We spend much of our time focusing on the 123 incredible women who work for Handspun Hope in Rwanda. But we also employ farm staff who care for our flock of sheep just down the road from the cooperative where the ladies work.
I can honestly tell you…that farm is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life. It sits at the base of the Virunga National Forest, home to the Silverback Mountain Gorillas (and just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the future Ellen Degeneres campus at Dian Fossey’s research facility). Surrounded by eucalyptus forests, the air snaps with minty freshness. It is here that the shepherds oversee the health and wellness of the animals so integral to the wellness of our program and the women we employ.
I mean…is this not the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen? It takes my breath away…every…single…time.
We thought it would be nice to put a face to the people who take such good care of our flock. So, we’d like you to meet Jean-Marie, one of our shepherds. We asked him a few questions about his work and about working for Handspun Hope.
Q: JEAN-MARIE, WE’RE SO HAPPY TO TALK TO YOU! TELL US HOW LONG YOU HAVE WORKED FOR HANDSPUN HOPE? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A SHEPHERD?
A: I have worked for Handspun Hope for seven years and have been a shepherd for seven years.
Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT CARING FOR THE SHEEP?
A: My work of caring for sheep has planted a big love of caring for domestic animals in me. I even started to raise sheep at home. I now have four sheep of my own.
Q: TELL US ABOUT THE SHEEP FARM...HOW MANY SHEEP ARE IN YOUR CARE? WHAT DOES YOUR WORK DAY LOOK LIKE?
A: In the morning when we reach the farm, the first thing we do is inspect all sheep to make sure that they are all doing well. The second thing we do is to clean the pens and surrounding. Next, we take sheep to the pastures to graze. During that time I am responsible for at least 100 sheep while my colleagues are watching others.
At 1pm it is time for lunch but we go in shifts, taking 1hr per person. At 4:30pm we have to take all of the sheep to the pen and we give them water and some supplemental feed. Afterwards, we lead all the sheep to their places to rest.
As a team leader I am also in charge of arranging schedules with other shepherds to make sure that everyone knows when he needs to be at work and what to do. I also report to the farm manager as necessary.
Q: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE A JOB WITH HANDSPUN HOPE?
A: The job with Handspun Hope has been a very important support to the living of my family by the salary I earn.
Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU LOVE ABOUT RWANDA THAT PEOPLE IN AMERICA MAY NOT KNOW OR BE SURPRISED TO HEAR?
A: I don’t know! I could tell them about gorillas and the good leadership our country has but I think they know about that. Maybe… I think I can tell them about our food. I can tell them that potatoes and beans are the most important food in our region and I think in the whole country. Me and my family eat potatoes and beans four days a week for lunch and supper!
Q: WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU’VE EXPERIENCED....IN YOUR OWN LIFE OR YOUR COMMUNITY...THAT GIVES YOU HOPE?
A: The work with Handspun Hope assures me that development is possible. I saw this organization growing and giving jobs to many people in need especially the ladies, shepherds and then the entire staff. Also seeing how the wool can turn into something beautiful and valuable by peoples hands it is some thing I love. I also like the way this organization is a Christian Organization and delivers a message of a true church.
We are so grateful for Jean-Marie and all of the farm staff. They are a beautiful reminder of our own Good Shepherd, the One who corrals us all, regardless of whether or not we are the biggest…or the smallest sheep in the flock. Regardless of whether we are the sheep with the best coat or the shabbiest sheep in the bunch.
Because, every sheep has value to the Shepherd. Every single one.
Every sheep is precious.
Every sheep belongs…and, even when the sheep forgets and trudges off on its own…the Shepherd doesn’t just wait, hoping for the wayward sheep to return.
The Shepherd is actively looking…
reminding us…even when we forget…that we have a home…that we belong.
Thank goodness for the Good Shepherd.