Back in October 2015, I happened to bump into current TWB Director of Impact, Meg North, at a local restaurant in Kigali. I was a newly minted Peace Corps Volunteer, and she was launching a social enterprise focusing on women’s empowerment and education, through baking bread- The Women’s Bakery. The following trajectory felt like fate.
About 10 months later, TWB’s Founder and Co-Founder, Markey and Julie, gave a presentation at my Mid-Service Conference, and I learned they were both Rwanda Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). I was completed moved by their hybrid business model, their focus on women and their successful launch of bakery operations in Kigali. Their approach was innovative, holistic and matched perfectly with my vision for international development and public health solutions. I still had a year left of my Peace Corps service but made it a point to keep in touch and follow TWB’s activities. I even started baking bread at my site!
Then, in March 2017, TWB and The Peace Corps partnered on an event, Let Girls Ride, in honor and support of International Women’s Day. This bike ride began in the lush green hills of Northern Rwanda and ended, 70 km later, in the cityscapes of Kigali. The project had two goals: promoting girl’s empowerment, education and gender equality and fundraising through solidarity rides in the U.S. to help TWB purchase a brand new bike for bread transport.
I was hooked. Not only did I had the incredible opportunity to meet and collaborate with TWB staff during my service, I spent two years in my rural Rwandan community designing and executing food security, nutrition, and hygiene projects through a women’s empowerment lens. I felt that joining the TWB team was the perfect next step after my Peace Corps service and the beginning of a meaningful career.
Now, as the The Women’s Bakery Program Manager, I am looking forward to managing all existing and upcoming bakery projects in Rwanda, including overseeing trainings, problem solving with the wicked smart TWB team, and empowering women through business training, education and health promotion. I feel so lucky to have this role. This week I hit the ground running with bakery visits, team meetings, strategizing solutions and, of course, eating bread!
After one week, I’ve seen the determination, perseverance and grit it takes to operate a bakery, manage a team and balance daily tasks with a broader vision.
I’ve seen the power of bread and the impact it has on women’s lives. I’ve seen joy, and I’ve seen struggle. I’ve witnessed the most passionate people dig deep to find sustainable solutions to complicated issues.
And the thing I’m most excited about? Watching women realize their full potential, autonomy, and not allowing anyone or anything stop them.