Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Trunk Show

Hey ladies (& gents, if you're out there!). It's me, Rylie Craft.

Once upon a time, like last week, I had my first-ever trunk show for No.41... & it was pretty much the best thing ever. We partnered with a few other, likeminded, fair-trade organizations & had ourselves a big ole' party. Now, by no means am I claiming to be a professional. Because, HELLO, I'm not. However, this past Saturday there were a few things that went really well & I wanted to share them with y'all!

Creative helps:
-- Emphasize the personal factor. The lady on the tag is not a picture of a model posing for a stock photo... "That lady" has a name & a story... & actually, it's written on the back of the tag!
-- Stress the missional aspect of the bag. It says so itself: for one child, for one meal, for one year. When you purchase a signature bag, you get WAY more than a bag... You become a small part of a bigger story.
-- Have a computer handy. Mine was set up next to the bags the entire time, playing on loop the No.41 video (Preview). This ties back into the personal factor, as the shoppers were listening & seeing the real life stories of the women behind the bags! Everyone said how much they loved & appreciated seeing & connecting with the ladies in that way.
-- Globes. I'm all about the globes. We had many -- & I mean many -- of them scattered around the "party area" & most of them had a heart over Rwanda. A sweet touch that keeps in mind a global perspective.
-- Pretend it's a quaint boutique. Because believe it or not, the atmosphere plays into the overall shopping experience, BIG TIME. Please please please don't throw the bags on a table & call it a day. Make it cute & inviting... & photo-worthy. ;)
-- Think outside the box. Whether it be how you display the bags, when you host the party, or who (if any) you might want to incorperate if you want to do a collaboration (however, try to avoid similar merchandise from different vendors... you don't want anything to compete with another).

If you would like to have a trunk for your family and friends, please email tara@no41.org for more information. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Campus Rep Program // Meet Erica

We want to introduce to Miss Erica Voss today. Erica is a sophomore at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.

Hello! I'm Erica, and I am absolutely geeked to join No.41 in their Campus Reps program! I first learned about No.41 on a trip to both Uganda and Rwanda in the summer of 2012.

When I first stepped into their house, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of their whole project. The girls, their bags, and their jewelry, all of it was GORGEOUS. I quickly fell in love with the mission of the project as well, and since I am a firm believer in the empowerment of people, No.41 was right up my alley!

I have since connected with an orphanage in Uganda, and we are working to develop a family center along with some of the other ministries they already have. Our goal is to try and empower parents who may not have the resources and skills to care for their children. It is not an easy task, but God is the ultimate Provider, and His plan for me (in working with both the orphanage in Uganda and with No.41) is greater than I could ever guess! I am so excited to see how God moves through this Campus Reps program!

If any of you college girls are interested, or know anyone who might be, in joining our team of dreamers contact Lacey (lhar23@yahoo.com) or Rylie (rylie.craft@gmail.com).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Hi! We are No.41.

we don't all look like Angel, but we'd like to.....

We employ women in Rwanda, like 30.

Our women feed school kids (and teachers), like 1,000.

God is crazy blessing our efforts far beyond anything we could have ever imagined, like a boss.

Wait, what?.....

No.41, literally, means for one. We live in a world of crazy chaos, beautiful, heartbreaking stories, and overwhelming joy. We pretty much feel like HopeSpoken is right up our alley. We are super honored to sponsor, can't wait to meet everyone, and spend some time making much of Him.

As far as nerves, one half of our American team gets nervous just thinking about large groups of people. The other half isn't even thinking about tomorrow, yet, much less 6 months from now. (smile)

Random.... Well, we got photobombed one day. Does that count?

We have seen our God prove Himself mighty over and over again, we know that HopeSpoken will be a beautiful weekend full of nothing less.

