Helping Inzozi Nziza to take its first steps into the world is Nikki Grey, a Californian with a Master’s degree in public health and years of experience in community development.
From 2003-2007 Nikki lived in Central America, first serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in agriculture and development in Belize, then traveling and working throughout Guatemala. She first came to Rwanda in 2009 to help establish a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping project for Partners in Health. While there, she fell in love with the country, decided to stay, and in January 2010 accepted the position of project manager for Blue Marble Dreams, putting her in charge of everything from training local women in English to co-ordinating plumbers, builders and electricians.
“I’m enjoying the challenge,” she says. “When I started in February we had an abstract concept; now we’re bringing it to life. It isn’t always easy – finding the tools and materials you need can be difficult, so you have to be flexible and creative – but it’s worth it just to interact with the women here. They are so energetic, so kind. To watch them learn English and start to crack jokes, to see how they get along with each other… it’s just so much fun.”
Being able to help those women is a huge motivation for Nikki. “This project could have a very significant impact on the lives of the women we employ. The money they’ll earn could be the difference between their kids ending education at primary level and going on to secondary school or even college. It could be the difference between them just getting by and really making it. For all the women we’re training, even those we can’t employ at the shop, we’re providing them with skills and tools so they can get into the world of work. They’re gaining confidence, not just because people from overseas work with and value them, but because they’re learning a language that many Rwandans, even well-educated ones, don’t know yet. The skills they’re developing could really empower them.”
But Inzozi Nziza won’t just help the women who have received training from Blue Marble – it will also provide a sustainable, long-term benefit to Butare. Nikki says, “This is a wonderful city with so much art and culture, yet it doesn’t have a ‘scene’. It has a huge cross-section of people, but that can mean that it doesn’t always feel unified. Inzozi Nziza could be a positive place, an affordable place that everyone could enjoy. We could bring people here together.”
Nikki is provisionally contracted to work in Butare until February 2011. “The plan is to make myself obselete,” she says. “I’ll know I’ve done a good job when I can leave behind a well-run business with well-trained women who can make this enterprise thrive. I want to be able to come back in five, ten, even twenty years and enjoy an ice cream cone here at Inzozi Nziza.”