More than Simply Business
Azizi Life’s vision: To participate in local initiatives for the development of Rwandan communities, working towards physical and spiritual wholeness for all.
At first glance, Azizi Life would appear to simply be a “Marketing and Export” company that helps the rural artisans of Rwanda access the wider global market – but in reality, it is so much more….
Azizi Life is committed to paying an agreed-upon fair wage to the artisans as soon as we receive their products. The additional income from the sale of their art allows the craftspeople & their families to afford many things that they struggled to get before:
- Medical insurance – improving health
- School materials for their children – improving education
- Soap and other cleaning products – improving hygiene
- A more balanced diet – improving nutrition
- Farm animals that multiply for income and provide manure – improving resources, soil quality and crop yield
- Financial independence- improving relationships with spouses and neighbors
Having the money available to invest in these kinds of things provides a real sense of security and hope for the future for the artisan and her whole family.
As Christians, we at Azizi Life believe that God cares deeply about our physical wellbeing and our relationships with one another, as well as our relationship with Him. We see the brokenness of the world- in the West as well as here in Rwanda- and believe that it is only through a relationship with Jesus Christ that true healing and wholeness – and development – can be found.
The foundation of everything that we do is based on the principles that are shown within the Bible. In all of our interactions and activities, we strive to work with integrity and to show God’s love and truth to the people around us. This extends not only to the artist groups and communities here in Rwanda, but also to our customers and supporters around the world.
Although Azizi Life is of course open to working with people of differing faiths, many of our artisans (like the majority of Rwandans) are Christians. It is our privilege to regularly offer them encouragement and prayer- and to receive their prayers for us as well!
Telling the Story
As we hope you can see, we are passionate about telling the stories of our artisan partners and their communities. Small snippets of international news do not do justice to the unfolding beauty, dignity, and hope that exist all around us in Rwanda. It is true that the artisans with whom we work have known great sorrow and great need. But as they like to tell us, they have set their sights on “fighting against poverty” and “developing themselves,” providing better lives for their children.
It is our desire to connect you with these women and men, who are in some ways just like you, and in other ways pretty remarkable. We believe that these connections give the artisans the opportunity to participate in the development of understanding, compassion, and care within the hearts and minds of friends across the world.
So we invite you to come in and meet the artisans.
We invite you to learn, to care, to pray.
And we invite you to join us in sharing with others.
It is surprising just how much a community of people can benefit when they join together regularly with a common purpose.
Many of the women with whom we are working have told us how isolated they felt before they joined an art cooperative. Now as they meet with others regularly, they have the opportunity to discuss their problems and provide support for each other. As the ladies sit together to weave or do some other artistic endeavor, they use the time to talk about all manner of things, from best farming practices to child rearing. It is a time when they are able to find mutual support and friendship which previously they did not have time for, as they worked full time in the fields and in their homes.
In one community, this level of closeness is used to even bring reconciliation between the victims and perpetrators of the tragic events of 1994 (the Rwandan Genocide). Pascasie Mukabuligo is the president of the Agaseke K’Amahoro Association. In 1994, most of her family members were murdered, most likely by their own neighbours. In the face of her tremendous loss, Pascasie has chosen to promote peace. Under her leadership, community members from opposite sides of the 1994 conflict have joined together to support one another in their art and their lives. Pascasie’s desire to see her community rebuilt goes even further than this, as she has actually gone into the local prisons to teach the offenders how to weave, so that in the future they will have a way to support their own families.
It is amazing to see Community development at its most fundamental level as people come together, work together and grow together.
The women and men with whom we work have a vision. They have skills, they have determination, and they have chosen to come together for the sake of their art and their livelihood. It is our privilege to come alongside these independent artisan groups and support them in their own initiatives for the development of their lives, families, communities, and nation.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and although Westerners and Rwandans do hold many values on beauty in common, this does pose a significant challenge for our local artisan friends. How can they create something that is beautiful in the eyes of people so many miles away, from a completely different culture?
This is one area where Azizi Life strives to bridge the gap.
Each group of artists connected to Azizi Life has experience in their craft and is committed to teaching one another. They have the raw talent, refined skill, and collective determination necessary to connect to a wider market. At the beginning of our relationship with each association, we take a close look at the crafts that the artisans are already creating, and compare their products to what we know of Western tastes and trends.
All of our current designs originated from the ideas of the artisans themselves, with a little bit of input from Azizi Life staff and volunteers on refining quality, design, and color choices. We use the opportunity of each delivery day to continue to coach group representatives on product development. We are also always working to discover new group ideas and designs to incorporate into our future line of products, and thinking about how we can use the beauty of traditional materials, techniques, and designs to make different products that have an even broader global appeal. (Which is how the basket birthed the napkin ring!)
In the end, art which represents the hard work and effort of the Rwandan artists is transported across the world, bringing beauty into the homes and lives of everyone who sees it.