Come say hi on Facebook, we'd love to meet you!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We Want YOU:: Campus Rep Program

Hey yall! I’m Lacey, and I am SO excited to be working with No.41 on their Campus Rep program. No.41 has had my heart since, well, the beginning; starting with a spunky girl named Fanny! As soon as Tara started posting about sponsorship and I saw Fanny’s smile, BOOM case closed. Since then I have been able to spend a summer with Fanny and her BABY Tarison who is almost one year old and the BEST thing ever!

I have also been able to see first hand the amazing work that goes on daily at the 41 house. I mean, that place is just full of so much hope and love, y’all. I have been so inspired by the big dreams that have gone on in that little house in the past year.  No.41 is so special, because it proves that dreams do come true (so cliché I know) but really this whole business is a dream in itself.  Living out their “For One” dream, one child at a time.

& hellooo everybody! I’m Rylie. Like Lacey, I’m thrilled to be working alongside No.41! First off, I am super unqualified to be here, but am so thankful to serve along side Tara, Alison, Lacey, & all of the No.41 ladies! The Lord has given me a heart that desires to see HIS kingdom come throughout the nations... So last year when I saw Tara (my good ole’ blog friend) posting about this organization she was starting, I was beyond thrilled & knew I wanted to help in any way possible. So, like most of you, I haven’t been to Rwanda to meet these ladies face-to-face (YET). But the Lord has a funny way of building community, & I’m not going to be one to argue. :) & besides, whether or not we have met them, they are real women (& mamas!), with real stories, & REAL DREAMS... & this is a real, simple way we can get involved in their lives.

So this fall we are working with No.41 and their Campus Reps program. The Rep program is solely run by college girls, spreading the amazing work of No.41.  So many things amazing things planned for this next year. If any of you college girls are interested, or know anyone who might be, in joining our team of dreamers contact Lacey (lhar23@yahoo.com) or Rylie (rylie.craft@gmail.com).

We hope y’all are as excited as we are! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

coffee talk

Oh, hey there, October! How is that even possible?! Now that Alison and I (Tara) are back in the States, we're not complaining one bit about the falling leaves, fall temperatures, and pumpkin everything. And I'll just go ahead and speak for myself here, and say that I have been consuming pumpkin like a boss. (Sorry, Amy, pumpkin goodness is headed your way, too.) This month, we're chatting about 5 Things You Don't Know About Us. And we're going to tell you those things about each other. Tara on Amy. Alison on Tara. Amy on Alison. Heeeere we go!

via alison holcomb photography

First up: Amy

1. The truth is, I haven't spent a ton of time with Amy, but that leads me to something you should know about her. Amy is a go-getter. She prayerfully seeks God's plan for her, but she isn't afraid to jump as soon as she gets the word. Amy contacted me, about this time last year, and we started formulating a plan for her to come and visit Rwanda, specifically, Noel (our neighboring orphanage where many of our girls grew up). Amy spent the week of Christmas with us, while I not so secretly tried to sell her on No.41. It wasn't long after she returned back to Texas that we were moving forward on plans to move her to Rwanda (this past June) to head up the day to day activities at No.41. We spent all of one month together, (Amy, Alison, and I) before Alison and I headed back to the States. 

2. Plans. I mentioned that word twice, already. That word is definitely unique to Amy. While the three of us share a similar passion, the way that we approach it could not be more different, which makes us a very good team. Amy's calm, level-headed, organized, needs-a-plan personality brings such a peace to all of us, yet Amy is such a hard worker, not at all afraid to dig in and get her hands dirty. We don't call her 'the ambition' for nothing.

3. Amy loves Swedish Fish.

4. Before moving to Rwanda, Amy taught 2nd grade at an inner city school in Dallas. She, currently, teaches preschool at Noel and has some big dreams and prayers about what He is stirring in her heart for these precious kiddos with so much at stake.

5. Amy is a great friend, consistent, supportive and encouraging, and the fabulous support she receives from her friends and family speak back to that.

Tara is up next..

