Moms Across Africa: The Gifts of Friendship

All Across Africa’s baskets are woven by talented artisans in Uganda and Rwanda, where the very skill is a product of tradition passed down from mother to child. The traditional styles, shapes, and designs hold symbolism defined in the history of the craft. Some signify Unity, while others represent Hope, but there is one that is particularly special this time of year: the Friendship basket.

Friendship Baskets

In Rwandan culture, the cathedral-shaped “friendship” basket symbolizes generosity, gratitude, and compassion, and embodies giving. Due to the rich meaning behind this basket, they’re often filled to the brim with fresh and dried foods and given to friends, family members, or hosts at significant life events as a token of love. As these crafts are woven through an art form passed from mother to child, these baskets of generosity and love make their way from mom, to child, to loved one. In honor of this convicting tradition, let us allow it to transcend into American tradition as we quickly approach the national day set aside to celebrate the influence of many of our own personal practices; the beautiful women we love, look up to, and owe some giving to after all the getting we’ve got from them – Mother’s Day!

All Across Africa in Burundi north to Ngozi

This Mother’s Day, hand your beloved mother a traditional African Friendship basket – made by our Moms Across Africa – filled with things she’ll love. Need some fun ideas? Here are a few local, fair trade, and handcrafted items you can stuff your Friendship basket with as a perfect gift for her this Mother’s Day.

Click on an image below to open carousel slideshow viewing of gift gallery

Sisal & Sweet-grass Woven Coasters

These colorful coasters are from yours truly, All Across Africa. Woven from Sisal and Sweet-grass, the same artisans than bring you Friendship baskets, also bring you some beautiful and practical coasters!

Chocolates, Chocolates, Direct- and Fair-Trade Chocolates!

David Bacco is a local chocolatier located in Mira Mesa. He is a true artist and craftsman, making aesthetically appealing and equally tasteful direct- and fair-trade chocolate creations. 

Recycled-Paper Bead & Woven Jewelry

All Across Africa‘s very own artisans fashion these bright jewelry pieces into a stylish and unique creation. The necklaces and bracelets showcased in the gallery are made from recycled paper that is shredded, crafted, and sealed into firm beads. The pink earrings are a woven creation from natural materials and dyes.

Handcrafted Candles

The fun candles can be found in San Diego’s Seaport Village. No two candles are alike because each one is individually made by the masters of wax of California Candle Gallery!

Artisan Sourced, Locally Roasted Coffee

The bags of coffee and espresso shown here come from local-to-San-Diego coffee shop, James Coffee Co. The owner, David (James) Kennedy, sources his beans from South America and Africa then uses his perfected methodology to craft quality roasted beans in shop.

“Savoring the world only takes place when you get along. The world makes no sense without friendship,” and what truer friends are there than moms?


Buy your friendship basket online or visit us at our storefront location.

10975 San Diego Mission Rd. San Diego, CA 92108

Product Photography: Nathaniel Weir Photography

7 Ways to Liven up Any Room with Baskets

There are about a billion-and-a-half techniques interior designers will suggest for a room in need of a little extra something. You can paint, hang, throw, or coordinate different colors into strategic schemes that seem to magically and drastically alter a room. One classic and sustainable trend you can always safely turn to is the use of baskets.

There are overwhelming quantities of ways even for a basket to spice up a room, so here are just 7 of the best for any room you’re thinking of livening up!

The Living Room

It’s called “The Living Room” for a reason. This is where you, your family, your friends, and guests will end up spending majority of their time so it’s essential that you find the most optimal way to make this a room that’s enjoyable to be in; our favorite way to accomplish this?

#1 Baskets on the Wall

hang collection of baskets on wallInteriors


baskets_bootstrapprojectThe Bootstrap Project

 The Dining Room

Whether you sit at the dining table for each meal with your family, or only get any use out of it during special holidays, this is a space meant for impressing. Why else are there so many ideas for centerpieces? – Which brings us to our next tip: Centerpieces. Above all else, dining rooms’ signify togetherness. It draws daughters from their room, sons from the dirt, and parents from their jobs, and put them all together in one place if only for a few moments of feasting together. Why not also draw a beautiful basket to the table and add it as a container bringing together multiple purposes: a buffet style, self-service, dinnerware holding, eye-pleasing centerpiece?

