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Miller Center interns facilitate workshops for PICO Rwanda leaders to lay plans for local business enterprises

Rwanda: “In my time here, I have been lucky to witness the incredible resilience of the Rwandan people. Their strength and kindness is something that will inspire me for the rest of my life,” says Jenny Walsh, one of six student fellows and interns from the Santa Clara University Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Over the past seven weeks, they have been documenting the story of PICO Rwanda leaders and conducting workshops to enhance their business skills. Two teams of students began the journey by visiting PICO Rwanda leaders in their villages; to hear how organizing has impacted their lives and listen to their aspirations for the future.

The first team of fellows – Lizzy Kamya, Jenny Walsh and Neil Brorson – interviewed leaders in Kigali and rural villages to create digital videos that profile individual leaders and their collective efforts and then documented entrepreneurship workshops conducted at Christus Center. “Working with PICO Rwanda has been a one-of-a-kind experience. Through this process I have been making a documentary film that chronicles PICO Rwanda’s efforts in Kigali and rural villages in Rwanda,” says Jenny. We cannot wait to share these videos and engage the broader community to elicit financial support for these incredible PICO Rwanda leaders and their enterprises.

The second team of student interns – Jazmine Low, Megan Sauter, and Kelly Grunewald – also visited leaders to learn about the health clinics, schools, roofing tile and other business projects they have launched with PICO Rwanda organizing. Using this information, interns designed workshops in social entrepreneurship and human-centered design thinking to support existing economic development efforts and to help launch new enterprises.

Teams of leaders from Mumeya, Nyange, Rusumo, and Nyamata who have been using community organizing principles to identify and launch community projects gathered at the Christus Center in mid-July for two three-day training session. Guided by Jazmine, Megan and Kelly, these teams shaped business and marketing plans for several projects. Mumeya leaders developed plans for the cooperative that markets corn, beans and other farm produce to optimize farmers’ profits. They also developed plans for the welding school and business which were launched nearly two years ago. Rusumo leaders developed plans to take over operations of the health clinic they built from local government. They also plan to bring water to the clinic and have secured funds from the mayor to do so. In Nyange, the team of leaders developed plans to complete the roadside business which includes modern toilets, a garden, and a small store. These improvements should attract travelers on this busy highway who will purchase roofing tiles being manufactured in their recently complete kiln and throwing facility.

More than 100 Kigali women, who are seeking to end their sexual exploitation by creating and selling crafts, participated in several half-day workshops with Miller Center interns. They began to develop plans to grow this business but need more support to build the organizational culture needed to achieve success. Training sessions were organized and hosted by Fr. Innocent Rugaragu who directs the Jesuit Christus Center. Leadership teams who participated have had the support of PICO Rwanda Executive Director, Pr. John Rutsindintwarane for the past ten years.

It is our hope that the PICO Rwanda-Miller Center partnership will develop in the coming years. It is our goal to develop the capacity of PICO-Rwanda to deliver these kinds of trainings in the future for Rwandans and others in East Africa.

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