Category Archives: Blue Marble Dreams

Congratulations Valentine!

We would like to congratulate one of our wonderful employees on getting married. Valentine has been working at the shop for one year and married her fiance, Albert, last weekend. The wedding was very beautiful and composed of three parts. The first, was the dowry ceremony, or traditional wedding. This was held in the backyard of Valentine’s house. There were many speeches, traditional Rwandan dance by both male and female dancers, and drumming.

Valentine looked beautiful in her gold dress!

Valentine looked beautiful in her gold dress!

Louise and Alphonsine, two shop employees, took part in the traditional ceremony.

Louise and Alphonsine, two shop employees, took part in the traditional ceremony.

The second part was a catholic mass located at the church very close to Valentine’s house. For this, Valentine changed into a white wedding dress. Her sister, pictured here in a beautiful blue dress, was her maid of honor and was constantly fixing her dress to keep it looking perfect.


The wedding party walking over to the church to continue the ceremony.

Valentine and her new husband Albert during the catholic mass.

Valentine and her new husband Albert during the catholic mass.

Finally, the third part of the ceremony is the reception. Here there was soda, banana beer, and an impressive cake display. The newlyweds cut the cake, and we all enjoyed watching more dancing and drumming. Valentine and Albert even joined in with the dancing; they were great! This is also the part of the wedding where guests present gifts to the new couple.


At the reception, the new couple cuts their wedding cake.

Eugenie and Louise join me for the reception. They look great and are happy to be able to celebrate with Valentine and Albert!

Eugenie and Louise join me for the reception. They look great and are happy to be able to celebrate with Valentine and Albert!

As we left the wedding and said goodnight, the sky looked gorgeous.

As we left the wedding and said goodnight, the sky looked gorgeous.


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Spotlight: Two Inzozi Nziza Women at University!

Here at Inzozi Nziza, we consider ourselves a family.  One of the goals of the project is to see the members of this family succeed in as many arenas of life as possible; the big-picture of Inzozi Nziza includes the long-lasting effects of involving women in economic development.  By connecting women with opportunities for income-generation, professional development, and education, we hope to contribute to the overall push for forward momentum here in Rwanda.

We are so very proud, therefore, to congratulate two of our staff members who have recently begun their University education here in Rwanda!  Marie Rose and Leatitia, two of our very own, have almost completed their first semesters at school.  Both young women are studying science, an impressive feat.

We're so proud of Rose!

Studying at a beautiful university in the Eastern Province, Marie Rose plans to specialize in veterinarian science.  “I like animals,” she says, “All types of animals – cows, goats, dogs, cats.   And I want to be able to help them.”  Veterinary science is a very useful skill in Rwanda, especially in terms of agriculture; cows, goats, and sheep all represent important aspects of Rwanda’s agronomy, and their health is a significant piece of the puzzle.  We’re very proud of Rose’s ambition, and excited to support her through her journey!

Leatita hard at work

Leatitia is a student at the National University of Rwanda, just down the road from Inzozi Nziza!  She is studying biology, and is considering a future in medicine.  We’re very lucky to have Leatitia so close; she has been working part-time while studying, so we still get to see her around the business from time to time!

Both students are about to enter their final exams for their first semester, and we wish them the best of luck!


***Kinyarwanda Corner***

University – kaminuza (“ka-mee-noo-zah”)

To study – kwiga (“kwee-gah”)

To read – gusoma (“goo-soh-mah”)

Student – umunyeshyuri (“ooh-m00-nyeh-shyoo-ree”)

Professor – umwarimu (“oo-mwah-ree-moo”)

A Beautiful Rwandan Wedding!

On the first of October, Inzozi Nziza celebrated a very special occasion! Julienne, one of our stellar employees, was married to her fiancé, Emmanuel Bizumuremyi. Inzozi Nziza’s staff attended the wedding, and several staff members participated as members of the bridal party. Chantal, one of our Assistant Managers, was a one of the “abaramukanya” – the Rwandan equivalent of bridesmaids. Leatitia and Rose assisted in the distribution of wedding drinks and cakes. Our very own manager, Marie Louise, was the fille d’honneur (translated from French to mean “honored girl”), which is the close equivalent to the Maid of Honor.

In traditional Rwandan weddings, there are several main ceremonies. In our post below describing Claire’s engagement, you can learn all about the various aspects that compose a traditional Rwandan engagement ceremony.  Here, we continue with details of the ceremonies that follow!

First, there is the Introduction and the Giving of the Dowry.  In this ceremony, the family of the groom and the family of the bride gather at the house of the bride.  The family of the groom must ask for the bride, and a series of back-and-forth dialogue ensues between the two families until an agreement is reached, in a fashion very similar to the engagement ceremony.  After this, the dowry is given.  Traditionally in Rwanda, the dowry may include cows.  In Rwandan culture, cows are symbolic of wealth and stability – they are considered one of the highest gifts to bestow.  At Julienne’s wedding, the family of the groom presented several items, including hoes, scythes, and jerry cans, and followed with the presentation of a very large, beautiful black cow.  Once the dowry had been presented, it was time for the arrival of the bride.