#2 A Self-Service Centerpiece

Self-Service CenterpieceThe Pottery Barn

 The Kitchen

Next up is likely everyone’s favorite part of any home. The kitchen is really just a labyrinth of treasures to be discovered – pop-tarts in pantries, chocolates in drawers, cold drinks in refrigerators, and fresh fruits in colorful baskets on countertops that reflect the vibrant warmth the kitchen embodies!

#3 Counter-Top Fruit Basket


 The Master Bedroom

“Home” in general should bring a sense of comfort and relaxation, but what part of the home encapsulates those feelings more than the bedroom? This is the epitome of relaxation in your home and believe it or not, baskets can help you get your room there if it’s not already. A cluttered room is a cluttered mind so this next suggestion is an appealing clutter-catching one. Whether at the foot of your bed holding throw blankets, or all over the place storing all kinds of things, this is a sure way to add some quick clutter solutions in a beautiful way.

#4 Clutter-Catching Comfort

b88169b923eb18a24452fa24ae3c2f15Paulina Arcklin

 astounding-storage-ideas-for-top-bedrooms-closet-unit-and-tall-corner-shelving-and-basketsFont Hoz.

The Laundry Room

Baskets? Laundry room? I’m thinking laundry baskets! With several woven baskets, you can at least have something beautiful to look at while you separate colors into each one. This is just a simple way to add some fun texture and color to an otherwise plain room of clothe-cleaning labor.

#5 More Than a Laundry Basket

View Along The WayView Along The Way


 The Bathroom

I know I said that the bedroom is where one hopes to find the most relaxation, but I failed to remember the bathroom! Once again, cluttered bathroom, cluttered mind. Who can relax like that? A really simple way to give your bathroom character, tuck things away nice and neatly, and optimize your space in there, is through the simple technique of hanging baskets so the tops face parallel to the floor. Store away!

#6 DIY Basket Shelves

baskets (1)Groomed Home

The Kid’s Room

A kid’s room is typically full of colors bouncing everywhere. Sometimes it’s hard to tell you’re going for one specific color scheme, so make that color pop. Grab a vibrant wicker or woven basket and make it a ‘catch-all’ to catch all those toys as they enjoy their thirty second rounds of play before being tossed aside and replaced by another. If you have boys and girls, keep their baskets identifiable with their favorite colors!

#7 The Eye-Catching, Catch-All…Toys

paintedbaskets5Young House Love


 We hope you’ve found some inspiration for livening up a room or two with some baskets. There really are innumerable amounts of ways to creatively use baskets for both practical and decorative usages. Got any other fun ideas? Share them with us!


In a Time of Terrorism

We are getting a lot of news about terrorism these days.  It seems in some ways, my mind is shut off to headlines involving Syria, Nigeria and elsewhere.  It feels unreal and far away.  And that insensitivity makes me feel bad that I don’t put more energy, time and effort into doing something, or, at the very least, thinking and caring about it. I almost lost my life in an act of terrorism, how much more real can that get?

But today, it feels real again, as Al Shabaab waged another attack in Kenya.  Now, their focus was at a university and so far, 70 have been reported dead.  I know from my experience in previous attacks, the death toll is downplayed to not scare tourists or outsiders.  My heart mourns for the loss of these students, when something feels real and close we somehow are able to care and think more of it.

Al-Shabab was minutes away from claiming my life.  I had been in Nairobi for business (looking to partner with artisan groups to bring their products to market) and had been staying near a beautiful Western mall known as Westgate.  Thursday and Friday, Westgate was my home.  I sipped coffee, managed my emails, shopped, used the ATM and worked with a colleague.

On Saturday morning, my colleague and I went outside of Nairobi. After feeding baby elephants, I asked our driver to take me to Art Café at Westgate so I could catch up on work.  On our way there, my driver with a panicked look and urgent in movement, turned up the radio. There had been a robbery and we needed to stay away from Westgate.  One thing led to another and we later learned that “robbery” was led by Al Shabaab.

