of hundreds of mothers and fathers who are doing everything they can to build a future for their children. For that, we say thank you.
We are ready for 2016, and we are grateful for each of you that will come alongside us in this journey. I believe James, one of the farmers in our program, said it best when he said, “Now, we can see a new light, and I can promise you that we will continue to follow it.”
As we were driving down the red, dusty roads of Kayonza, Rwanda, our Country Director Egide turned to me and said, “There is a group of women that has requested to meet with us.” Although this was a common occurrence, I had no idea what was really in store for the Kula Project.
A few days passed, and it was time for our meeting. We pulled up to 48 women sitting on hand-carved wooden stools awaiting our arrival. After hiking up the small hill, we proceeded to greet each woman with a traditional Rwandan handshake.
Shortly afterwards, a woman named Shantal stood up and began to share the group’s story. She said the name of their cooperation was Turwane K’ubuzima which translates to “Fight to Live.” All of the women are living with HIV/AIDS, most of them having contracted it during the 1994 Genocide, and they desperately needed help earning a sustainable income. We learned that they started a savings circle, giving them the funds they needed to buy a piece of land – which explained why they had invited us to meet them.
The Fight to Live Cooperative wanted to turn their newly purchased land into a coffee farm, and they asked us for help. When we asked them why coffee, Shantal, a woman in the co-op said,
She told us that the women had signed contracts naming successors to their portions of the trees and income should they succumb to their disease before their children finish school, so no matter what, these coffee trees could fund an education.
We partnered with an incredible company called See Beautiful to invest in the women of Fight to Live. In October, they cleared their land and planted 1,000 coffee trees. Since then, they have started a new savings circle to expand their property and create a bigger farm. Kula is thrilled to be a part of this story and join them in the next phase of their work.
I invest in Kula because of the strategic, transparent and love-filled ways they invest in, and empower others, using a sustainability model.
Kula Project brought Rwanda to life through the stories, impact and images they share. I decided to go to Rwanda to meet the women and men who were thriving and fostering peace and gratitude in a country where just a few decades ago that wasn’t possible.
To stand on the coffee farm of the strongest women I know and breathe their air and smile with them was a dream. Today, I get to live with the memory of sharing that space for a tiny moment with them. It’s a gift.
Lydia Criss Mays
For Nakuru, Kenya, this was their greatest struggle. The borehole at their coffee processing center was broken, and the community couldn’t afford to fix it, and they couldn’t get any help from their government. That’s when Kula Project came in.
We knew that this coffee cooperative of 435 families would never get a good and fair price for their coffee if they were washing it with filthy water. We also knew that the borehole that fed the coffee center was the only water source for the community, including the primary school and the health clinic. With special friends in this community, we decided to change this coffee community by giving the gift of clean water.
By next harvest season, the price of their coffee will increase almost 10-fold. Now, the 2,000 families in Nakuru are drinking clean water. The children at primary are drinking clean water. The health clinic is using clean water. The Kula team has a deep sense of gratitude for the people of Nakuru and the invitation to be a part of their story.
Leader of Nakuru Co-op