No Ordinary Greetings Card: How Cards From Africa Are Changing Lives Through Fair Trade
Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa. In 1994 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days in the Rwandan genocide. Huge numbers of young people were orphaned, and many of them suddenly found themselves responsible for looking after younger siblings. Cards from Africa provide young orphans with skills, a support network and Fair Trade certified work. Their cards are made from recycled office materials and each card is signed by the young person who made it for you.
To this day Sophie has few words to describe what happened to her parents during the genocide. When asked, she is quiet for a minute before answering. “They cut them. Both.” What was life like after the genocide? “It’s hard to express. It was so difficult. I was so young with so little schooling, but I had four younger siblings in my care. And good work is hard to find.”
However, Sophie found Cards from Africa. Now, with the income she makes she can take care of everyone. Not only do they have food to eat and shelter over their heads, but a job at Cards from Africa also means stability in the community. “Others will let me borrow things or pay them later because they know I’m good for it. They trust me now.”
Sophie constantly encourages her younger siblings to work hard in school. “I was lucky to find Cards from Africa. Many people are not as lucky. Now, my brothers and sisters do not need luck because they have a good education.”
The Legacy of the Genocide
An estimated 800,000 people were killed, and many more misplaced after the 100-day genocide in Rwanda. Unfortunately the conflict continued, spreading to six countries and resulting in an estimated five million deaths by 2003. Find out more about the Rwandan genocide in this BBC article: Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter.
The country now has a very young population: in 2012, 43% of the population was aged 15 and under. While there has been some economic growth, Rwanda is still very poor. Many young people were left orphaned and found themselves in very challenging situations.
A New Start with Cards from Africa
Cards from Africa supports young, orphaned adults in Rwanda. Many of the young card-makers missed years of school because of the civil war during their childhood. The organisation develops young adults' confidence and life skills, while also providing fairly paid work in good conditions. For many this experience is a vital stepping stone out of poverty and into a new career.
Cards from Africa employ over 90 people full time to make their beautiful cards. Almost all of them are orphaned young people who are responsible for their younger siblings. The organisation is World Fair Trade Organisation certified which means every card-maker is over 18, paid fairly and works in good conditions.
When Florence was eight years old, her family was forced to flee Rwanda because of the genocide. Miraculously, her brothers, sisters, and mother all escaped to the Congo, but her father, who helped the family get away, was caught before he reached the border and was burned to death.
Florence and her family had to scrape by for years to make ends meet, but despite their best efforts they didn’t have enough for basic needs, such as health care. After years of hard work to support the family, Florence’s mother passed away when she contracted malaria and could not pay for medicine.
Eventually Florence and her siblings were able to return to Rwanda, but finding consistent work was next to impossible because she had not finished primary school. But since she found Cards from Africa her life dramatically turned around. Not only did it enable her to pay for food, shelter, and medicine, but she was able to save a lot of money and started putting her son through school and start up her own business. “My life was hard, and I was not able to finish school,” she said. “But my son will not have a life like that. He will get a good education and have an exceptional life.”
Florence left Cards from Africa to run her own business, having been part of the organisation for eight years. We will miss her terribly, but we are glad that she is moving onwards, and that Cards from Africa has been such a lovely and important stepping stone in her life.
The cards aren't only positive for the card-makers. They're also good for the environment too. Every card is made from environmentally-friendly handmade paper created from recycled office waste. These beautiful handmade cards are created using colourful layers of paper in a collage style, creating engaging and eye-catching designs. Every single card is signed on the back by the young person who made it.
Cards from Africa
Good Things is proud to support a wonderful organisation like Cards from Africa, and to share their beautiful cards with you. Explore their range of handmade cards.
Good Things seeks out innovative, fair and eco-friendly gifts, toys and games that do great things. Like toy boats made entirely from recycled milk bottles, or cards that are changing the lives of orphaned young adults in Rwanda. Have a look at our collections.