Tuesday, December 11, 2012

it's the most wonderful time of the year

I wanted to tell y'all a little bit about our No.41 Christmas party. These little yo-yos are my favorite people on the whole planet.


But let me go back a bit. 
The reason we were having our party so early is because Alison is going home to Texas for Christmas this Thursday. Many of our university girls are in exams and we got the word the day before that the only day they would be free was last Thursday.

So, Alison and I scrambled around and wrapped 24 gifts that had all been donated by her sweet friends. We were going to teach the girls to play Dirty Santa. Tina donated 3 cakes for the occasion and we sent a couple of girls on a mission to track down 30 Fantas.

We made snowflakes and paper garland and put the finishing touches on this bad boy:


Leo, our sweet neighbor, built the tree, I made a fabric garland and yarn bombed the trunk, Alison made the yarn pompoms and Tina donated the lights. We kinda love it.

So, I guess we were all set.


The girls were giddy at the Dirty Santa concept. They loved getting to pick out the perfect gift.


It was no easy process, they picked them up, shook them, smelled them...so cute! And then they went back to their seats tore them and everyone cheered and clapped!


Not a single one stole a gift. 
I'm here to tell you, I would have snatched Louisa's scarf or Zawadi's bag in a heartbeat. I asked Fanny why no one was stealing and she said, we all knew everyone was so happy to have their gift and no one would want to take it from them.

They were all painting each others nails, passing around tubes of lipgloss, trading out headbands, dividing up bracelets. They are pretty perfect. And then...


The cake came out and the singing began. Alison orchestrated the sweet surprise and then the girls took it to the next level. (If I was smarter I could upload the video.) These little beauties sang Happy Birthday in four languages, twice. They danced and showered me with flowers. They gave me four hard-boiled eggs?


So, the coming year is looking pretty good.
How did I get to be so blessed?? 
My cup runneth over.

**all photos by the lovely and talented, Alison Holcomb.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

a bit of backtracking

I wanted to do some backtracking a bit; tell you how far No.41 has come and then what's next for us. I'm realizing now, that I sometimes assume that everyone knows our story, so just in case you don't, I'm going to start from the beginning. Kinda.

This time last year, after living at the orphanage for six months, I had a pretty lengthy list of annoyances. Things that would never fly at home and areas that I felt maybe I could make some small difference. After a lot of prayer and seeking wise counsel, I decided that my heart was with the, often forgotten, oldest girls at the orphanage (ages 18-24). Most of these girls had finished secondary school, but didn't have the money for university, and had no real life or jobs skills to get them out of the orphanage, so they sat in their rooms all day. Every day. It was important to me not just to be able to teach these girls a culturally relevant trade, but to show them that their life has value, that they were created for a purpose. We all have God-given gifts and talents and with that, we are all called to give back. And that's how the feeding program was born.

In our village, we have 4 main public schools. The primary (elementary) students all go half-day, so most will either eat lunch before or after school. The secondary students (Jr. High and High school) go all day, 7a-3p, and most don't eat lunch. The schools can't afford to provide food, but they do offer a 20-minute break, so any students that live close enough can go home to eat. Most do not. The effects of not eating a healthy lunch are far-reaching, not just on the body, but on the developing mind. How different would the education system here be if these kids could focus on their studies and not their growling bellies?

Soooo, there you go. So much of what we do now has developed over time. Had I known all of this would be on, what feels like, my shoulders, I would have run the other way. Even the small amount I did know felt like too much, which is why the business is called No.41, meaning FOR ONE. We are doing this thing one at time. That's what I tell myself, anyway. But ONE has become 32 young women with sustainable jobs. ONE has become 17 girls enrolled in university. ONE has become 650 students eating a hot, healthy lunch starting in January.

When this business began, we had very little money, a small dream, and a whole lot of faith. Today, nine months later, we have very little money, a large and growing dream, and even more faith. We have seen God move mountains for the girls and these children, but there is still a long way to go. And we need your help. Here's where we are heading over the next few months: A $41,000 campaign to continue changing lives! (Yes, $41,000 was a happy accident.) The breakdown looks like this:


Living expenses $4000 (through July)

University fees and boarding (4 girls/one year)$6,000
Sewing school
Rent 2 houses (one year) $6,000
Machines and chairs (13) $1,700
Furniture (workspace/storage) $1500
Burlap $2000 (1month)
Screen-printing supplies $500
Hire sewing instructor (1month) $500
Shipping (bags from Rwanda to US) $2000
Marketing
Website $500
Tags for bags $900
Feed Program
12 Ovens $1000
Cooking staff (one year) $6000
Pots and pans/dishes (for 750) $1500
Cafeteria furniture $2000

I know many of your are preparing for the holidays and a campaign like this seems daunting, but every little bit helps. Every single dollar goes so far. Maybe you could get together with a few friends and buy a sewing machine ($116) or two, or maybe your lifegroup could team up to raise funds and pay university fees for one girl for one year ($1500). Maybe a group of your coworkers could contribute to the website. Maybe your family is crazy (in the very best way) and you would like to set up a monthly donation to pay the salaries of the entire cook staff ($6000) for a year. I don't know what it looks like, but I believe it's possible.

