An Update about the Grant Project

After a long hiatus, here is an update about the grant project I was working on in the village. I visited both associations over the weekend and got a full run-down of how everything is going for them.

First up, Mama Claudine. The grant originally bought two electric sewing machines for doing embroidery for her sewing association. Some things didn’t go quite according to plan and the whole association isn’t using the machines as anticipated, but not to worry, the machines are being put to good use nonetheless!

Mama Claudine

Mama Claudine

Mama Claudine has one of the electric machines at the workshop attached to her house, where she and a few other seamstresses can share it. Mama Claudine, her daughter, and the three apprentices she is currently training all work out of that workshop. Things there have been going well after they recovered and rebuilt from when the roof blew off earlier in the year during the rainy season. Mama Claudine also sells some pre-made clothes and shoes out of the workshop.

With the money from doing sewing and doing embroidery, Mama Claudine was able to buy three new foot-powered sewing machines. She plans on using these machines to expand her apprentice training program next year. With a total of five machines, she can teach up to 15 paying apprentices who will study over a 6-month period.

Mama Claudine moved the other electric sewing machine bought with grant money to a market town located two hours by foot. Mama Claudine realized that there were few seamstresses and no embroidery in that small town, so she decided to corner the market and open up shop there. Mama Claudine hired three workers to man the shop and she makes occasional trips to oversee everything.

The operation there is going well. Over the summer there was a lot of work and in that village alone, the project brought in 180,000RWF (roughly $260) in one month. After paying the workers and buying supplies, she was able to take home 120,000RWF. Now it’s hungry season and people don’t have as much money to spend on non-essential items so business is slower, but Mama Claudine anticipates things picking up again with Christmas approaching.

Claudine,  baby Kevin, two other village kids, and Mama Claudine

Claudine, baby Kevin, two other village kids, and Mama Claudine

Mama Claudine is using the money to pay for her children’s school fees. In a few weeks Claudine is re-taking the national exams in order to hopefully get her teaching certificate so she can teach English in primary school next year. Ernest is still studying at the technical school, and the  youngest Patience hopes to start seminary school soon.

Mama Claudine has lots of ideas for how to expand in the future. She would like to find money to build a new house for the family so she can turn their current living space into an atelier de couture, or a shop that sells only clothes. Then the rest of the work space could be used for sewing and training apprentices only. She is looking into studying herself; she would like to take lessons in Kigali to learn how to sew blazers and pants. Lastly, she has noticed that across the Ugandan border in Kabale, the quality of clothes is poor. She would like to eventually make trips across the border to sell there as well.

The other association, Intambwe, is doing well, too. The grant bought materials to screen print school logos, including a computer, printer, and digital camera. Printing logos didn’t pan out quite as we planned, but the technology spurred a different project. As soon as word got out that Intambwe had a computer, people started flocking to them asking if they could use they could print or copy documents there. Their shop is located right next to the sector (second-lowest government division- kind of like a county) office. It turns out the sector doesn’t have a printer or photocopier, so anytime there was something to print, sector officials headed over to Intambwe.

Intambwe association members

Intambwe association members

Soon they were making more money off being a papeterie than printing logos and t-shirts, so we changed project focus and spent the remaining grant money on a high quality, massive copy machine. They have quite the business going. They are the only papeterie in the entire sector, and the closest one in the next sector is over an hour’s walk away.

The president Etienne hired his younger brother Richard to come work for him because he has more experience using technology. Etienne has learned a lot from Richard and has since become proficient in using the computer and typing as well. Now customers can come and pay to have documents typed up, have things printed or photocopied, go on the internet, and have passport photos taken.

The association can make around 100,000RWF ($150) in a month, which is divided up between the six members. Richard also makes more money photographing weddings or other ceremonies. At one of these events, he usually takes 200 pictures. Instead of printing them in-house, he goes to Musanze where he can have the pictures printed for 100RWF. He brings them back and sells them for 250RWF. So for two days’ work, he can make around 25,000RWF ($36).

Etienne is investing his share of the profits in opening a cafe. There is currently no place in that village to eat in a restaurant or watch football matches. Next month Etienne wants to open a cafe that will serve brochettes, grilled meat kebabs, and grilled plantains. He will have a TV where people can pay money to watch football games. He is also writing another grant proposal to some other NGOs in order to expand the papeterie and become a secretariat public. Richard is saving his money so he can one day go to university and study ICT.

So all in all, the grant project has been successful, even though not in the ways we anticipated when originally writing the grant. I’m very proud of Mama Claudine and Etienne for being so entrepreneurial and hard working. Even when there were hiccups, they were creative and found ways to make the project even more successful. I’m excited to see how the project will continue to grow and evolve in the future.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this grant project- we could not have done it without you!


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