At Blue Marble Dreams, we believe that ice cream can help you to forget your troubles, even if it’s only for a moment. We want to bring a little taste of happiness to people who may be more used to hardship, and that’s one reason why Rwanda is the perfect place for our first project, Inzozi Nziza.
But this isn’t just about ice cream. As well as being somewhere special for the town of Butare, Inzozi Nziza is also a business, and that business will provide rewarding employment and a chance to shine for members of a local women’s co-operative.
That’s why we’re delighted to announce the recruitment of our first Rwandan employee, Marie-Louise Ingabire.
Marie-Louise, 24, joins Nikki as the other half of our management team. She was born and bred in this district (Huye), and attended secondary school at Save, just north of Butare. Her father died in the Rwandan genocide when she was just eight years old; now she lives with her brother, Jean-Bosco, his wife and their two children.
In 2008 Marie-Louise’s life changed forever when she joined Ingoma Nshya, the all-women’s drumming group set up by Kiki Katese.
“I used to walk past University Club, where Ingoma Nshya practises, and I wanted to learn how to drum like them,” says Marie-Louise. “I love Rwandan culture, and drumming is something I’d always wanted to try.
“Drumming is a sport, but it’s also more than that. When you are doing it you are lost in the moment. You don’t think about anything else, the problems you have, everything you’ve been through, it’s all forgotten.”
Learning to drum was also a way of meeting a remarkable group of women, and Marie-Louise says, “Getting to know the group has helped me so much. I can talk to them and they give me advice. There are many different women there of all ages and backgrounds, and I’ve learned a lot from them.”
It wasn’t long before talk at Ingoma Nshya turned to ice cream. Marie-Louise remembers: “Kiki used to say that she had a dream of providing all of us – widows, orphans, anyone – with a business, maybe a bakery or a cafe. Then she met Alexis and Jennie from Blue Marble, and she told us her dream was going to come true: we would open an ice cream shop. And when Kiki thinks of something, she makes it happen. First she thought of women drummers and, even though women don’t drum in Rwanda, Kiki thought of it and now it is reality. So when she said she wanted to open an ice cream shop in Butare, I knew it would happen.”
Since then Inzozi Nziza has come close to fruition, with premises near to the university campus, English lessons for the women of Ingoma Nshya and interest from all around the world. But before a team of employees could be selected, the first job was to find an assistant manager, and Marie-Louise knew that she was up to the job.
“I know what Inzozi Nziza needs,” she says. “I was the first to sign up when the ice cream co-operative was created. I know that this business can help with Rwanda’s development, and the South Province in particular, and I want to be a part of it.”
So she knew she could do it – but did she think she’d get the job?
“There were so many applicants I didn’t think I’d make it. But I knew that if I was given the chance then I could do a good job. And then, for it to actually happen, to be made assistant manager, it’s a dream come true. This is my time to show what I can do.
“In my first two weeks I’ve been doing something different every day. I’ve been supervising builders; I went to Kigali to buy the appliances we’ll need; I’ve even been helping to paint the shop. I’m enjoying it so much. I’ve seen on paper what the shop will look like, but I can also see it in my mind. I can see the people sitting outside. I know exactly how it will be.”
For Marie-Louise, managing at Inzozi Nziza is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s one she is determined to make the most of.
“This job will change my life. It will help me to develop myself as a person, and it will help my family because now I will be being paid. I can pay the school fees for my brother’s children. I might be able to save enough to go to university and study business. But it isn’t just about me and my family. Inzozi Nziza will help our whole community. We will buy our milk, our strawberries, our bananas, everything, from local farmers, helping them to find a new market and new income. Everyone who works here will benefit, and everyone who comes here will taste something new and delicious.”