Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What You May Not Know

"You cannot give dignity to people. You can only affirm it"

Alison Holcomb Photography
We talk a lot about the ladies in our program. Of course, we would, they are the heartbeat of what we do. They are the reason why. It's impossible not to be inspired by the hope and purpose they have found and by the change they are affecting in their community. 

We could talk for days about students in our program. They are like our hands and feet. Walking, talking examples of measurable change. I don't think any of us could have imagined what a $0.25 lunch, every day, could mean to a student and their immediate family, in daily life and for the future. The life changing ripples are just beginning. 


What you may not know, is that we have a small, but mighty, group of men in our program. They are the backbone of what we do and they are feeling the change, as well. I won't pretend for one second that, if we didn't have Jean d'Amour, this program would still be running. It just wouldn't. He came out of nowhere and, with quiet confidence, leads the way in every decision we make regarding the feeding program. He cares about the students and their well-being, first and foremost. He wants to see them succeed, meets with them often, gives them opportunities to lead, and gives them a voice in menu selection. JD and his hand selected team of cooks show up at the school, bright and early, and seamlessly execute the feeding of 1,157 students, every single day. I could go on and on. And on. But I'll let them talk, for now...

Alison Holcomb Photography
"Before I had No.41 I was having to change jobs and I worked too hard to feed my family, pay my school fees, and pay rent; it was a struggle to survive. When I arrived at No.41 my life changed. I have known more people through No.41, and many people now know me. My brain has been widened, I have learned how to work hard, interact with other people and my English is improving daily.

I want Americans to know, my dream is to be a professional manager and to help other people to raise their level of study and improve their lives. I would like them to know that my confidence has greatly increased, before I did not know how to interact with people, I did not know what it was to feel confidence around people.

What sponsors are doing for Rwandans is great. Before No.41 in Rwanda, and especially Kanama Catholic, many students did not study or have lunch. Not all students came here just to study, but so they could have a hot lunch. By buying bags and sponsoring students for lunch, they are doing great great things."

Alison Holcomb Photography
Name: BAMBANZE Fabian
Age: 56
Occupation: Head cook
Favorite food: Beans and potatoes

Fabian was married, but is now widowed. He is the proud parent of 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys) and has 5 grandchildren. Before No.41 Fabian had worked at another local school cooking lunch, but had been most recently unemployed. Fabian is very hardworking and trustworthy, he goes above and beyond to ensure the students and teachers are fed delicious hot meals everyday.

Fabian’s big dream is to find money to buy a cow (300,000RWF or $450) to help him survive when he retires.

When asked if he would like to tell people anything about his life now in Rwanda, he says: ‘I thank them, they send us No.41, that provides me a job and helps me provide education so my children can study well. Just, please, thank them.’

Alison Holcomb Photography
Name: UWIZEYIMANA Theogene
Age: 37
Occupation: Cook
Favorite food: Beans and sweet potatoes

Theogene is married and has 3 children, 1 girl and 2 boys. Before No.41 he was a farmer, he is very grateful for a stable job.

Theogene’s big dream is for the project to continue, he hopes that the money he earns can be used to buy cows and goats that will help him make his soil fertile. This will allow him to grow a garden and feed his children and pay his children’s school fees.

When asked if he would like to tell people anything about his life now in Rwanda, he says: ‘Thank them for bringing us No.41, it provides our families food and our salaries help us to pay school fees for our children. I wish that the project will continue, be proud and increase so other people can gain jobs like I did and their families can be healthy and happy like mine is now.’

Age: 23
Occupation: Cook
Favorite food: Corn and potatoes

Placide is young and as of yet does not have a wife or any children. Placide completed his primary school education, but unfortunately did not progress to secondry school. Before No.41 he rode a bicycle to transport people and goods.

Placide's big dream is that No.41 is sustainable so he can save money to buy land and 2 cows to help his family while he continues to work here.

When asked if he would like to tell people anything about his life in Rwanda, he says: ‘I am very thankful for the people that provide No.41, it is a big part of my life.’

Alison Holcomb Photography
Nelson Mandela said, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." and I would say that's exactly what is happening in our little tiny village, in a little tiny country, all the way on the other side of the world. Some of the brightest lights I've ever had the privilege of knowing, are learning what it means to shine and fire is spreading.

If you would like to help us fan the flames in Rwanda, there are a number of things you could do. The easiest thing is sharing this post, or a photo, or story you may have with your friends and tag us on Facebook or Instagram. We would love that! Next, you could check out the shop and see what's new! By purchasing from No.41, you are not only supporting the women with employment, every single purchase provides meals to students in the feeding program. The best way you can help us continue to grow and love this community, is sponsorship. There is a one-year student sponsorship in the shop, or you can sign up to sponsor monthly for just $5. If one of the cooks, above, strike your fancy, we are also looking for sponsorship to cover their salaries. It's just $50/month and you can also set that up, recurring, here. Lastly, if you are interested in hosting a trunk show or hearing more about our Campus Rep program, please shoot me an email

Thank you for all you have done for us and all you continue to do. We are creating change and we couldn't do it without you.

"Do your little bit of good where you are, it's those little bits of good, put together, that overwhelm the world." -Demond Tutu