As we try to wrap our minds around what is happening in the world, our hearts are with the women served by our organization in Rwanda. The idea of social distancing is so counter-cultural to those in Rwanda. Ask anyone who has spent time there and they will likely tell you, “The country was lovely….but the people! Everyone is so warm and welcoming”.
And it’s true. Greetings begin with a hug and kisses to the cheeks. It is common for men to walk hand-in-hand with close friends. Close contact is as natural as breathing in Rwanda and self-quarantine is hard to achieve when you live with a large, extended family in a small home or single room. The idea of having personal space…of going without touch...is just so foreign.
…things are so different in Musanze.
As is the case here in the US, concern is growing for self and family. As we are seeing in the states, the numbers of Covid-19 cases are doubling every few days in Rwanda. We have asked the ladies who walk a great distance to work, as well as those who are older and with compromised immune systems, to remain at home. Only a fraction of the 123 women we employ are currently working.
This is a challenging time for us as we grapple with making the choices that will best protect the women, a majority whom are already living with compromised immune systems due to HIV.
Do we send them home?
Do we keep the cooperative open, knowing that is where the ladies will receive reliable information about how to stay healthy during this crisis?
Do we tell them to remain home without the support of their work family and our on-staff counselors?
Here we have the luxury of staying safe. We can, with only a little hassle, easily stock up on nonperishable foods, disinfectants and toilet paper….items that are comparatively scarce in rural Rwanda. And just as we’ve seen here in the states, the numbers of Coivid-19 cases are doubling every few days. As I write, there are currently 11 positive cases in Rwanda.
We are sharing with the ladies best practices for staying healthy and encouraging them to keep communication open between themselves and our Rwanda staff and health officials. Several hand-washing stations have been set up throughout the center and we have plenty of soap and alcohol on hand. We are practicing social distancing and greetings without hugs… but it is challenging.
The situation has also hit the ministry very hard in the U.S. We are completely dependent on donor contributions combined with the proceeds from the sales of yarn products being created by the Rwanda team. We are halfway through March and have already experienced the cancelation of two very large shows. We rely on the proceeds from these two events to pay salaries in Rwanda for the month of April.
I realize many of our donors are feeling the financial impact of Covid-19 and are worried about what is happening here…close to home. That being said, I am asking you to include the women of Handspun Hope in your prayers.
We need you now more than ever. Our commitment to every woman we employ has not changed.
We will continue offering full salaries and benefits throughout this rough patch.
However…we are praying for more donors to help support us through the next few months.
If you are in a position to give a little more than usual, we would be grateful.
If you can share our story, we would be grateful.
If you can join us in praying for continued provision, we would be grateful.
For us, our work as a Christian ministry empowering survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi goes on.
We will continue to seek God for provision and wisdom and fully trust that all things may be used for God’s glory.
Thank you from the Handspun Hope family-