The Giving of the Dowry

Julienne and her bridal party, dressed in stunning mushanana (traditional Rwandan finery for women, often made from floaty, gauze-like material), entered into the ceremony. Julienne and Emmanuel exchanged gifts between the two families, and the bride and groom took turns offering one another sips of juice. The guests then shared fanta and sipped urwagwa (traditional Rwandan banana beer) from gourd calabashes.

From left, Emmanuel, Julienne, and Marie Louise

After this ceremony follows the religious portion of the wedding.  This general takes place in a local church.  Here, the bride dresses in a western wedding dress complete with veil, and the bride and groom exchange vows before a figure of the church.  Julienne was absolutely stunning in her gown!  After exchanging their vows and removing Julienne’s veil, she and Emmanuel fed one another wedding cake (baked by Celestin, a good friend to Inzozi Nziza), and had a party of women and men perform traditional Rwandan dances for them.

Julienne in her beautiful wedding dress!

Finally, after the religious ceremony comes the final portion of the wedding, the reception.  Here the guests are given fanta and wedding cake, and gifts are presented one at a time to the bride and groom.  Inzozi Nziza brought Julienne and Emmanuel 50 kilos of rice and 5 liters of oil, which we proudly presented together as a staff.

Julienne’s wedding was an absolutely beautiful event, from beginning to end, and one that Inzozi Nziza was proud to attend and participate in!

Happy Birthday Inzozi Nziza!

Last Saturday, Inzozi Nziza celebrated its one year anniversary. Everyone worked together to advertise the event to the community and decorate the shop. We wanted to attract a lot of customers and make the entire community excited about our birthday. As part of our anniversary, we wanted to further advertise our new coffee project. In order to do this, we gave out hot and cold coffee samples to people passing on the street and encouraged them to come inside. We were able to talk to a lot of people walking past the shop about the local coffee we now roast on site.

On our birthday, we also celebrated our monthly kids’ day! In order to support community development, Inzozi Nziza has a kids’ day once a month. Next to a tip jar on our counter we ask for spare change to buy ice cream for local children. Then on kids’ day we give out free ice cream from the donations we have received that month. The events have been very successful in the past and the kids have all been very excited about getting an opportunity to eat some ice cream! In order to further involve the children who came by in our shop, we designed games and activities throughout the day. This month we made homemade play dough using only water, salt, flour, and food coloring. The kids were all really excited and enjoyed playing with it. They hadn’t seen anything like play dough before but quickly tried making new things. They spelt out their names, sculpted their families, and even made themselves jewelry. Inzozi Nziza hopes to do more social programming and include the community more in the future!

Here are some pictures from the event:

The kids really enjoyed the play dough!

Freshly Roasted in Butare!

Inzozi Nziza is excited to announce we are now serving Rwandan coffee roasted on site! Blue Marble has been looking for a way to improve Inzozi Nziza’s coffee production, and their current partner, who provides coffee to the shops in Brooklyn, wanted a chance to get involved with our project. For the past two weeks, Wiggles from Irving Farm has been here training the women on how to roast and brew fresh coffee.

Here is Wiggles roasting some coffee!

In order to keep in line with Rwandan coffee traditions, Wiggles spent much of his time seeing different aspects of coffee in this providence named Huye. He first went and tried different coffees around Rwanda. He wanted to see how coffee was being served and what it tasted like. “By getting a general glimpse of the Rwandan coffee culture, the idea was that we could elevate it while respecting it,” Wiggles notes. Wiggles also visited local washing stations (where coffee goes from cherry to green beans). He was able to work with SPREAD (Sustaining Partnerships in Rural Enterprise and Argo-business Development) a US funded company that works with coffee farmers to improve the quality and quantity and coffee production. SPREAD is helping source the coffee for the shop. Wiggles also got do a coffee testing with OCIR cafe to ensure the quality of Inzozi Nziza’s new coffee methods. OCIR café is the government agency responsible for promoting Rwandan coffee. Overall, they were very supportive of our project and even mentioned a possible local commercial!

Everyone was trained in how to make a great cup of coffee!

The goal of this coffee project is to close the circle of the Rwandan coffee production. “A lot of the women working in the shop are already connected to the local coffee production. They have family members or friends who pick the coffee cherries or work at the local washing stations, yet none of the quality coffee is prepared here,” Wiggles has observed. We therefore are aiming to improve the quality of the coffee served in Butare. “In Rwanda and most coffee producing countries, the best quality coffee is usually reserved for export. Even in big cities like Kigali, the coffee they serve is not of a high quality.” By buying fresh local coffee and roasting it on site, we hope to amend this problem.

The new dripper set up allows us to brew a fresh cup of coffee every time.

During the rest of his time here, Wiggles has focused on training the women at the shop. They have learned everything from the history of coffee, to the science behind roasting, to how to brew a simple cup. Irving Farm generously donated a high quality roaster that we have been roasting around 10oz a batch on. To brew the coffee we are using a single cup pour over system. This allows us to keep the coffee fresh and only grind beans directly before brewing it. The women are really excited to be starting this new coffee project, and soon we hope to offer a range of drinks and products around it.