I am so inspired by these girls, every day. By their passion and their, new found, hope for the future. This thing has only just begun!! You guys have been my backbone through this whole thing, whether you knew it or not. Your prayers, your encouraging words, your support, mean so much. Please keep them coming. I love you and I am so thankful for you! To make a donation click on 'donate' at the top of this page.

Monday, November 26, 2012

and so it begins...

Are y'all ready for this?! 
Maybe you should sit down. 
THIS IS HUGE!!

We've been saying it for a while,
No.41 is growing. Big and fast.

We've been telling you there are a ton of ways you can get involved.
THERE ARE!
And not just you, 
your family, 
your church, 
your small group, 
your 5th grade class, 
your mom...

Well anyway, HERE IT IS!!


Do you wanna give life with your holiday funds this year?
Let me give you a quick rundown on where your money will go:


Living expenses
Somebody's gotta run this show
$4000 (through July)

University fees and boarding 
$6,000 (4 girls/one year)

Sewing school
Rent $6,000 (2 houses/one year)
Machines and chairs (13) $1,700
Furniture (workspace/storage) $1500
Burlap $2000 (1month)
Screen-printing supplies $500
Hire sewing instructor $500 (one month)
Shipping (to US) $2000

Marketing
Website $500
Tags for bags $900

Feed Program
12 Ovens $1000
Cooking staff (one year) $6000
Pots and pans/dishes (for 750) $1500
Cafeteria furniture $2000


Yes, a few of the needs listed have been met, but we have had to 'borrow' money that is set aside for feeding to keep up with the growth.

And, maybe now would be a good time to tell y'all that there was a little miscalculation when it came to how many children we would be feeding, starting in January.

We were originally told 250.
There are 650!! 
We are moving forward in faith. We know God has plans to bless so many!
We would love for y'all to partner with us.
We need your partnership.

You are providing:
food, jobs, education, homes, and most of all HOPE.

Jump in! Anywhere! 
There is no gift too large or too small!!
Click on that donate link at the top of this page.
And don't hesitate to share with your friends.

We looooove you!


 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

here we grow

Oh my word. 


We have been believing God for some pretty big things around here and, y'all, we are so excited to share what He's been up to.

First of all, if you haven't already heard, No.41 has funded our first full year of meals for our first local school!! Meaning, the girls have sold 250+ bags and, in turn, provided a hot, healthy school lunch to an entire secondary school, everyday, for an entire year! We will begin providing meals when the new school year starts in January. Holla!

Second, last week, we enrolled sixteen girls in university! That is half of our little muffin heads!

Holy moly.

The average total cost of university is $1,500/yr, per girl and His Chase is so graciously helping with the funding. We could not be more thankful. Six of our girls are at universities out of town, all over Rwanda, and ten are studying here in Gisenyi. Although school is now their number one priority, we are excited that these (10) girls will continue working, limited hours, at No.41 and will be able to contribute to their education. That's huge!

Third... we are expanding! As in, we got a specifically designated workspace for No.41!


A few months ago, our landlord decided to build a house in our backyard. Typically, that might be weird, but we snagged that puppy up and we should be able to move in on Friday! Space has become a major issue for us, which is crazy when I think back a few months, to just me wondering what in the world I was going to do with this huge 5 bedroom house. Six months, 32 employees, 10 sewing machines, and nearly 20 house guests later, we are out of space.


Which brings us to, number four, we are letting go of the bead making, buying 22 new sewing machines, bringing back our favorite teacher, Medi, and every girl will now be sewing!

With the new house, solely dedicated to working, we will have space for 32 machines! Everyone is stoked about this. This means more bags for y'all and more money for the chickadees. (The girls make a commission on what they sell and we have always sold more bags than beads.) Glo.ry!


Now, here's where you come in. We will be launching a major fundraising campaign later this month, where we are going to break down all of the ways you can be involved, but in true No.41 fashion, we have gotten way ahead of ourselves (or way behind, if you're not into looking on the bright side).

Soooo, if you would like to contribute to the university fund, or help cover house expenses (rent is $140/month), or purchase a sewing machine ($150) please follow the link on the top right hand side of the blog (second photo down, 'donate here'). There is a drop down menu with my name (tara clapper, nice to meet you). His Chase has recently updated their giving provider, so if you have donated before it doesn't look familiar, don't worry.

Y'all there aren't words for what is happening here. And none of this is possible without you. Thank you so much for your prayers, your love, and your support. We truly are changing our small little corner of the world.

