Rich and Robin Smith are missionaries to Rwanda and have been living here for 5 years; this is the couple we are staying with while in Rwanda. I know them because they attended our church in Pembroke, NH before they came to Africa. They have 4 kids and sold everything they had and moved from Pittsfield to Rwanda in 2005. Rich has a chicken feed business that employs street boys and Robin runs a Women’s Co-op that helps teach women basic life skills while she instructs them to make bagels and doughnuts, she calls it the African Bagel Company. Today we took the tour of the facility and spent time with Robin getting to know what she is doing and the impact she is making. We thought while we were in town in would be great to film the work they are doing in Rwanda.
Robin is taking vulnerable women who have been either living on the streets or in vulnerable situation and is teaching them job skills and pays them a fair wage to work in the Co-op. Robin then takes it a step further and teach these women about finances, hygiene, math, managing their home, HIV prevention, and practical values based on Biblical principles. This type of program is where I am seeing success in bringing people out of poverty in a sustainable way. It’s more about empowerment and teaching skills then it is about just giving a hand out.
The more I in Africa the more I realize that poor countries do not need our charity as much as they need opportunity. I once heard an African man speak at a conference and his title for his talk was “Africa needs Trade not Aid. There are some things that the poor cannot do for themselves, like bring clean water to their community, but in every step of the way, we need to include the community in the process as much as possible so they can take ownership and feel a sense of pride as they invest in their own future.