Inzozi Nziza hits prime time

Things have been so busy here in Butare that we haven’t even told you that a short version of the Inzozi Nziza documentary aired recently on the global television network Al Jazeera!

The documentary is the work of brother-and-sister film-making duo Rob and Lisa Fruchtman. We’ll keep you updated with their progress as they work towards releasing a full feature-length piece on the Inzozi Nziza and Ingoma Nsyha projects, but the chance to share their work so far with the world through Al Jazeera was one that they didn’t want to miss. As well as the film, Rob and Lisa also wrote an article for Al Jazeera about their experiences filming in Rwanda, which you can read here.

We don’t have much access to satellite TV here at the shop, so we had our own mini-screening on a laptop the following day. Thirteen of us clustered around the computer for the strange experience of seeing ourselves and our friends on television.

Squeezed in for the big screening!

Here’s what our acting shop manager, Marie-Louise, had to say about the experience of watching Sweet Dreams for the first time.

What was it like seeing yourself on TV?
I think it’s nice, because what we’ve dreamed is real and is on show everywhere. If many people see what we do, they can know that the women of Rwanda develop themselves; they have a chance to see the women of Rwanda work hard, think of things that they can do themselves in a similar way. In many countries, when they think of Rwanda they just think of war. But if they can see us working now, they can change their minds. If the world sees that film, because they know Rwanda in bad conditions, they can see Rwanda in good conditions.

How has Inzozi Nziza changed your life?
Before working here, I didn’t have a way of earning money. Everything I wanted, I had to ask someone else. But now, I can have something I want and I can help my child and my family to live. I am thinking of going to school to help myself. In the past it has been hard for me to be happy. I don’t have my dad – how can I live in peace and be happy? But now, I have many friends here. I’m very happy. My life is full.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I like many things about the movie that Rob and Lisa have made. For example, the world can see what we are doing in Rwanda, from honey to milk, where we make the coffee. They can see the development of Rwanda and how we have good things here. For the women, they can see how they drum and show their happiness to everyone. They are very unified, and the drumming is helping us resolve our problems. We see in the interviews with Martha the problems that were here before, but also how we have made our lives better.


Inzozi Nziza, meet the world

We’ve been lucky enough to be featured in various newspapers, magazines and websites over the last couple of years (see the links section on the right of this page for more). But the past week has been particularly special as we’ve received coverage from two of the US’s premier news outlets, Time and CNN.

To read what Time had to say about the Inzozi Nziza project, click here, and to see one of Blue Marble’s founders, Alexis, talking to the Campbell Brown show on CNN, click here.

And remember, if you’ve seen us on your local media, and you’d like to donate to the Blue Marble cause, just visit our website to find out more.

‘More jobs, less violence’

With less than three weeks to opening day here in Butare, training for our potential employees is stepping up a level – and we’re delighted to welcome three representatives of the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) to lead a week’s intensive work on customer service, running a business and managing personal finances.

Bpeace is a not-for-profit organisation that works with entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries to scale their businesses, create signficant employment for all, and expand the economic power of women. It has worked with several companies here in Rwanda, including the Petit Prince Hotel in Butare, and its representatives – Sabra Richardson, Fran Pastore and Donna Fleetwood – bring with them a wealth of experience in business, training and empowering women.

One thing we know for a sure – they were an instant hit with our trainees.

Barely an hour after being introduced, Donna is a fully fledged member of the Inzozi Nziza team

Sabra, assisted by translator Aime, explains what Bpeace is all about

Sabra took the floor first, and here’s a little of what she said:

“We’re going to teach you how to run your ice cream shop, so that you can make money and so that you can help your families. We’ll teach you customer service, so that you can be nice to your customers and everyone will run to your store.

“We believe that the more jobs you have, the less violence there is. My personal wish for all of you is that whatever you learn about business, you share it with your family, with your village, with your community, because the more information we share, the more everyone will rise. You can show others how to make a profit, so that all businesses in your community can be successful.”

Next it was Donna’s turn to say some heartfelt words. “You are all part of my dream,” she said. “For so long I’ve thought about the moment I’d come here and see your beautiful faces – and you’re even more beautiful than I dreamed. We are so proud of you.

“We’ve seen your energy when you are drumming, your passion, your inspiration. I know this is going to be a huge success, and even though we may not always speak the same language, I see you and I hear you and I feel you always.”

Fran, from the Women’s Development Business Centre at Stamford, summed up the introductions.

“Congratulations everyone,” she said. “You have all taken a very big step in your lives to take advantage of this opportunity. I am very happy to play a small part in this adventure. I work with women and men like you every day, helping them to improve their lives and those of their families. It’s thrilling to be here today and I’m so excited. It’s going to be an exciting, educational and fun week. Thank you so much for having us.”

All that was left was to meet each other and mingle, so we let the women take over the camera to capture the atmosphere just for you.

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Meet the team: Nikki Grey, Inzozi Nziza project manager

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.”

Nikki's responsibilities include providing basic training in English to Inzozi Nziza's potential employees

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.”