Stay tuned for much more, coming very soon!

PS all of the photos are taken by, the very talented, Alison Holcomb. A couple of them are outtakes from a recent photo shoot for the website. We can't wait to show you more! To check out Alison's view of our little world, you can visit her here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Round 2

Happy Tuesday!
And a very happy Tuesday it is!

We got the call yesterday that 3 of our little bugs have been selected to go for English testing and interviews at The Akilah Women's Institute on Friday!

Passy, Amelie and Diane
I mean, I suppose we're not surprised, they are pretty stinking amazing.
But, if you're the praying type, we would love for you to join us in prayer for our sweet loves.
The interview is Friday morning at 9am (that's probably Thursday evening for most of you).

Here's a little blurb about Akilah:
Akilah empowers young women in East Africa to transform their lives by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to find meaningful employment and launch ventures in the fastest growing sectors of the economy.

  Go babies, Go!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

boss.

Happy Wednesday!
or is it Thursday?
Either way, we're talking bucket list today.

44. Be the boss.


Technically, around these parts, I'm the boss.

I'm the boss who can't sew.
I'm the boss that sets her alarm for 7:30, when work starts at 8.
I'm the boss whose eyes shoot open at 7:15, thinking I overslept, but realizing that my living room is full of beautifully overachieving worker bees and humming sewing machines.

I'm the boss. Lord, help us.

44. Be the boss.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Meet the Newbies

You've gotta move quick around here!
These two girls just started the school on Monday and it looks like they may already have sponsors. Holla!

Angel
I mean, beautiful inside and out is the best way to describe Angel. She was attending school with a couple of our girls and they asked if she could join. I am so excited to have her.

Angel is 24 years old and is the youngest of four children; she has three older brothers. When their mother died in childbirth, their father was raising all four children on his own until 1998 when he suddenly died of an unknown illness. Angel was 10 years when she and her brothers went to live with their aunt.

Angel has finished secondary school and hopes to continue her studies at a university in America. She would like to study journalism or tourism, but in the meantime, she would also like to work at the airport. Stamping passports. :)

Angel is happy to be learning at the sewing school. If she makes so much money, she is going to buy a house for her aunt. She would like to increase her sewing business to earn even more money and solve many of her problems.

She is so so happy to have a sponsor. She knows you will be very nice to her. She wants to call you her family, because she has no one in her life and she wishes to be a good child for you. She thanks God and she loves you so much.

Sandrine
Oh, I am so excited to have Sandrine in the sewing school. Her dad is the gatekeeper at the orphanage and he is one of my favs. (I think because he plays hard to get.) He is one of those strong, silent types. Until one day, he came and asked me if his daughter could come learn to sew. He lit up and he has been glowing ever since.

Sandrine is one of seven children. At 23 years old, she is the oldest, followed by an 18 year old, 16, 15, 14, 13, and a 12 year old. Whew. Sandrine was the only child her parents could afford to put through school and she graduated in 2009. She would like to continue her studies at university and hopes to earn and accounting degree. Sandrine would like to find a job working in a bank.

The sewing school is very nice for her, because learning to sew, she will be able to help her family by making and repairing clothes. Sandrine's family of nine is currently renting the house where they live for 10,000 rwf/month ($15). She hopes that with the money she earns, she will be able to help her parents buy their own home.

Sandrine is so excited to get a sponsor. First, she would like to say thank you for your good deeds of loving her. She hopes to have a very good relationship with you.

So,there you go. The count sits a 24; quite a jump from the original 6. We will still have two more chances to sponsor, once our two sickes get back. More soon.

Thanks, yo!

More Lovely Ladies

Oh my lordy. Y'all, I am so behind.
Listen, I've been very busy being a terrible hostess to my two lovely house guests.
Sorry, Charlies.

OK, so here's the skinny,
these little ladybugs ALL have sponsors (thank you!!!), but I am so excited for you to get to meet them and love them as much as I do.

Sandrine
I don't know what else to say about Sandrine but, she has swagger. And crazy cool style with a tom-boyish edge. I keep trying to trade clothes with her; she hasn't taken me up on it. Yet.
Born in 1992, Sandrine is 20 years old and has lived at Noel her whole life. When she was 2 months old, she was found in a box, outside the hospital in town. Her parents were never found.Sandrine says she is happy at the orphanage and thankful that God gave her the chance to live there.
Though Sandrine never made it past the 8th grade, she would like to go to America and study to be a chef.
She loves the sewing school and she says she is going save her money to help her solve many of her problems; such as, lack of accessories, shoes, and jackets.
Sandrine is VERY happy for her new sponsor family, Blake and Chelsea. She is thankful that you both are "fresh" like her. She can't wait to meet you one day.

