Banana Leaf Cards - RwandaThis is a featured page

Banana Leaf Art April 7th is Rwanda's National Day of Mourning - for the 500,000 - 1,000,000 Tutsi's and Hutu moderates killed in the genocide. When the war ended in 1994, over 2,000,000 Hutu's fled in the Great Lakes refugee crises fearing Tutsi retribution.

Banana Leaf Cards - Rwanda - Global Women

These handmade cards are painstakingly created by widowed and often handicapped women, who survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Painstakenly crafted from banana leaves, these cards are inspired by the imaginations of the aritsans and no two are exactly alike. In addition to providing much needed income, these cards inspire hope for a better future. (from

Banana leaf cards above from From Arms to Artisans. Below are some translated stories from the artisans in Rwanda...

“There is also a woman called MUKANKUSI Clementine, who has specific problem. She is a widow with two children. She told me that her house was destroyed because of the rain and she is now living with her neighbor. Her prayer request is to find a way of how she can repair her house. She struggles to find ways to pay the hospital bills when they are sick, buying medicines, and school fees. Their prayer requests are to find a big market of their cards in order to improve their life standard and doing savings for the future.”

-Jean Marie Musangwa

Lourence Induuamaliya, 31

Lourence began working at the Center in 1997. Before that she worked in the local defense force, and married in 2004. There were 10 children in her family, 4 boys and 6 girls. She was the third child, the oldest girl. She learned how to make table coverings during her 1 year at a vocational school, which was interrupted by the war. Eight of her siblings died during the genocide, leaving one sister. (Some were killed by extremists, others died of illness.)

She is a mother of 2 children. She uses money to buy sugar and food for her children, a 3 year old boy and 9 month old boy. She also takes care of her sister's 2 year old son. Her husband doesn't have a job. Her dream is to save money for her children's future... and repair the holes in her roof. With the nuns and sisters, she learns of the Word of God. Lourence appreciates the fellowship with others at the Center.

“Love each other. Know that in every problem we have to ask God to help us. Love one another, make peace.”

Vestine Mukarusine, 35

Vestine learned how to use sewing machine to make table and chair coverings while in vocational school. She was in school for 3 years then arrived at the card shop. She lived in Kigali until 1994, then in July ran away with family to the Congo, came back in 1997. Her husband died as they were coming back to Rwanda.

"Today in Rwanda there is no Hutu or Tutsi, we do not talk of these things now." (She didn't say it, but it was clear she and her husband were Hutus.) I asked how she was able to work in such close quarters with Tutsi widows? "Because we're all having similar problems, we're all widows, we share the same burdens. It has been a long time, there is no problem."

Vestine has a 12 year old boy. She's not sure about his future because she doesn't have the capacity to pay for his school fees. She also takes care of 2 children of her brother who died. It costs $1.50 every semester per child. Vestine’s son likes studying English and playing soccer, traditional dance. He's like a comedian and enjoys being in a crowd.

Veronica Mukeshimana, 47.

Veronica is a widow with 2 children, ages 20 and 15. During the war, she hid at a refugee camp. Husband used to work at a sugar factory. "I was saved through God's grace, not for own power." Her only option for survival was to be a prostitute, she said. But the card making program helps her feed her family, though she doesn't make enough to cover all the costs of life. She leaves home at 6am and arrives at the workshop at 8:30am. Others in the cooperative acknowledge that she has the longest commute. (I asked this question before the whole group.)

She had to fix leaks in her roof, she couldn't buy soap for washing her clothes, she needed the money desperately, so she couldn't think of the distance she would have to travel. Veronica gets about 15,000 Rwandan francs per month, depending on how many cards she makes, and the number of orders that come in.

From Arms to Artisans - fair trade fundraising

Latest page update: made by agittleman , Mar 18 2008, 5:39 AM EDT (about this update About This Update agittleman Edited by agittleman

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