1. One thing I love about Tara is her ability to quickly make a decision and stick to it. Move to Rwanda? Sure. Move to Nashville? leaving tomorrow. (literally.. she's leaving tomorrow. be sure to wish her a safe journey!) What's fun is, those decisions always pan out well. (except for the time she decided that I should help her dye her hair when we were sitting in our friend Robin's living room and he wasn't home. He died when he came in to find us.. Don't worry, her hair turned out super cute.)

2. She makes the best breakfast burritos. In Rwanda, they were the highlight of the morning.

3. The guy, Innocent, who we buy wholesale fabric from in Kigali is in love with her. She's not taking him up on his marriage offers yet, but maybe next time we go to visit she will.. :)

4. Tara will make anyone laugh their face off. Even if they don't understand English:)

5. She loves well. She would probably make a joke about how mean she is right now, but seriously. She's got an incredible heart and something I love and admire about her is that she accepts and loves people where they're at, no matter what. She's always encouraging and figures out a way to let people know she appreciates them.

We saved the best for last, Alison!
1. Genuinely kind!  I first met Alison last January back in Dallas when she was visiting home and I was thinking about coming to Rwanda and No.41.  She was so sweet to meet with me and just listen to my questions and share her experiences in Rwanda.  Alison asked really good questions and truly wanted to try and make me understand what living here was like.  When I moved here I spent 3 weeks living with her and she was always giving me things and preparing the girls and I for when she left.

2.  Makes a great batch of popcorn!  In fact I'm still enjoying her love of popcorn because I inherited all the popcorn seasonings!

3. Has a life long friend in our moto driver Jerome!  Both Tara and Alison did such a great job of creating a community here and introduced me to my favorite moto driver Jerome.  Even 3 months later Jerome still asks about Alison and wants to talk to her.  One of the sweetest things is to watch Jerome listen to a whatsapp message from Alison, his whole face lights up!

4. Tara and I have some big plans to cash in on a dowery for Alison when she marries the Pakistani man at the Foreign Money Exchange in Kigali. We are holding out for around 20 cows, at least 5 with horns.

5. Alison loves well!  From the girls at No.41, moto drivers, neighbors, family, and friends she values each person.  It was so neat to see her interact with the girls, check on them individually, share silly faces, and funny moments.  She is missed so much here and I'm always asked about when she is coming back! (Hint, hint, buy a plane ticket!)

Whew! That was harder than we all thought it would be!
One last thing, have y'all seen our new No.41 calendars? We aren't partial or anything, but we think they would make THE BEST Christmas gifts! Who doesn't like sweet photos and feeding 100 meals??  Happy Tuesday!!                                                      

Monday, September 9, 2013

41style and a giveaway

from time to time, people send or tag us in their photos with their no.41 gear, and to be honest- they make our day.. it's so fun to see our girl's work being carried around all over the place! 

we want to see how YOU style your no.41, and in return- we are having a little giveaway! 

at the beach, school, yoga class, the grocery store.. we want to see your photos.. on instagram, facebook and twitter! 

one winner will be drawn at random and the prizes are- one of our fabulous new t-shirts, a necklace and an apron! 

to enter is super simple! get those pictures up, make sure you tag us and use the hash tag #style41 

be sure to start today! the contest closes next Monday- September 16th. 

stay tuned for another giveaway on our friend wynne's blog! you won't want to miss it:) 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

coffee talk

alison holcomb photography///click to shop.

Hey there!

Now that two out of the three of us have reasonable internet access, we thought it might be time that y'all got to know us a little better. Tara (the dream), Alison (the style), and Amy (the ambition) all share Rwanda and No.41 in common, but we all come at life from different angles. Coffee Talk is our new, once a month attempt sharing our unique perspectives on life, faith and the people and places we love.

Something New: Well, pretty much everything feels new since moving home to Oklahoma at the end of July. New plans, new opportunities, new direction. One of my favorite things is my newfound creativity. It's always been there, but it feel like it's been hiding for a very long time. Hey creativity, welcome back!