Clarisse 
Clarisse is quiet and hardworking. I think she is still coming out of her shell.
Born in 1990, Clarisse came to Noel, at four years old, when both parents were killed in the genocide. Clarisse is an only child. She is thankful that the orphanage has taken care of her and paid her school fees all these years.
Clarisse would like to study graphic design at a university in America. She hopes to find a good job in advertising.
She is thankful for the sewing school, but she would prefer to be using her special art skills, such as drawing. She gains much happiness by using her hands.
Clarisse says thank you to Merrill and David for choosing her. She promises to be a very kind child for you. She can't wait to meet you one day and she knows y'all will have many good conversations.

Vestine
 
Oh, I just love Vestine. She is happy and helpful and a dang hard worker. I also think she plays sick because she likes cough drops....but that's beside the point.

Vestine is 23 years and has been at Noel since she was 4, when both of her parents passed away of unknown illnesses. She thinks that she remembers having sisters, but she hasn't seen them since coming to the orphanage. She is thankful that the orphanage took her in as a young child and raised her to be a young woman without any problems. She is happy that they were able to pay her school fees so that she could study very well.

Vestine would like to study Social Psychology in America, so that one day she can become a teacher. She would like to be able to provide trauma counseling to people in need.

She is thinks the sewing school is verrry nice. She is happy to gain skills that she was not able to gain in the orphanage. She plans to use her money to solve many of the problems she meets in her life and she would like to be able to give back to other orphans.

To the Kru family, she is very happy for you and can't wait to know you. She loves you so much and she is excited to work together with you.

 Patrice
 I lovingly call Patrice, Aunt Patty. She has been sponsored by my Gran. And I dare you to try and tell me she is not one of the cutest things you've ever seen.

Patrice is 20 years and has been at Noel since 1994 when both of her parents were killed in the genocide. She has one sister, 16, who is also living at the orphanage. She is so thankful that she has been able to study and has been given good care. She is happy to live with others who understand her problems.

Patrice would like to study business management at university and hope to become a successful business woman running an enterprise.

She thinks the sewing school is very nice and will help her in her life long process, by teaching her many skills and how to manage her money.

Gran, she is very happy to have you as a sponsor. And she is very happy to have a family together with you. She plans to work very hard and make you very happy to have her.

Therese
Every day she's hustlin'. Therese doesn't love to have her picture taken, but I'll tell you this, girlfriend can sew. And her skills are such a blessing to all of us.
Therese is 23 years old and has been at Noel for as long as she can remember. She doesn't know when she came. She doesn't know anything about her parents. And has no siblings or other family that she knows of. She is happy to be at the orphanage because she gets good care and she is thankful that they were able to pay her school fees.
Therese was in public school until the 7th grade when she decided she wanted to attend a vo-tech to learn sewing. She would like to continue on with her vocational training and learn about customer care, possibly in a restaurant or hotel. Her big dream is to work in a hotel one day.
She is very happy for the sewing schools because she is able to continue learning and she is able to work together with her friends. She is glad to have her own money without having to beg mother (Madame) for it.
King Family, she is happy because you have selected her. She loves you very much and she knows you will be very helpful in teaching her many things. Kelly, Haley and Lauren, she is ready to sew you some skirts. ;)

Clementine
 Clementine is our only mama. She is living in Mahoko, a nearby town, and walks about 30 minutes to work every day.

Clementine came to the orphanage in 1997, when she was 10 years old. She had been living with her mother, brother and two sisters. Her mother was very poor and she felt it best for Clementine to enter the orphanage so that she could get a good education. After finishing secondary school in 2003, Clementine returned back home to be with her family. She has a four year old son, Clement.

Clementine is thankful to the orphanage for caring for her and helping her to study very well. She would like to continue her studies in human sciences and one day go into management.

She loves the sewing school because it is so nice. The money she makes is going to help her buy many things she needs for her family and she hopes it will help her achieve her big dream of going into management.

Taylor, Clementine thanks God so much for allowing you to be her sponsor. She can't wait to be your friend and hopes to see you face to face one day.


Agnes
 
Sweet Agnes just started the sewing school last week. She has jumped in head first and in just four days, she has started her first feed bag.
Agnes is 22 years old and came to Noel in 1994 when her mother was killed in the genocide and her father wasn't able to care for the children. Agnes has two brothers and one sister, all living together in the orphanage.
Agnes is thankful to the orphanage for keeping her family together and for caring for them all these years. She is thankful she has been able to get a good education and study very well. She would like to continue her studies in university. She is interested in computer science and would like to go into management one day. Possibly in a bank.
She is happy to be in the sewing school and she plans to use her money to help buy the materials she needs to study and to help her achieve her good future.
Agnes is very, very, very happy for her sponsor and new family. She can't wait to build a friendship with you and hopes to meet you face to face one day.


