In Her Own Words: Melissa Price on Miracles
A seventeenth-century French philosopher observed that “out of difficulties grow miracles.” That idea smacked me in the face on my first trip to Africa for the Africa Higher Education Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2008.
Reminders of the country’s 1994 genocide were still plentiful: abandoned checkpoints, buildings riddled with bullet holes, makeshift memorials, and hesitant stares. Yet while I expected to see a broken people, I instead found a thriving, forward-looking community that was taking advantage of new hopes and opportunities.
IRD's Melissa Price is shown with Rwandan children beneficiaries.
One example of this resiliency is Gahaya Links, a weaving program started to help genocide widows. Their founder, Joy, showed me around a small compound that contained a large weaving room, dorm rooms, and a warehouse. In 2003, Joy and her sister Janet began training young widows to weave baskets, a livelihood skill they can take back to their own communities to support their families. Today, you can find some of these intricately woven baskets for sale at Macy’s. Since 2003, Joy and Janet have trained more than 5,000 women.
Joy has implemented a sophisticated business process, something she takes special pride in. She teaches the girls not only how to weave, but also how to run a business. She teaches basic accounting, so that they can run a legitimate business and qualify for loans should they need them, and a few marketing skills to help them sell their baskets.
Thousands of widows and orphans of the genocide have been given a chance to learn new skills and develop their own businesses. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of people like Joy and Janet and the devoted staff of the Mwananshuti Street Kids Center, the personal tragedies and challenges that widows and orphans face are easier to endure and overcome, and they are finding new opportunities to succeed and build better lives for themselves.
Melissa Price visiting a project in Sudan to improve lives and livelihoods.
I started working at IRD in 2009, and as I have continued traveling for IRD – to Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Niger – I am often reminded of the miracle that is emerging from Rwanda’s difficulties. It is amazing what vulnerable people in difficult circumstances can accomplish, given the right tools, resources, and mentoring. Their courage and determination inspires me to continue my work, to share their stories of hope and encouragement, to encourage others to join me in this great enterprise of giving back to those in need, and to grow more miracles.