Artisan Stories: Nkombo

On our first day on Nkombo Island, we were able, after much excitement and anticipation, to connect with many of our artisans and see the progress of those who have been taking the cooperative’s literacy class.  The literacy class has enabled the women to learn to read and write in Kinyarawanda as well as some English for the advanced class.  The women were all smiles as they were called up to a dusty chalkboard by their instructor to share with us what they had learned.  One of the most rewarding things to see in these women was their confidence.  Having literacy has given these women a glow and a hope for the future.  Three women we want to highlight for you are Alegsiana, Rachel, and Josephine.

Alegisiyana is an artisan who is excited the most to be able to write her own name.  She made her way up to the chalkboard and grinned with pride at her accomplishment when she had finished.  For many artisans in the project this is the first time that they have been able to write their own names.  This really demonstrated to us the sense of identity that has been created in the women through this program.

Rachel is an artisan who approached the board with quiet confidence in her new skill.  She shared that the literacy program had enabled her to help her children, who are now in school, with their homework.  Before the program, Rachel was unable to carry goods on her back as many women do for a living on the island.  Now that she is a part of the cooperative she is making a life through basket-making in addition to her literacy instruction. Rachel is appreciative of everything that the program has enabled her to do.

Josephine is an artisan with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye.  As she took her turn at the chalkboard, she wrote out the word “Caribo”, which is Swahili for welcome.  Josephine told us that this class has “opened her eyes” to the world.  What does this look like for her in everyday life?  This means she can now read and understand street signs that she had never understood before.  This means she can be confident in her abilities and move forward seeing a lot more clearly.

The air of community and empowerment amongst these women was infectious.  We are so proud of their progress and look forward to seeing more of the wonderful things they will accomplish!

May 29, 2017