Thank y'all for loving these girls. You are blessing their lives more than you know. They have seen your pictures and their pure joy and immediate love brought me to tears. I wouldn't be surprised if you felt it all the way over there. As I have said, all of this, YOU, are beyond their wildest dreams. I can't wait for you to know them more.
Thaaaaaank yoooou!!



Thursday, March 29, 2012

And Introducing....

Prayers are funny. At least, mine are. I've never pretended to be a good pray-er; most of the time, I don't know what to say, even to myself. If you ever catch me praying out loud, call a doctor. I usually just sit and contemplate (knowing the the Holy Spirit will intercede on my behalf); I'm pretty good at being thankful and I'm really good at begging. 

There are many things I pray for and never notice His answer, there are many times I've cried out, "Where are you?!" And then there are days like yesterday. Days when you realize that He is working in you and through you and His ideas are way better than anything you could have ever come up with. 

In the last month, my life has started to spin so beautifully out of control. And maybe you're thinking, you never knew I had it together. Fine, I haven't. But y'all, I just want to say thank you. I'm running out of ways to say how just how thankful, blown away, overwhelmed, overjoyed, under-qualified (and the list goes on) I am. Your love and support is the backbone of what we are doing. This would not be possible without YOU.

Yesterday, I showed you 8 of my favorite girls on the planet. I asked you to pray about sponsoring them and pouring alittle love into their lives. In just over an hour, ALL 8 girls had new 'families' and so did 6 more that haven't even been introduced yet. You have no idea what this means to them. And to me. This morning I told them the news. The joy in the air is so thick it's hard to breathe. We all sat together on Facebook and looked at photos of the new sponsors. More laughing, squealing, high-fiving. I can't wait to talk to each of you about your girl's reaction.

Today, I'm going to introduce you to four girls who are still needing sponsors. Tomorrow, you will meet 6 who were sponsored, sight unseen, and then we have three more who are out sick or caring for sick family members and you will meet them when they return. (Yes, we are up to 21 and still counting!)

Y'all, have I said thankyou?!

Sylvie
Sylvie is wise beyond her years and often acts like a mama bird.
 "Sylvie, how old are you?"
"Perhaps, I am 24."
:)
Alright, so Sylvie was born in 1988 in Congo, she was living with both parents, until in 1995 when her mother became very ill and died. Sylvie's father was unable to care for her and her younger sister and they were taken to an orphanage in Congo. In 1996, as the war worsened, the orphanage decided to move the children to Rwanda and Sylvie, along with her sister, was brought to Noel. 
Perhaps she was 8.

Sylvie likes living in the orphanage because she has been given the chance to study well. She knows her father would not have been able to afford school fees and she is thankful to the orphanage for that. Sylvie loves people and wants to study Sociology so she can take care of all of them. I asked her about her dream job and she said she would think about that when she finished her studies. One at a time.

She thinks the sewing school is very, very good because she can continue her studies and increase her knowledge.

Sylvie can't wait to have a sponsor and she says thank you for choosing her, she will make you very happy.

Angelique

Ange is not a child of the orphanage. She is beautiful and classy. And sad. I want to give Ange the encouragement that I don't think she has ever received.

Ange was the first baby for her mother and father, but when her mother died in childbirth, her father was forced to give her to her grandmother to be raised. Shortly after, her father was remarried and Ange hasn't seen him since. She stayed with her grandmother until she was 12 years old, her gma passed away, and Ange went to live with an uncle. Just recently, her aunt's husband has gone out of the country to study and Ange moved in with her aunt to keep her company and help out around the house. I met Ange when she was given a temporary job as a cook at the orphanage.

Ange was in school until 5th grade and her uncle could not continue to afford school fees and she was put to work in the family's home. She is passionate about the arts: cooking, sewing, making bread, and doing hair and make-up. Her big dream is to one day work in a salon.

Ange really enjoys the sewing school. It's good for her to have somewhere to work hard and earn money.

She will be so happy to have a sponsor and thankful that someone has chosen her. She says, thank you for your help. She will become a good girl for you. Thank you for everything.

Rosine
Rosine is our newest little love. She is quietly confident and always wearing a smile. She is also not from the orphanage, but her aunt, Mama Clarisse, is one of my favorite mamas (at the orphanage) and asked if she could join. Umm, duh. :)

Born in 1982, Rosine is 29 years old and the oldest of six children. Rosine, her 3 brothers and two sisters, lived with both parents until she was 11 and her father fell very ill and died. It was at that time that Mama Clarisse and her daughter (Clarisse) moved in with their family and Rosine's mother worked very hard to put all of her children through school.

Rosine wants to study Accounting or Computer Science and she hopes to work in a bank one day.

She likes the sewing school so much. She is going to work very hard and use her money to help her family and solve many of their problems.

She loves her sponsor so much and she hope one day they will come visit her in Rwanda so she can show them her family. She wishes to talk to you often and when she succeeds she will come to visit you in America.

