Global Grassroots 2011 Year-End Magazine - Page 32

work; I have skills.”

Isabelle’s biggest financial challenge is supporting her children. She has two sons (ages 14 and 10) and a daughter (age 3). I ask, “Where do you find your happiness in life? Is work as important as family?”

“I can’t say that my children make me happy,” Isabelle explains. “First of all, I had those children when I wasn’t planning to. Secondly, I would not say the children make me happy because I haven’t yet found the means to take care of those children.” She tells us that when she goes home, her kids come to her and ask her for things she doesn’t have – like money to enroll them in primary school. Because she cannot give them the things they want or need, Isabelle finds more pain than happiness in her relationship with her kids. “It sometimes makes me regret and wonder why I had those children.”

I’m floored for an instant. Then I feel ridiculous for the privileged assumptions that led me to think of such a question. Now, by the time of writing, I’m floating somewhere in between.

Isabelle explains further. She worries in particular about her young daughter. “At this time I don’t have the means to educate her or help her to prepare for her future. So I worry that she will face the same life – she will work as a prostitute. She, too, will have an insignificant life.” Significance: privilege’s bedmate.

Isabelle says the sewing skills she’s learned at CVTS, however, are an

unambiguous source of joy. She repeatedly thanks Global Grassroots for supporting the project. In her entire life, she had never attended a day of school or received training of any sort. “After the 35 years that I’ve lived without having anything to do or knowing any skills in my mind – now I believe that if God is willing, in the future I will find [my own sewing] machine … so that I can make money for myself using the skills I learned here. Then I will be able to raise and educate my children well, so they will be responsible children without working as prostitutes as I had to my whole life.”

Rahema, too, is hopeful. She plans to find a job at a textile company and recently passed a skills exam at Kigali Design. I love the last things she tells us about sewing, before our three rounds of emphatic thanks and handshakes and goodbyes.

“Something that makes me feel happy,” Rahema says, “is when you take a piece of fabric and cut it into different sized pieces. Even if you’re the one making it, you look at the pieces and feel like: am I really going to make a dress from all these strange pieces? You don’t believe it. Then… you have a dress. It’s kind of a strange thing, and it makes me happy.”

“So it’s sort of magical how the different pieces come together?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says, “how the pieces fit together.”

31

Global Grassroots 2011