I've always loved kate spade. Their bags, their patterns, their branding and even their message of “she is quick and curious and playful and strong.”
When I found out about the launch of the kate spade on purpose collection in 2014, I immediately and enthusiastically wrote about it here to make sure all my readers knew about the good that kate spade was doing for a small community in Rwanda. They didn't pay me to, I just did it because I loved it.
A year later, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I saw an email come in from someone at kate spade that said, “we wanted to see if you were available to chat next week as we have an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes of one of our on purpose label in Rwanda. Do you have time for a quick call next week so we can tell you more?” Um, let me think … YES! (duh!)
But leaving my family for a week to travel halfway around the world was definitely something I thought twice about.
I was nervous. Africa felt like a very long LONG way away from my little family, and I would have to stop nursing Lyla (my second baby) a few months earlier than I'd planned, and leave my two very little girls for an entire week. I knew they'd be okay, the question was, would I be okay?! And when I heard the word “Rwanda,” my only association was Hotel Rwanda, a movie about the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
But after reassurance of the safe and calm state of Rwanda from many personal sources and people who had recently traveled to Rwanda, thoroughly discussing all the pros and cons with my husband and my parents, praying about it, I felt like it was the right thing to do to accept the opportunity and try to do some good with spreading the message of what's going on there.
On November 14th I flew from LA to Seattle to Amsterdam to Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda and after two full days of travel and one shower in Amsterdam (best shower of my life!) I arrived.
With butterflies in my stomach and an anxiousness I can't describe, we piled into a bus to travel 30 minutes outside of the capital city to Masoro to meet the people who worked in ADC, the factory where all of the on purpose goods are hand-made by local artisans.
What we found was a beautiful, clean, bright, cheery factory full of Rwandans hard at work creating their perfected hand-made goods.
First of all, have you ever hand-made anything? I'm the worst possible person ever to ask this question, because I can't even sew a button myself. But they gave us a chance to emboss a piece of leather and mine most definitely did not pass quality control! What I'm saying is, this is hard work!!!
They also taught me to make friendship bracelets and man was I pretty terrible at that too! You'd think aligning thread the right way and pulling it tight would be pretty easy but then you'd be wrong. I was!
The employees at ADC are focused. That was probably what surprised me the most. Their work ethic could run circles around mine all day long! They write their goals each day on a big board for everyone to see and they celebrate when they meet or exceed those goals. They also stand up and do stretches a few times a day in unison which I thought was really fun! We all joined in and had a good laugh.
The really, REALLY cool part about ADC is that it's Rwandan-owned, women-owned, so they act as a supplier to kate spade, but they literally take ownership in their factory. The women can move up and advance in the factory as they prove their skills, and I was also surprised to learn that the most coveted spot is working with the sewing machines.
Here are some quick, fun but remarkable facts about the women working at ADC:
Because of the kate spade on purpose factory:
500 more people receiving healthcare benefits
543 more people gaining access to stable housing
590 more people able to eat meals regularly
249 more children able to go to school
The average worker at ADC walks 30 mins – 1 hour each way to get to work each day, and some walk more than 2 hours each day, each way.
I can't wait to share the deeper and much more meaningful part of my trip with you all. The part where my heart was transformed and I walked away literally never being the same again. It sounds cheesy but it's my favorite part of my story. The part that I can't shut up about every time someone asks me how my trip was to Rwanda. I cry every time I sit down and write more about it. I promise it's coming soon.
For now, I'll leave you with this trip recap video created by Jeremy Stanley, who is also responsible for most of the beautiful images in this post.