Louisa
Oh mylanta, I love Louisa so much. She is a very special girl and deserves a very special sponsor.

Louisa was born a healthy baby girl in 1992. When she was two years old, her parents were both killed in the genocide. Right in front of Lousia. Authorities think that sweet baby Louisa spent one month alone among the bodies before being brought to the orphanage by a French soldier who heard her cries. Because of that time Louisa's brain has not been able to fully develop. You will almost never see Louisa without a smile; she is very quiet and shy and she asks that you would pray for her to get knowledge. She is sweet and helpful and a very hard worker.

Louisa has some problems with her legs that keep her from using the sewing machines, but she will be knitting some very special scarves for No. 41.

Though she is a lady of few words, Louisa says she is very happy to be in the sewing school and very happy to be getting a sponsor soon.

Annnnd, GO!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Introducing....

Happy Sponsoring Day!!

I am so excited!
Excited for the girls, and excited for you that you get an opportunity meet these lovely ladies and to help shape these precious lives.
Today, you are going to meet 8 beautiful girls. Tomorrow there will be 8. And 4 on Friday.

Here we go!

Delice
Delice is 21 years old. She speaks excellent English and is a natural leader.

Born in 1991, Delice was three years old when both of her parents and her four brothers we killed in the genocide. Soon after, she was taken in by an aunt who she stayed with for the next 6 years. In 2000, her aunt fell ill and traveled to Belgium for medical care; she never returned and Delice was brought to Noel. She was 9 years old.

Delice says that she is thankful that the orphanage is somewhere to live, but she is not happy there. She says she must do her best to continue on with a good life. She plans to attend university (preferably in America) and would like to study Computer Economics or Business Management. Her goal is to start her own company, one day, and help emancipate the women of her country.

Delice is thankful for the sewing school because she can continue to study 
and learn a new skill for her life and help to improve her standard of living.

She would like to say to her sponsor, thank you. And please come to visit someday so I can know your face.

Amelie
Amelie is 20 years old, the sweetest little ball of sunshine, and she looooves America, High School Musical and celebrity gossip.
Amelie is an only child, who never knew her father, so when her mother was died in 1998, Amelie was taken to live with her aunt. She was six years old. Her aunt had other children, and at best, Amelie was treated as a step-child. She said that she has never known the love of a family. In 2003, at 11 years old, Amelie asked a friend of her mother to help her come to Noel for a better chance at life. A chance to study and get a good education.
Amelie says she is thankful to the orphanage for the things it has given to her, but it is a miserable life of surviving only. Amelie wants to study Tourism at university (in America, duh) and she is excited to get a job and achieve her big dream of working in America.

Amelie says the sewing school is a good opportunity to study. "It is good to me and I like it." Her objective is to know sewing very well.

She would like to tell her sponsor (a hot white man), thanks to God for bringing us together. I am happy for him and pray for him. I will obey you as your friend or your child. My promise to you is that I will never deceive you. And I will do my very best to achieve.
 We all tease with Amelie about her boy craziness. She is a jokester and loves to laugh. But she came back later and said, "Tara, I really do want a man to sponsor me, but it's because I have never known a father to love me and it would make me so happy to have that." Come on, fellas!
Beatrice
  First of all, I'm thrilled to say that Bea was our first girl to be sponsored. By the Madre! :)

Beatrice is 23 years old. She is hilarious and her laugh is contagious. She can also yell louder than anyone you know.

Born in 1988, Bea was 8 years old when her mother was killed in the genocide. Leaving her father with seven children to care for. Unable to do so, he felt he had no choice but to bring the children to Noel. Today, four of the children are still living in the orphanage, 2 sisters are living with other family and one of her brothers is a police officer in Kigali.

Sweet Bea says the orphanage is her greatest family. When she is able, she will help the children of the orphanage. Life is good. She told me that she would like to study at the Kigali Institute of Health and would like to become a doctor. When I asked her what she would like to specialize in, she said she would like to help as many people as possible. After she found out other were saying the would like to study in America, she added that she would, too, and if given the opportunity, she would like to be a professor.

Beatrice says the sewing school is good because she can get some skills and some money. She says she is going to save her money and probably share some with her brothers.

Mom, Bea would like to tell you that she is happy to know you. Because I know Tara, I know you and I love you so much. I wish you will come back to Rwanda; I will show you my brothers and sisters. When I am able I will come to visit you in America. Thank you for being my sponsor.

Josephine
Awww, Josie. I love this girl. Very sweet and fashionable and she will dance your face off.

Josie is 21 years old, in 1994, at the age of four, Josie and her four brothers and sisters were orphaned when their parents were killed in the genocide. She, along with one brother and one sister, has been living at Noel ever since; the other brother and sister are living together in Kigali. Josie says she is thankful to the orphanage for keeping the family together and for looking after them.

