Clementine
19
Rwanda
Seamstress

I am Clementine, 19 years old, and live with my mother and two siblings. My father left when I was a baby and married another woman. My aunts, uncles, and half-brother were killed in the genocide. My grandfather was a Hutu, so he was not killed and was able to hide my mother and me in a storage room. I am a member of All Across Africas' Gashora Sewing Cooperative, which was originally a training program that began in May 2011. All Across Africa rented the classroom, provided the sewing machines and materials, and hired our instructor, Clementine Abedi, to train us. In addition, during our training, All Across Africa paid for our lunch every day: a hefty serving of rice, beans, noodles, and meat from a shop down the street. Each one of the students received a stipend that provides for our basic needs, since we cannot earn money working in the fields while we were attending sewing school. I live far away, so All Across Africa gave me a bicycle for the commute, which still takes at least 90 minutes each way. In the beginning I did not know how to ride a bicycle; but with practice, like sewing, I have improved my skills and now a good bicycle rider. Since our graduation in November, we have been transitioning from being students to becoming business people. Our class is now a cooperative, which we have named "Vision for the Future." As workers, we pay for our materials, rent, and lunch, and each month, I will sell 20 bags to All Across Africa. My class has elected a committee and I am the treasurer. I am excited about my increasing responsibilities towards the cooperative, starting with opening a bank account. In addition to working together, my cooperative members unite with each other in remembering our country's history. For me, this goes beyond the sewing room. In my neighborhood, people came and built houses for both Hutu and Tutsi. Now we live at peace with each other. I desperately wait for Mondays, so that I can see my friends in my cooperative. Like me everyone at the Gashora Sewing Cooperative is dedicated and wants to support their families and build a sense of community with one another.