Rwanda – A Beautiful Tomorrow

June 17, 2019

This post is sponsored by Taylors and Creating for Good

My journey with Taylors and Creating for Good began way back in July 2017 when I received an email from Jess Henderson. I still have that email, and I can still remember reading it, late, when I should have been trying to sleep.

“Their proposal is for a year long collaboration – that has honestly had us pinching ourselves for the last few months. We will be working alongside them to host four workshops – focussed around their coffees and teas – throughout the year, which are all about craft, travel, food and nature, culminating in an all-expenses paid trip to Rwanda to meet some of the Taylors tea and coffee farmers”

I knew immediately that this was something I needed to do. An opportunity that would probably never come around again. A truly extraordinary chance to go on the most epic of personal journeys, and not least one that would hopefully make a little bit of difference.

You see I’d always been a shy girl without much self confidence, but without much warning my world had been turned upside down, and at this time I was pretty much at rock bottom. The little self confidence I had was shattered, and I was struggling. I was feeling very much more alone in the world than I ever had done before.

For me to even consider taking on a project of this length and magnitude, let alone leaving my kids for a week to travel to east Africa, was… bonkers?! Brave? A little bit of both maybe. Maybe it takes both those things to do something so far out of our comfort zone.

Aside from the personal journey, at a time when Instagram was evolving into a slightly odd place where creativity seemed to take second fiddle to profitability, the idea that I could get involved with something worthwhile appealed massively.

I wrote all about the itch I have to do something that “matters” with my photography in my last post about the project here. Please give it a read for more context and my connection with Taylors and Creating for Good.

Going to Rwanda is one of the things I am proudest of, and I did it for me. Aside from the fact I know my kids are proud of me for going, I am also proud of myself. And to say I loved it is an understatement.

There aren’t really the words to sum up how I feel about our time there. I loved every minute, but it also took me to the extremes of sadness and horror, and pushed me physically and emotionally almost to the brink. But one thing I never, ever felt, was alone.

The women I travelled with are the most incredible, awe-inspiring bunch of people I know. Each and every one of them has so much heart, and I’ll never forget the both the joy and the tears that we shared. Listening to Dolly Parton for 4 hours off road driving in torrential rain was definitely something to remember.

I am writing this with tears in my eyes, and it’s taken me 3 months to be able write it at all. It feels impossible to do justice to the work that Taylors do in Rwanda (and other origin countries they buy from), and also the incredible people we met there who do so much good. It gives me life to know that there are people like them who are selflessly helping others in these ways.

Maybe one day I’ll write about it again, but for now this is the best I can do. I’ll let the images do the talking and take you with me on an extraordinary journey.

Kigali – The Genocide Memorial Museum

We visited the Genocide Memorial Museum on our first day. I’m very glad we did, because understanding what happened in Rwanda in 1994 underpins everything else you see in the country. From this moment everyone you talk to, and everyone you pass in the street, you will know that the genocide will have effected them in some way.

The museum is now the final resting place for over 250,000 people. Its’ work is not only to document and to archive what happened during those 100 days of unimaginable terror, and to teach us how and why it happened, but also to provide somewhere for relatives of those who were killed to come and feel closer to them. The single rose lying on top of the vast concrete tomb is a stark reminder that this is not just a museum, it’s a place of mass burial.

Taylors’ Becky Mundy reading the names of some of those who were slaughtered.

I didn’t take many photos that day. I wish I’d taken more but it seemed futile at the time. Please take a look at the Kigali Genocide Memorial website to read more about the amazing work they do. It’s our responsibility to learn and remember.

The Women for Women education programme, Kigali

On our second day we visited Women for Women in Kigali. Creating for Good have a history of fundraising for Women for Women, and this was part of the trip that was important for all of us. As a charity, Women for Women help women whose lives have been destroyed by war and famine, equipping them with the skills they need to rebuild their lives.