She would like to study Business Management at university in America and she wants to become a business woman working in fashion.

Josie says she is thankful for the sewing school because somebody is thinking about them. She is happy to be sewing and making money and she says it will help with so many problems.

To her sponsor she would like to say, thank you for sponsoring and choosing her. She hopes you all will be a good match for each other and can build a strong relationship. Thank you for your help.

Chantal
Chantal is Josie's sister. Shy and quiet, she has a sweet silly side that sneaks out every now and then. 

Chantal is 19 years old and has lived at Noel for as long as she can remember. She is happy to be at the orphanage. She is thankful that she has been able to study well and be together with her siblings.

Chantal would like to study at ULK in Kigali, she also says she wouldn't mind studying in America. Like her sister, she would like to work in the fashion industry. Her big dream is to create and manage her own company.

She likes the sewing school so much and she is happy to get knowledge and skills for her good life. She is very happy with the money and she is going to share the money with her brother and ask him how to best spend their money and solve their problem.

Chantal would like to tell her sponsor, thank you for everything you will be helping to provide. She is so happy to have a sponsor and friend.

Valentine
Valentine is the strong, silent type. She is 18 years old and she takes her work very seriously.
When Valentine was a baby, she was living with her parents in Congo, before she was two years old, they were killed in the war and she was brought to Rwanda to live with a friend of the family. She was mistreated most of her life and at the age of 16, decided to come to Noel to get a better life. She is thankful to the orphanage for taking care of her and for saving her from her old life. 
Even though primary school is free, the family that she had been living with couldn't afford to buy school books, so Valentine hasn't attended school in years. When she came to the orphanage, it was not possible for her to make up all the years that she had missed. Her dream is to work in a salon making braids and doing hair and make-up.

She is happy to be in the sewing school; to get knowledge for the first time makes her very happy. And the money is very wonderful. She is going to save it to help her achieve her dream.

She would like to say to her future sponsor, thank you for finding her and helping her. Thank you for enabling her to gain knowledge and make a business.

Franciose
Franny is 19 years old and so dang cute. She is silly and quirky and verrry laid back.

Both of Franny's parents were killed in the genocide in 1994 and at two years old, Franny was brought to Noel. She has two older sisters who are both married and living outside.

She is happy that the orphanage allows her to go to school and continue to study, but she is ready to make a life for herself and move on to her good life, outside. She would like to go to university in America to study Economics. Her goal is to be a banker anywhere in the world.

Franny really likes the sewing school and she is happy that the money will be able to help her with many of her needs.

She is very happy to be getting a sponsor and she will be very thankful for their kindness. She is going to be kind to them and work very hard to make them proud of her.

Pascasie
When we were planning the sewing school, I wasn't sure if Passi was even a child of the orphanage, I knew that she was always working in the store and that I loved her; I knew, no matter what, I wanted to offer her a place in the school. Well, she is a child of the orphanage and I was so happy when she showed up for our first meeting.

Passi is 23 years old, she spent the first years of her life in Congo with her family; father, mother and 3 siblings. In 1997, their mother became very ill and eventually died. With 3 children, her father made the choice to move the family to Rwanda. He had no house, no land, and no way to provide for his family. He decided to join the Rwanda Army and the children moved to Noel.
She was 8 years old.

Passi is thankful to Madame Director who accepted them and cared for them until now. Her wish is that when she is finished with her studies, she will thank Madame by paying for others who are still living in the orphanage. Passi wants to study Journalism in the best place possible. And, one day, hopes to be a broadcaster.

The sewing school is very nice for her because if she wasn't here, she wouldn't be able to find other work for herself. She would like to be a manager here (and will be) and thinks it will help her to have a good life.

She would like to thank her future sponsor so much for their kindness and love. She will be kind to you and work very hard to make you very proud. She would like to have a strong relationship with you and hopes one day you will come to visit her and see how you have helped her to achieve a happy life.

So there you go! 
I am so stupid excited!! Thank you so much for loving these girls like I do. It's $34/month to be a sponsor. You can donate through His Chase, recurring every month, on the link above (right hand side of the blog, second photo down, it says 'donate here'). Let me know which girl you would like to sponsor and make sure to designate her name on the His Chase site. The girls are excited to set up emails and facebooks to keep in touch with you. We are praying for all seven girls to have sponsors by morning.

Ready. Set. GO!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sew Blessed


Well, it's here. And I'm speechless.

Obviously, not really.

This morning as I sat with the girls, my breath caught in my chest and tears threatened to fall. I listened to them chatter and laugh. And watched them walk around proudly sporting their new bags, just because. I am so overwhelmed by His love for us and the special people He brings into lives to show us that love.