Something Inspiring: Y'all I would be lying if I said my creativity wasn't driven by Pinterest. It's seems so annoying and cliche, but it's so TRUE. Literally, anything you want to do (or never even knew you wanted to do) in your whole life, is there.

Something Disturbing: I am devastated by the amount of hair my dog, Jett, sheds daily. Wait, maybe I should check Pinterest for a remedy?! If not, look for No.41 wigs, coming soon!

Something I'm Listening To: Oh, I may be late on this thing, but someone posted the Shane & Shane video for 'Though You Slay Me' on Facebook today. It was my first time to hear it. I downloaded the entire album on iTunes. So good.


Something new: I have to agree with Tara.. Since getting back to the states in July, everything feels new! I had a pretty hectic schedule before I moved to Rwanda, so now that I'm back in the states- I'm soaking up the down time. I love having time to actually catch up with people and be more intentional with people in my life. Just showing up at my grandparent's house to sit and chat with them is something I've been loving these days. Oh, and spontaneous road trips are nice, too:)

Something inspiring: A new season. I know it's not Fall yet (especially in West Texas..) but, I'm talking about a new season in life. The first of a month feels like a fresh beginning to me and now that I'm settled in a bit, I've been feeling pretty refreshed and excited to take on this new little season.

Something disturbing: 100 degree days kinda make me wanna cry, other than that- I can't think of anything.

Something I'm listening to: Lost in the Trees on vinyl. I missed my record player so much and have had fun falling back in love with it.


Something New: This one's easy.... I moved to a new country!  So everything is new: new people, new food, new house, new language, new ways to shower or not, new joys, new sights, new sounds, new experiences..... A lot of new!!

Something Inspiring:  Rwanda's beauty!  Even though it is has been very dry and not a lot is growing I'm still taken back by all that I see as I walk out of the gate.  My favorite thing to do here to take a walk to and from the next small village as the sun sets.  Some days I live for that time where the whole country seems to be coming home and done for the day.  From the beautiful hills, glorious volcanoes, and very interested Rwandans that stare at the white lady just walking for fun....it all is inspiring.

Something Disturbing:  The rainy season is quickly approaching and I live with some amazing weather forecasters.  So I usually ask one of the girls, before I hop on a moto, if it's going to rain and they then proceed to stick their hand out of the window and say things like "not now, it will rain tonight."  or "yes, rain is coming"  What's disturbing is that they are always right!!!!  Maybe I'll be able to do this kind of forecasting before I leave!

Something I'm listening to:  Rain falling on the roof at night.  Mainly because when it rains at night that's all you can hear!

So, there you have it! It is our goal in life (or really just on this blog) for you to hear a lot more from each of us soon and a bit more often. Next month, for coffee talk, we are thinking of a little 5 Thing You Don't Know About Me. Do you think we should write them about ourselves or about each other? Cast your vote in the comments. Don't make us look like losers. :) Ready? Go!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

one shirt = one HUNDRED meals

We've been working on some fun behind-the-scenes things lately at No.41, and we are so excited that our new t-shirts are now available in the shop for pre-sale!! Not only are they the most comfortable shirt ever, but for $25 each tee provides one hundred meals for a secondary student in Rwanda!
 I know, I know. We think it's pretty legit, too. Now get going!
Thanks for your support, we sure do love you guys a lot!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

870 Ones

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can feed only one person at a time. Just one, one, one."   - Mother Teresa

These sweet faces greeted me today as an American group and I visited the school where the feeding program takes place. Each child greeted us with a smile and a big bowl of food. It was lunchtime and each student was enjoying their hot and healthy lunch, just like they do everyday. 870 kids eat everyday because you said yes. 

