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Introducing: the Umucyo Sewing Cooperative!

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Oh, the waiting and anticipating!  It’s finally over and our first-ever Spotlight Collection items have arrived via FedEx from Rwanda!!

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We had a huge FLASH SALE over on Instagram (if you’re not following us on insta yet, make sure you do so that you don’t miss out on the next sale)!   —-> @thefairtradefashionistas

It was a great success and we have just a few items left that are now available in our online shop!!  Just click on “shop” in the menu above to purchase!  These are one-of-a-kind beautiful goods from Rwanda that are perfect for holiday gifts.  They are so well-made and unique!

We have a jewelry roll, apron, makeup bag (which sold out really quickly!) and a wristlet.

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We are just so thrilled and honored to tell you all about the amazing women who sewed these gorgeous accessories!  The 17 women of the Umucyo Sewing Cooperative live in Kigali, Rwanda and they were beyond excited for this custom order!

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photos by Sarah Ling

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They’ve been gathering together for the past 3 years to sew, laugh, pray, and share life with each other.  This past July, I had the chance to spend several days with them and it was such a JOY to see the interact together!

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Even their names make me smile:

Mary Sunshine

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Esperanza (means “hope” in Spanish)

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Grace

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Bella

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Each of them shared why they LOVE their jobs as seamstresses at Umucyo (pronounced “oo-moo-cho” and means “light” in Kinyarwandan)!  Some of them travel over an hour every day to come to work, walking and taking various buses… but they were filled with so much pride and joy in this opportunity to provide for their families and send their children to school.

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Just 20 years ago, genocide and hatred devastated the country of Rwanda.  Families and communities were ripped apart and so many lives were lost.  It’s been a long road to recovery and reconstruction, not just of infrastructure, but of hope, trust, forgiveness, and peace.  Seeing the women work together for a common goal and purpose is evidence of hope restored.  Many of them are mothers to children who are not their own- they’ve rallied together to raise the next generation and taken in children that belonged to their neighbors and friends. These jobs that they hold as seamstresses create a ripple effect that impact their entire family and community!
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(the signs on their wall read “love never fails”)

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Hearing about some of their hopes and dreams really inspired me!  They have some big goals, such as taking English lessons, buying electric sewing machines, moving into a bigger space (making room to hire more women!), and getting health insurance for all of their family members.  When I came home from my trip, of course I called Brandi and told her all about it!  I had so wished that she was able to travel with me, but I explained that she was there in spirit… I even saw proof of it!!  The first day when I walked into the co-op, I stopped in my tracks.  There, up on the white board, was a photo of Brandi and her family!!!  She had sent it to them about 3 years ago in a letter, and for some reason, they chose to hang it on their wall!

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It felt like a little sign to me that she was there with me, and with these ladies, and that we were connected to them and their work.  After telling her all about their goals, we decided to feature this group in our first Spotlight Collection!  And now, several months later, after selecting designs and fabric, it’s HERE!!

Now all that’s left to do is SHOP!  We hope you’ll enjoy all of the beautiful bags and the apron, and that you’ll tell everyone about their story.

Keep an eye out for future Spotlight Collections, and let us know if you know of a company or artisan group that would like to be featured!

In Style & Love,

Shannon

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