Mwiriwe (Good Afternoon) I’m Pasha, I’m a member of team Rutsiro and a sister of the community! Last week you met the squad, now it is time to give you an insight into what we do here...
Who's our project partner?
Kopakama is a small cooperative in West province of Rwanda. They produce and export coffee worldwide, not just the Rwandan way, but the right way! The team and I have put together the 5 MUST-KNOW facts about Kopakama, as we want you guys to get to know them as we have done.
1. Kopakama opened its doors back in 2005 and started with 47 members. Through hard work and the drive to succeed, the business now has over 852 members.
2. The co-op implements their activities in both the Rutsiro and Karongi districts of Rwanda and exports coffee to the UK, USA and China.
3. The cooperative owns a dry mill, and not just one, but two washing stations! The first is located in Rutsiro and the other in Karongi.
4. Kopakama’s work is focused on coffee washing, harvesting and applying pesticides. Members attend the farmer fields schools, with field officers, so there is consistency with production.
5. The cooperative works to empower women. 307 of the producers are female, and they have women’s meetings twice a month to discuss relevant issues.
|Kopakama: Where the work happens!|
Where do we fit in?
Kopakama has managed to grow over the past few years, yet some areas still need assistance. The cooperative struggle to produce green coffee, but what exactly is this? It’s coffee beans which have not yet managed to be roasted; unfortunately Kopakama have low capacity of doing so and we wish to help them gain a better level of it. They also lack confidence due to basic levels of accountancy, business and leadership skills. Team Rutsiro hope to build self-assurance, increase the knowledge base and develop the abilities of the workers.
As the first cohort our main objective is to research and collect data. Surveys have been created to help us understand the gaps in Kopakama and knowledge of gender equality and human rights. After interviewing selected members, team Rutsiro will analyse the findings and put together recommendations for the next group of volunteers to implement. Knowing we have the opportunity to influence a brighter future is a true magic, we will apply dedication and hard work in hope to start a ripple of change.
What do we want to happen after we leave?
Once the first cohort has left Rutsiro, we hope the upcoming volunteers can pick up the work from the stepping stones we have laid. The team have read through the action plans written by International Service and Challengers Worldwide and we desire three main achievements:
1) Boost integration of women in the business. 36% of the employees at Kopkama are female but we wish for this to rise. Though Kopakama is on the right track, we would still like to see a greater priority given to gender equality.
2) Promote gender equality in the community. More girls should be encouraged to stay in education and have long term aspirations other than becoming a wife. The inequality of women is a global problem and we must raise awareness where we can in order to achieve change.
3) Maximise production sales. Increasing profit for Kopakama does not only benefit them, it creates a money flow which will travel from the members, the co-op and into the community. The capital generated will impact the Rutsiro district and improve the wellbeing of the people who endure life on poverty line.
How are we integrating?
Team Rutsiro have been very active in trying to get to know community faces, make friends and build strong relationships. Along the way we have planned events and put on classes in hope for all to get involved. Every Wednesday at 5pm is our language class and what a turn out we’ve had! Many folk of Rutsiro came along to learn English and the UKV’s to learn Kinyarwanda. The people here have demonstrated a true dedication in wanting to learn English and it is truly inspiring. Each week two different volunteers take part in teaching the class, one from the UK and one from Rwanda, the pair provides data and pictures on presentations to all engaging eyes.
|Eager to learn and ready to work, studying a language is for all!|
Kopakama generously allowed us to use their space to hold a dance event, UK Steppers VS Rwandan Classics. The team hired traditional Rwandan clothing and performed a variety of dances to the community. Amongst our routines we had the Cha Cha Slide, Rwandan Cow Dance, Macarena, Rwandan free style and over 100 people showed up! Majority participated in each dance while the rest clapped and cheered for us, the audience brought an uplifting energy that moved us, literally. Although there were two separate languages and two different cultures we were one big performing family. So far I smell success!
|Full Rwandan wear ready to Cha Cha!|
|The lovely ladies of Team Rutsiro!|
Hopefully my blog today summarises what we do here and how we want to help create long lasting change. We are very excited about what is to come in the remaining weeks here. Surveying the community, skill sharing, teaching business skills and learning more about the culture as each day goes by, murabeho (goodbye).