More are coming! The headmaster told me that the school will be growing next year and there will be over 1,100 students to feed. Families are hearing that at this school children get a hot meal everyday and are enrolling their children. Students that have never been to school come now because they can eat, this is huge, this is world changing. All because you said yes to one! One bag, one meal. It all starts with one!

You can buy a bag here! You can learn more about No.41 here!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Movie Stars

Y'all, we are always so proud of our girls, but this sweet video makes up want to absolutely burst! We hope you love it as much as we do! Thank you so much to Tash McCarroll, for your friendship and your mad photog/video skills. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Behind the Bag- Tash

Today's Behind the Bag is brought to you by Tash McCarroll. It's difficult to put into words what Tash means to our little family. Tash heard about us through a local friend in Rwanda. She originally contacted us about photography, but we asked if she could do a video. She jumped in with both feet. Tash joined our crazy crew right in the midst of a huge transition, she loved us, tolerated us, encouraged us, and told our story more beautifully than I ever thought possible. Thank you so much, Tash! We love you!!

See-You-Soon Party: Wet eyes and running noses filled the room. Ange had never expected to go to school and had never truly laughed - she laughs daily now! Angel lost her parents "No one can replace parents but you have been parents to us, given us a chance, believed in us and made us happy again". Apologies were made for past mistakes. With strength and sincerity Tara spoke : talking about the No.41 family "we all make mistakes, family forgives, there is no need to apologize". Alison thanked everyone for their kind words but echoed they had received so much more than they had given.

For me, leaving the No.41 house after time in and out over the past month has been tough. It was like being back in a home with a family. I couldn't start to comprehend what Tara and Alison were going through and about to face. The faces and voices in the room were mixed - from the night guard Fidel to the girls favorite moto driver Jerome! Everyone had something to say about the impact made on their lives - yet the girls remained humble. There was mention of opportunity, hope, confidence, belief, happiness and so much more than bags and money but focus on the change and the bright future ahead.

I had come to see what No.41 was all about - to try and capture in a 3 minute clip and do justice to the journey, the story behind 'one bag'! To give outsiders a view/ insight into the faces and many people being positively impacted from the purchase of 'one bag'! There was a uniqueness that I experienced with No.41 - the girls live together in the same house, there is no separation, everyone is equal and share in each others lives. They also set themselves apart from so many other groups in their impact and reach into the local community. Not only are the girls employed, empowered, educated and given opportunity they are also learning about making a difference in their own community by giving back. The sale of bags feed 870 students at a local school lunches every day. The impact in the local school has been huge with students increased attendance, attention spans and grades.

I have spent a lot if time with non-profits, social entrepreneurs, change makers and, as in the past, I have been moved, inspired and filled with hope! The difference this time? I was immersed in the daily grind, behind the scenes... the tears, the joy, the frustrations, the cultural barriers, the deep connections... The hard work and determination... as outsiders we often just see the bright shinning product and not the long journey that goes into getting there!

I have never met two people who are so humble about all they have achieved, the reach and impact they have made on so many. Maybe because Rwanda has seeped into their hearts, the family they have made, they have been impacted, changed but they truly are the people 'behind the bag'!

It all starts with one!

One girl, one dream, one bag!

To visit the website click here.
To check out what Tash is up to, click here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

School Is Back in Session!

Thanks to generous hearts from literally all over the world all 6 of our girls are going to University this year! It has been such a joy and humbling experience to see so many people giving money so our girls can follow their dreams. They were all very excited when we told them that all of the money has come in. Our fabulous friend, amazing supporter, and videographer extraordinaire Tash has taken some lovely photos of our University girls. Thank you for loving and supporting them!

If you are passionate about education and missed out in helping our University girls don’t miss out on helping a primary student in Rwanda. With every backpack purchased you will be providing a primary student a backpack for their school year. Our backpacks are handmade by our new partnering women's co-op in Gisenyi, Rwanda. All bags are made with African iktenge fabric and standard Rwandan school uniform material. Right now you can get FREE SHIPPING on all backpacks purchased! Just visit our website www.no41.org and type in ‘back2school.’

