Story by Azizi Life Story Team Member Jean Claude Dusabe
Sylvere Maniraguha was born in 1985 in Southern Province, Muhanga District, Cyeza sector. He has a twin brother named Sylvain. Sylvere had the opportunity to go to school up to 6th grade. He is now married to Triphonie Uwamahoro and they have two children: a seven-year-old girl named Giramata and a five-year-old boy named Brian.
In 2004, at the age of 19, Sylvere got the opportunity to learn wood carving. At Sylvere’s church, there were a group of nuns called the Saint Esprit Sisters. These nuns had an initiative to help people with disabilities and others in the community to learn craft, helping them improve their lives socially and economically. Sylvere participated in this learning program and, after completing his studies in 2005, he and some other artisans formed a cooperative called Inganzo, which means ‘The Source of Development.’ Group members like Sylvere do the initial heavy work with the wood in order to facilitate the carving work of their fellow group members who have disabilities. The small group of men designs different crafts from wood, such as nativities and bookends, using only hand tools. Through the Catholic church, Inganzo began filling orders for partners in Italy and refined their craft through this relationship. In 2009, the woodcarvers began working with Azizi Life, which helped them to get orders and customers. Now a group of six, the woodcarvers of Inganzo continue to work together in a workshop at their local parish.
His job has helped him significantly. Sylvere has built his own house, right next to his twin brother Sylvain and on the same hill as his parents’ home. He has a farm. He can pay for health insurance and meet basic needs like food, clothing, and other family needs, and he contributes in a savings group which helps him in many ways, such as helping him to access loans, learn money management and put savings away for times of emergency.
Sylvere is thankful for the Saint Esprit Sisters, who he says helped him to become a “man with purpose.” He is thankful to his fellow Inganzo members, his family, and to Azizi Life. His gratitude for Azizi Life comes from the knowledge that it would not have been easy to get customers and income from wood carving if Azizi Life hadn’t connected him to a global market. He is thankful to God for this blessing.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Sylvere, like many people, was worried about the consequences of COVID-19 and the possible reduction in orders. His inability to contribute to his savings group and possible food shortages at home and in the markets were concerns that kept his mind busy. He meets each day with a prayer that the grace and provision of God will cover him. He still has hope that all problems related to COVID-19 will be resolved and people will once again live in peace.
A NOTE FROM AZIZI LIFE: God hears our prayers. Since this piece was written, we saw a miraculous increase in retail and wholesale orders through the Azizi Life website. This has made more orders possible for many artisan groups Azizi Life serves! Sylvere has been busy fulfilling orders for the next shipment and is paid for his work upon order delivery at the Azizi Life office. No one could have predicted the amount of work the pandemic would bring for our friends. No one but God.
You can learn more about Slyvere, Inganzo, and the handcrafted products they make by visiting the Inganzo Cooperative page.