I prayed for No. 41 (not knowing what it would be) long before I ever came to Rwanda. I prayed for these girls before I ever knew their names. Their faces. And this week, right in front of my face, my dreams are coming to fruition. Almost immediately. And it's not just me. It's a dream for these girls that no one ever bothered to encourage them to hope for.

Two short weeks after starting this little project, not only am I seeing the bags come together, but I'm seeing these young women come alive. They are happy and thriving. They have something to be proud of. And someone to take notice. I encourage them daily, and I tell them about all of you who make this possible. I tell them this house, these machines, all the materials, it's because you believe in them. Because I believe in them. Today, for the first time, I saw belief in their eyes.

Today I told them that I was going to start looking for sponsors for them. Before I could even get out any other words, they were squealing, jumping up and down, high-fiving me and each other. I explained that the sponsorship would come in the form of their salary. In two weeks, they will be finished with their training and will start full-on work. Since we haven't started selling bags yet, and I don't actually even know what it will look like when we do, I thought sponsors might be a good option. After seeing their reaction, I know it's a great option. The girls base pay is just slightly above the national average and is $34/month. Later this week I am going to start profiling the girls and I would ask you to please pray about how you can help.

They are giddy at the thought. And I honestly think that it's just to have someone to "belong" to; they have known all along that they would get a salary. They immediately started calling dibs. Beatrice has asked for my mom. Patrice would like my G-ma. Amelie is asking for my best friend, preferably a "hot white man". When I told them that all of the sponsors would be my friends and family, everyone was over the moon. Once we all calmed down, they said, "Do you think people will really want to sponsor us?" I said, "I know they will."

Just before we finished up our day here, I posted the photo of the first finished bag on instagram and Facebook. As you all started to send in your likes and comments, I told them. I said, "Look! They love it. They love your bags!" More squealing, jumping, laughing. It's beyond their wildest dreams and it's barely begun. Thank you.

We also owe you another big, fat thank you
Yesterday, because of you, we bought 3 more machines (we are up to 10), a cutting table, an iron, a bookshelf, and some new fabrics.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!

Practice bags. And I need you to know what an accomplishment it is to have 3 out of 4 looking at the camera.





We had to expand into another room!


We are going to make you proud. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coffee

Oh, heyyyy.
Coffee?
Sure, I'd love to.
Thanks for asking.

If we went to coffee, I would find it hard to talk about anything other than No.41. These little muffin heads are pretty much consuming my house, my life, and my heart right now.


I would tell you that we start school every day at 8. And these girls show up around 7:45 and head straight to a machine. That is HUGE.


I would tell you.... sometimes I'm still in my room getting ready and I grin like an idiot as they all walk in, chatting and I think to myself, "Oh, there's Vestine. And that's Sandrine. Awww, B, she's so cute...."

I would tell you, I have never seen bigger pack rats in my life. At the end of the day, we all clean up and all of the stations are completely empty. It took a while to dawn on me that I didn't know where all of their work went. Oh, it's just hiding under the couch cushions and in random drawers, behind the sofa.... I mean, books, pens, scissors, fabric, bags.... :)


I would tell you that I am so thankful to everyone who has donated and continues to do so. I am paying the girls in faith, even before we have sold a single bag, and He is so faithful.

I would tell you that I made a new pal and wonderful business contact in Kigali and I'm so excited to see what's ahead for No. 41....more than I thought or imagined.

Whoa. And then I would tell you that my new pal in Kigali invited me to a little get-together at her house. We ate fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans! We drank lemonade, played Guitar Hero, watched The Voice. I took a hot shower. I got my hair cut!! Life-changing? Yes.

I would tell you that I go to Kigali every weekend to spend time with Inn. I would tell you that I'm so much weaker than I thought, but I'm getting stronger everyday. And I know I'm being prepared. Tested.

I would tell you.... I've had a facebook status update all set in my mind, for months, that said, "Off to Burundi. The next time I leave Rwanda, it will be to come HOME." And then I would tell you that I don't think that's true anymore...

I would tell you.... it's tough to get a good picture of the house because I have a huge gate really close to the front. But I would say, this photo pretty much covers the outdoor color scheme. Pink. Blue. Purple. Green. Brown. Gold. Bonkers.


I would tell you.... that I really like these coffee dates.

Lata Gata.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Big Timers

It's Friday!
And for the little No. 41 lovebugs, it's their first PAY DAY, ever!

It was a big day!
And we were opening bank accounts to celebrate.
Annnnd it only took 6 hours.

Here's how we roll:

a taxi into town

passport photos for the account


gotta make sure they look good

and we wait

and at the bank, we wait
lots of paperwork

some more waiting

and it's final!!

 I hate that I didn't get a picture with all of the girls and there new account books.
It was dark:30 and I was sleeping.
...not really sleeping, but we were ready. to. go.

So, there you have it.
Happy girls.
Proud "mama".