Friday, July 12, 2013

Back To School Part 3

Thank you to everyone who has joined our team in supporting our university girls. How exciting to be changing the world for one! We have two last university girls that need your love, encouragement, and support.

Meet Clarisse….

No. 41 would not run with out Clarisse. She is the BOSS! She is our designer, manager, boss, and friend. We get a little nervous when she is not around and completely trust her and her hard work whenever we see her sweet face. Clarisse wants to go to university to be an artist and start her own business. We know that just like with work at No. 41 anything she does will be done well and to perfection. Who wants to love and support this hardworking leader?

Meet Fanny….

This cute and funny lady is not only working hard at No. 41 she is beautiful mama to her precious son Tarison. When I first heard that Fanny was going back to school, I cried. I’m so proud of her and can’t wait to see what she does! Supporting Fanny in university not only helps her future but what a beautiful picture you get to be a part of as Fanny casts a future for her son.

Clarisse and Fanny are both sponsored by His Chase as part of their education program so both ladies need $100/month for university.

To support Clarisse, Fanny, or any of our university girls please contact Tara at tara@no41.org.

You are truly changing the world for one!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Back to School- Round Two

We are back with round two of these little ladies, but we are excited to say that Angel got eight sponsors yesterday!! A group of people teamed up to support her, and we think this is an awesome idea.. As Tara said in the last post- sponsorship means so much to the girls. The financial support is of course beneficial, but the encouragement and self worth it gives to the girls to know that someone is behind them.. pushing for them, praying for them, believing in their dream is priceless.

Meet Clementine...

Clementine came to the orphanage at the age of 10 in order to further her education. She started working at No.41 to help provide for her son Clement, and we love her around here. She is a hard worker and always has a smile on her face. Clementine's big, but seemingly unattainable dream was to go to university and become a social worker, and now that's exactly she's doing. 

Clementine currently has a sponsor that carried over from the early days of No.41, so the remaining portion of her school fees are $166 a month, $996 per semester or $1992 a year.

Sandrine is the oldest of 7 children, and the only one her parents could afford to put through school. Her father is the gatekeeper at Noel, and that's how she came to work at No.41. She is quiet, yet confident and so thankful for the opportunity to work and continue her studies. It's been inspiring to see her confidence grow as she chases her dream. Sandrine will be the first college graduate in her family. Ever. We are SO proud of this girl. Would you consider sponsoring Sandrine as she works toward her degree in Hotel Restaurant Management? 

If you would like to sponsor Clementine or Sandrine please email alison@no41.org

Amy will be here tomorrow with the last two girls. We couldn't do this without you guys and we appreciate your support so much! 

Be sure to follow us on Bloglovin!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Back to School

Hi there!
Happy Monday!

While I know that many of you have barely sweated your way through half the summer, our little university bumpkins are heading back NEXT WEEK! In true 41 fashion, we are running a bit behind, but we need your help. We have 6 ladies still looking for sponsorship for the upcoming school year. We'd like to take some time and introduce you to each girl so that you really know the young lady whose future you are ensuring, and not only that, we wholeheartedly believe that when you educate a woman, your support trickles down to her entire family and into her community. An educated woman carries a lasting impact for generations to come.

So, there you go.

University sponsorship is a whooping $2,400 for the entire year! That covers the cost of enrollment, school fees, boarding and dining, uniform, and materials. There are 3 payment options:
  • pay in full $2,400
  • pay by semester $1600
  • pay monthly $200
First up, Miss Angel.

I promise you, she is even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the out. Angel is an orphan but, rather than entering the orphanage, she was raised by an elderly aunt. Angel is now returning the favor, with the money she makes at No.41, she is the main financial support and care giver for her aunt. Angel never expected to have the opportunity to study in university, she says she doesn't have enough English "to descibe her feelings of thanks". She is starting her second year at RTUC in Gisenyi and is majoring in Travel and Tourism Management. It is her big dream to be a stewardess for Rwandair.

