Something pretty special happened last week. Our co-founders, Nick & Louise (that's them in the photo above!) spent 7 days travelling around Rwanda, meeting with the communities we’ve been lucky enough to support through our ethical scheme. We'll be sharing everything they got up to over the next few days, but first up - let's take a look how they got on when visiting a few of the educational projects we part-fund with on-pack donations from our everyday brew.
We launched the scheme back in 2006 as a way to give back to the communities living in close proximity to the Pfunda tea estate (where we source a lot of the tea for our everyday brew). In patnership with the Point Foundation - a wonderful charity dedicated to supporting vulnerable communities in Rwanda, our ethical scheme initially supported The Noel Orphanage, home to over 600 children and teenagers orphaned by the tragic genocide - the orphanage closed in 2014 and since then we’ve been able to help provide care for young people with disabilities, sponsor children through schools and university as well as provide much needed vocational training.
Skip to today, and thanks to our on-pack donations as well as some additional fundraising (tough mudder and our pop up shop being two highlights!) we’ve donated over £250k to be used in a variety of projects - if you've ever bought our everyday brew, we just wanted to say a MASSIVE thank you, as you're the reason why these projects are able to happen.
Our teapigs WhatsApp group became a fantastic way for us all to live vicariously through Nick & Lou - each morning we’d wake up to new photos from their travels and it really felt like all 30 of us were out there with them. Hopefully we can try and capture that feeling here for you too – blurry photos and all!
So, what were they getting up to!?
Point Foundations’ mission is to use education & compassion as a way to provide young people & their families the valuable life skills needed to raise themselves out of poverty – so, many of the projects we’re involved with are focused on exactly that! Much of Nick & Lou’s journey was spent visiting schools and community projects to see how donations have supported them over the years. They also visited two amazing tea estates, but we’ll save that for part 2 of their travels.
House of children School and the Ubumwe Community Center
Two key projects which Nick & Lou were keen to spend time at were the Ubumwe Community Center (UCC) and House of Children School. UCC is a pioneering rehabilitation centre providing support and services to people of all disabilities in Gisenyi and surrounding areas. While House of Children is a privately run nursery & primary school for 700 children, leading the way for inclusive education in Rwanda by teaching children of all abilities.
Both UCC & House of Children are truly innovative and inspirational projects, helping to integrate children with special needs and allowing them to unlock their abilities. Our donations help buy equipment and school supplies, as well as sponsor 20 children through school and funding the salaries for 3 teachers.
Sponsoring students through University
We’ve sponsored 28 Uni students over the years and Nick and Lou were really thrilled to be able to meet some of them face to face. A special highlight was attending Gasi’s dissertation presentation, who we first met when he was living at the Noel Orphanage, and whose journey has been incredible to see flourish over the years. He passed with flying colours (go Gasi!), being awarded an excellent 80% mark for his degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Charles and Karen, the driving force behind The Point Foundation and adopted parents of Gasi, were beyond proud, you can see them in the photo below, alongside Gasi and some of his friends.
In true 'dissertation hand in day' style, they celebrated with a big ol' party, attended by ex-school and university friends - sadly Nick & Lou were struggling with the ol' jetlag, so had to slink off early. *cough* lightweights *cough*
Mwogo vocational training centre
Next up, a visit to the Mwogo Vocational Training Centre – Nick and Lou arrived just in time (literally) to attend the opening ceremony for a new training centre that promotes gender equality, inclusion of socially vulnerable, special needs and disabled students. We were able to part-fund the building work with donations from our Truman Brewery pop up last summer, so it was wonderful to see the centre up and running plus meet the families who would be taking part in their vocational courses, learning new skills like mechanics, tailoring, hairdressing and plumbing. Check out one of the new sewing rooms in the photo below.
For an incredibly rural village, they sure know how to throw a party - over 500 guests attended the event with the students, their parents, local politicians and villagers, Charles, Karen and Viatuer (from The Point Foundation) and most importantly staff and students from the Ubumwe Community Centre. They, along with the new students, provided entertainment for all the guests which included dancing, music, acrobatics (special mention to the man on stilts in the photo above!) and many, many speeches. The UCC is a great inspiration for Mwogo as it demonstrates what can be done to help those, particularly with special needs, to flourish and hopefully find their way in life.
Those are just a couple of the ways our ethical scheme supports young people in Rwanda, but you can read more about our ethical scheme here.