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 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

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

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

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.