Next, meet Rosine.

Rosine is the oldest of six children and the mother of one. It is impossible to talk about Rosine without mentioning her infectious giggle. Rosine, always classy and impeccably overdressed, is no stranger to hard work, she watched her single mother struggle working multiple jobs, to raise her and her siblings. She wanted more for her life and her son. At 29, her hopes of attending university we dwindling, until her aunt, who works at the Noel Orphanage arranged for her a job at No.41. Rosine is entering her second year at ULK in Gisenyi where she studies Economics and Business Management. She dreams of managing bank one day.

And that's it for today. Alison will be back tomorrow to introduce you to two more of our beauties. I can't say thank you enough for your support. Like Angel, I don't have enough English to say just what your sponsorship means in their lives. And it's not about the money. The money, while it's necessary, comes second to the love, hope, and confidence these girls have knowing that they matter to someone, all the way across the world. Our girls are dreaming, for the very first time, because of you. They are striving. Thriving. And succeeding. Thank you.

If you would like to sponsor Angel or Rosine, please email tara@no41.org

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Behind the Bag- Amanda

Oh, hey there! Behind the Bag is returning with a bang! 
A firecracker, if you will. We are so excited to introduce you to Miss Amanda Herdina. Amanda was on the very first Visiting Orphans team we hosted at No.41. They were the first team to meet the girls and we could not asked for a more amazing group of people to pour into our little sweeties. And the best news is, Amanda is now living just up the road from us in Rwanda. 
Amanda, we just adore you and we are so thankful for the story you are living.

I was giving it time. I sat and waited until that ‘perfect moment’ to write about my Behind the Bag experience. A year came and went and here I am... just now writing my story.

It was May of 2012 when I had the privilege of traveling with the first ever Visiting Orphans Music Team to Rwanda. A team my partner in crime, Frank, and I helped orchestrate to a country I had never been. My blood was pumping, my pulse was racing... “I was going to make a difference.”

And then we walked into the No.41 house one afternoon. Guitar in hand, dance playlist on Bieber, and about 8 girls and a team of 12... the dance party started. It was like no other. Language barrier? What language barrier? These girls wanted to praise. They wanted to worship. They wanted more and more and they laughed and smiled, giggled, and sang some more.

As we sat down to listen to Tara’s testimony, I couldn’t believe it when I heard that these girls weren’t always this way. That they were shy, some raised as orphans in a world of hurt, anguish and despair.

And that was the beginning of when my world began to shake.

Tara moved to Rwanda--pretty much on a whim, if you ask me. She has, what I like to call, the Crazy Bone. She moved to Rwanda without an iota of what was next and was confident that when she said, “Yes” that her life, as she knew it, would change. What she didn’t realize at the time was how she was going to forever change these girls’ lives.

We sat and heard story after story of how each girl would spend hour after hour, day after day, working sun up until sun down on perfecting these bags of art. When we walked into the shop, it was nothing short of obvious the hours they spent making sure each shoulder strap was positioned, each print was screened, each stitch sewn with the utmost perfection. The bags were (are) beautiful.

But it was so much more to me than that. These bags were a symbol of something so much bigger, so much more. These bags were a gift that gave these girls a skill that then gave them hope and encouragement for a brighter future. The girls sit in community each day having people invest not only their money, but their time, into their lives, building such a confidence that it just radiates throughout the room.

So you can imagine my surprise when Tara said the girls weren’t always this way.

And you can imagine how it burdened my heart to want to be a part of something so beautiful.

I instantly bought a bag and when I brought it home, it was a constant reminder of the change Tara had started within these girls. I knew after that trip that I was going to be making a decision, inspired by No.41, in my very near future....