Through a year long programme women are taught a marketable skill such as weaving or bread-making, as well as how to save money, have a bank account, about family planning and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases -all within a sisterhood of 24 other woman. This helps to breakdown the isolation caused by war and gives her a tight knit support group and community.

women for women in Rwanda
The warmest of welcomes at the Women for Women programme
women for women Kigali
The women in the programme learn essential life skills as well as a marketable trade.
women for women Rwanda
Many of the women would walk for up to 40 minutes each way to be at the programme, and any pre-school children they had came along too
women for women Rwanda
We all enjoyed playing “photographer” with this little boy, who loved taking pictures with our phones, and gave plenty of fist bumps too
women for women Kigali
Trading shares within the cooperative. The women are able to take out loans and set up repayment schedules to improve their homes or businesses.
women for women Rwanda
women for women Rwanda
Our sponsored sister Valerie. It was very special to meet Valerie, as Taylors have funded her programme as part of this project. She came out of an abusive relationship and is a single Mum with three children.

Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center, Kigali

The next day we visited the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center set up by Women for Women, to see the program brought to life. Situated in beautiful rural Rwanda, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland, is the amazing eco-lodge. Since 2013 the center has provided a secure environment where womens cooperatives can work, farm, and trade – moving “from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency”

urugo women opportunity centre
Another wonderful warm welcome, from professional drumming and dance troupes funded by Women for Women
urugo women opportunity centre
Down in the lush valley near the center where women who have been through the programme farm organic produce.
urugo women opportunity centre
I took so many photos in this valley. The landscape is typical of most of the landscapes we saw around the country, which is highly populated and intensely farmed.
urugo women opportunity centre
These children were out of school for the weekend, and they loved chasing after our Land Rover as we drove into the valley. They also loved having their photos taken πŸ™‚
urugo women opportunity centre
urugo women opportunity centre
A new sustainable irrigation system that had recently been installed
urugo women opportunity centre
A lady proudly showing us some of the produce they had grown
urugo women opportunity centreurugo women opportunity centre
This lady is one of my favourite memories of Rwanda, she found the whole experience of being photographed doing her work hilarious and had us all in stitches
urugo women opportunity centre
urugo women opportunity centre
As a beetroot obsessive, I’m still a bit gutted that I didn’t get to eat one of these ones!
urugo women opportunity centre
One of my favourite images from the week, this little girl was too shy to come and play with the others, and watched us from a distance.
urugo women opportunity centre
Elsewhere at the eco-lodge were cooperatives producing clothing, weaving, yoghurt making, and art work.
Rosie Beatty trying her hand at basket weaving.
The lovely Jess Henderson makes friends absolutely everywhere she goes.

The “Artisans in Residence” at the lodge are producing high quality goods that are sold in the marketplace at the lodge, at the giftshop, and taken to other markets elsewhere. Please take a look at the website for more information on this amazing place and the work they do.

Leaving Kigali

Taylors of Harrogate Team in Rwanda
Rosie Beattie, Carly Murphy and Sam Ward from the Taylors team. I would follow these women anywhere 😍
Kigali rwanda
The sun setting over Kigali. We had an amazing driver who took us up to this viewpoint. The city sprawls out across the valley below.
Kigali rwanda
It’s hard to imagine the atrocities of the genocide in a place of so much beauty.

Sorwathe Tea Estate, Kinihira, Rwanda

After leaving Kigali we travelled in a convoy of Land Rovers to Kinihira. At a higher altitude, it is where some of the finest tea is produced and Taylors have been buying from this estate since soon after the genocide.

The estate is exemplary with it’s fair trade record, and Taylors have invested in many projects here including a porridge project for 3-5 year olds, and a sanitary towel project for the girls at the high school, both of which we were fortunate enough to visit.

Sorwathe tea estate
The sun setting over the beautiful Rwandan landscape.
Sorwathe tea estate
Sorwathe tea estate
As the sun sets, the mists rise

After a slightly surreal night spent at the estate lodge under a lacy mosquito net, we got up at 5am for the sunrise. Never have I been more glad that I set an alarm for sunrise. The valley had disappeared into the morning mists with only the mountain tops peeking through.

sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
Uncharacteristically quiet, the sun rises over the main street of the town at Sorwathe Tea Estate
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
We thought we were up early, but many Rwandans were making their way to work and school.
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
A photographer’s dream.
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
The bright green in the foreground is the tea leaves. No wonder they taste so good.
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
Good morning tea πŸ™‚
sunrise at Sorwathe tea estate
The thing you can see just poking through the mist is the top of another mountain halfway across the valley
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
After our photography session we drove even higher up to where the tea pickers were at work. The mists were still melting away and the views were astonishing.
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
The tea is all picked by hand to avoid damaging the delicate leaves. It’s a highly skilled job that can take three years to master, and the workers begin at daybreak each day and pick for around 5 hours through often torrential rain at this time of year, and constantly pushing their way through the coarse and prickly bushes.
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
tea picking at sorwathe tea estate
sorwathe tea factory
After the tea is picked it’s loaded into trucks and brought here to the factory, where it is sorted, wilted, processed and finally taste tested ready for sale
sorwathe tea estate school
The girls at the high school on the estate, about to receive their sanitary towels funded by Taylors
sorwathe tea estate school
sorwathe tea estate school sanitary towel project
Each bag contains 9 reusable sanitary towels. Sustainable, locally made, and allows these girls to come to school while they are on their periods without fear or embarrassment. Such an incredibly important project.
sorwathe tea estate school sanitary towel project
sorwathe tea estate schools porridge project
The porridge project for pre school and primary school children is another amazing thing funded by Taylors. The children all receive a nutritious and vitamin fortified porridge mid-morning. This was one of my favourite things that we visited, not least because of pretty coloured cups in straight lines, and because I flipping love hanging out with little kids.
sorwathe tea estate schools porridge project
sorwathe tea estate schools porridge project
sorwathe tea estate schools porridge project

Ejo Heza – A Beautiful Tomorrow

Our final stop in Rwanda was a visit to the amazing Ejo Heza coffee farming collective, a part of the Kopakama coffee estate. Taylor’s have been buying from this collective for their coffee blends for a while, and now have a roast dedicated to this very special coffee collective. It was a huge honour to see this, and the emotion in the ladies from Taylors was tangible. Clearly this was something that meant a lot to them.

Ezo Heza translates as “beautiful tomorrow”, which sends a big old tingle down my spine. A female only collective set up after the genocide to empower and support women farmers – their tomorrow is filled with hope, and all being well peace.

Ejo Heza coffee collective Rwanda
The women greeted every one of us with a huge hug. They were rightly so proud of what they have achieved here.
Ejo Heza coffee collective Rwanda
The coffee starts life as a cherry, which when ripe is carefully picked by hand before going through an extensive sorting and quality control process
Ejo Heza coffee collective Rwanda
Beautiful Charlotte Huco styling out the coffee picking
Ejo Heza coffee collective Rwanda
After the fruit is removed from the beans, the beans are air dried on the steep terraces of Kopakama estate, and turned by hand and further checked for quality.
Ejo Heza coffee collective Rwanda
Rwanda giving us another of those views she does so well, from the coffee drying terraces of Kopakama looking towards Lake Kivu and the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Cormoron Lodge, Lake Kivu

Our last base in Rwanda was the incredible Cormoron Lodge. Perhaps one of the peaceful and beautiful places I’ve ever been. Those distant shores belong to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where hundreds of thousands of Rwandans tried to cross the border to escape the genocide and it’s after effects. It’s a stark reminder – despite being a land of astonishing beauty and vitality, it’s brutal past is never too far away.

I left Rwanda a changed person, I think we all did. The progress that has been made here since the genocide is quite unprecedented, and the spirit of forgiveness and togetherness in the Rwandan people is something that could all learn a lot from.

All you can hope is that the human race will learn never to repeat the atrocities that happened here and that Rwanda will have her beautiful tomorrow.

cormoran lodge, Lake Kivu Rwanda
cormoran lodge, Lake Kivu Rwanda

This post and the project as a whole was sponsored by Taylors, in collaboration with Creating for Good and Women for Women. I am beyond grateful to Taylors for including me in this extraordinary journey.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Rhoda June 18, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Oh Hannah what an amazing journey at maybe the time you needed it most. Sisterhood, security and peace after so much trauma. The photos and words are both so beautiful xx

  • Reply Nehal June 18, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    You’r work tell the story of Rawanda and the way explained in you words is the best way it can be i think. Always be like this hanna xoxo

  • Reply Visiting Sorwathe Tea Factory in Rwanda with Taylors | Mondomulia July 10, 2019 at 8:52 am

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