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 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.


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 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.

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


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 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 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!
  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.

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 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 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.

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.

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


Oh, heyyyy.
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".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Whoa, ok, I feel like it's been a while. And more than that, I have some pretty monumental news to share. I don't generally make it a habit to speak in all caps BUT...

Am I excited?
Yeah...kinda. (!!!!)

So, it all started happening really quickly about 2 weeks ago. I (finally!) got all moved into the new digs last Tuesday. The house is pretty sweet even if home building in Rwanda is hard on this little designer's heart. And that was really all we were waiting on. (I'll have to get you some pictures soon of this technicolor dream house.)

Thanks a bazillion, Presence Ministries, for our fancy furniture.

Y'all, these girls are amazing! And so excited to be here. They even show up on time...sometimes. :) They are picking up this sewing business so quickly. Me? Not so much. However, I am reaping the benefits. We have 20 girls!! A major upgrade from the original number of six. (I already knew we would be taking more, I felt like God kept saying, twelve. And that made me nervous, but when He speaks I try to listen. So, now with the 20, I feel like He is just showing off. This is so, SO beyond me.) Anyway, two of the girls actually know how to sew, so while the other girls are learning the basics, Theresse and Ange made me a skirt, a bag and new curtains! Holla! (Again, more pictures coming soon.)

We work Monday-Friday, 8-4, with a one hour lunch break. It is seriously the time of my life and a dream come true. This is such great opportunity for the girls, not only to learn a trade that will always generate an income, but they are being paid to do it. And they, indefinitely, have jobs. Twenty young women have jobs, thanks to you.

Thank you so much to every single one of you who made this possible. With all of your generous donations, we were able to pay a full year of rent at the house! And even though I won't be here the full year, the girls will continue to work out of the house; it's so nice for them to be out of the orphanage and in their own space. We bought 6 sewing machines and several yards of beautiful African fabric, and you all donated yards and yards of burlap. We have received scissors and seam rippers, tape measures, thread, needles...the works. We also had a logo designed and are having screens made so that we can print the logo onto our bags. I say this often, because I mean it, thank you does not cover it. But, well, thank you!!

So, my goodness, meet the girls!

Huddled around "Medi" (our teacher...and cook)

Beatrice and Vestine checking things out.

practicing on paper


Medi and Ange

Chantel, Passy, and Beatrice
Josephine, Sandrine, Franny, and Amiele

Chantel2, and Passy
I mean, when you can't sew and you spend 7 hours a day with the paparazzi....
Diane and Chantel modeling our inspiration bag.
Beatrice and Passy
Sweet, sweet Louisa
So, that's not everybody, but that's a really good start and, you know, there is way more to come. Thank you for coming along on this crazy ride. If you would like to help out, here are just a few ways: Our wish list includes 3 more sewing machines ($120, each) 11 chairs ($10, each), a cutting/ironing table ($50), 2 irons ($20, each), a bookshelf to keep all of our materials ($100) and we'll always need more fabric. :) Thank you so much! God has so faithfully provided for this project, over and over, and I know that He will continue to do so.

It's happening.