...Fast forward to today. June 2013. Exactly one year later, I sit in the girls’ living room at No.41, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of not ONLY bags, but aprons, shoulder bags, handbags, backpacks, headbands, cuffs, oven mitts... I could keep going. And then it hit me.

What better ‘perfect moment’ than this?? There isn’t one! This business has skyrocketed and the supply is endless! It’s the perfect moment to share my Behind the Bag story. So here I am.

You see, as I sat there in the living room that day a year ago, every word Tara spoke penetrated deeper and deeper burning a hole in my heart telling me I was going to hear it (whatever ‘it’ was) and eventually say “Yes”, too. I just didn’t realize at the time what that was going to look like...

Today? I’ve packed not only my No.41 bags, but all my bags and belongings, and have made the commitment to live here, in Rwanda, for the next year. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t on that trip last year to make a difference. No.41 was--in these girls‘ lives and in my own. I sit here in this living room again seeing these girls a year later and they’re still changing. They are continuing to grow into stronger, more confident, and (as if it were possible) more beautiful women. The change these bags have made on their lives is so evident as I listen to them share their hopes and dreams of the future...

These bags. These bags are forever making a difference every time someone purchases one. And the effect has rippled into more than giving the girls a salary, a home, and a sales commission... it has also provided lunch for 870 children at school each day!!

These bags. There is so much more Behind the Bag than what the eye can see. These bags that surround me are a constant reminder of the effect they have had on these girls, the difference they have made in the world.

And the difference they have made in me.

To get your very own No.41 bag, click here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Yes, You Directive

Hey there!

Today we interrupt your regularly scheduled Behind the Bag to bring you The Yes, You Directive. What's that, you say? The Yes, You Directive is the brainchild of our friend Sarah and here's a bit of what she has to say about it:
"The goal is to highlight a different non-profit offering volunteer opportunities that I believe are making an impact in people’s lives. Ideally, there will be 3 posts per ministry or organization. The first will introduce the ministry/organization and give you the basics. This will usually include how it began, what needs they have, who can volunteer and what volunteer needs they have as well as the contact info, hours, etc. The second post of the week will be an interview of someone who is already involved in volunteering and a little of their story. And the third post is an interview with someone who has been served by the non-profit and what changes have taken place for them because of the involvement in their lives.

My prayer is that reading the stories of people who are impacted by serving or being served will spark something inside of you that challenges you to get plugged in if you’re not already pouring yourself into our community or into broader areas of the world. And if you are someone who has a heart for serving, maybe you’ll come across some information at some time that will just click with the way you’re wired.

Last week we were flattered to be the selected organization and we thought y'all might be interested in some of the No.41 backstory that you may or may not know. For instance:
1. How did No.41 start?

After a 2-week mission trip in December 2010, I (Tara) followed my little broken heart back to Rwanda, begging God to use me in any way He saw fit. I didn’t have a plan, but I trusted that He did.

In June 2011, I moved into the Noel Orphanage, home to 500+ children ranging in age from a few weeks to their late 20’s. So many things I saw going on around me bothered me, but I decided to zero in on two, the oldest girls and the local school lunch program.

No.41 started on a whim and a prayer in March 2012, with the intent of teaching these young women from the Noel Orphanage in Gisenyi, Rwanda (ages 18-25) not only to sew, a culturally relevant trade that would always sustain them, but to give back to their community through a feeding program supporting local schools.

To read the rest of the interview, click here.

** And, just so you know, I did the first interview a few months ago, just before the launch of the feeding program, so a few things have changed since then. Now that the feed program is up and running, we are currently feeding 870 students and 36 teachers everyday. We employ 4 cooks, a night guard, and a general manager. As with any new business, we are making it work, but the need is still great. If you would like to partner with us, you can make a donation here or email tara@no.41.org for more information.

Happy Wednesday!!

PS We are running a Mother's Day special and offering FREE SHIPPING on ALL orders over $50 now through Sunday using the code 'mamalove'. Go get your mama something nice!