It was a ruthless 4 day, what I would call a war, which claimed more than 70 lives and injured 200. Women, children, families, authors, aid workers, Kenyans and internationals had their innocent blood spilled on the marble floors of Westgate.

For days, weeks and months I had survivor’s guilt.  I kept playing back in my head what it felt like to sit the café, outside, like I had done the two days previous, where the gunman started their rampage and opened fire.  ‘I should have been there’ I kept thinking to myself.  ‘Why wasn’t I there?’ In some ways, I was jealous they experienced something I didn’t. Survivor’s guilt is crazy that way. It’s a strange thing that makes you feel like you’ve lived it, even though you didn’t, it makes you wish you had, even though it’s something you would never want to experience in your life.  It makes you obsessed with the situation, the timelines and the ‘reasons’ why you weren’t there.

I’ve traveled to Uganda and Burundi post-Westgate, and I was obsessed with the fear, the facts, the predictions of another attack. I’ve had small voices and fear speak to me.  ‘Go home.  You’re risking your life.  It’s dangerous.’ I’ve placed staff in these countries and even tried to adopt a little boy from Uganda, placing me in traffic jams in Uganda where newspapers threatened that Al Shabaab was planning their next attack.

Westgate stopped me in my tracks and terrified me for some time.  In my fear and contemplation a friend told me, ‘Fear is the point. They want to terrify us.  To stop us.  – are you going to let them win?’

After hearing those words of wisdom that I already knew in my heart, I knew I couldn’t stop.  That terrorism, fear and security couldn’t stop me from risking what I have to give, what I love and what I want in life for others to experience justice.

Since Westgate, I’ve continued to return to East Africa. I think of many of the places there as home.  I’ve continued to hire staff, create job programs and place my time, money and energy on this region.

Why do I do this?  Because there is a significant amount of injustice in the world.  And we can do something about it.  There is hunger and suffering and while it doesn’t’t feel real to use each day, we can still do something.  Small things. For me, working in the office today, managing emails, designs, working to create markets, those things can create jobs that rule out unemployment, hunger, anger, terrorism.

I’ve made a choice that I want my life to be about stepping up and doing something, especially in the wake of horrific actions in the world that are meant to stop us.

What big or small things can you do today to create justice for someone else in the world?  Here in the US or elsewhere?

Written by: Alicia Wallace

Eggs, Easter, and Ethics

It’s all about consolidation. A goddess and a Hare. A hare and eggs. Folklore and reality. Past and present. Tradition and commercialization. Eggs, Easter, and Ethics.

The eggs-in-a-basket bearing Hare hops his way from door to door, distributing his gifts to all deserving children – or so goes the German folklore. Each basket carried tangible goods purposed to bring joy to its recipients. Children assembled their nests and if deemed ‘good,’ they’d expect colorful eggs from the Easter Hare. It’s a fun tale with an interesting origin. Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility from which we derive the name “Easter,” was symbolically manifested into an iconic hare – an animal known for its large litter production. Eggs were also commonly associated with rebirth. Just as spring revived nature from its winter slumber, so the egg hatches and yields new life. Thus, the hare and eggs were consolidated into the epitome of Easter traditions.

How did we deviate from this to the point of chocolate bunny marketing campaigns? It’s to no surprise that mass production of chocolate bunnies and the birth of the holiday’s commercialization came around World War II. With increases in demand and advancements in technology, the candy business and its affiliation to Easter also grew into what it is today:

  • It’s 90 million chocolate bunnies each year
  • It’s 16 billion jellybeans
  • It’s $1.9 billion total annual spending on Easter candy in 2000 that grew to $2.1 billion as of 2014
  • It’s 120 million pounds of candy

Here at All Across Africa, we propose a reconciliation of the lost sentiment of tradition with our modern Easter practices. Rather than Easter being the modern-day story of candy sales, let’s tell a new Easter story about purposeful purchasing.

All Across Africa in Kampala, Uganda

A way to redefine Easter is the basket our Peter Cotton Tail carries his sweet treats in. Let’s change these baskets to baskets that change lives. A basket whose purchase gives back, forward, and beyond.

It is customary in East African society for the women to learn the art of weaving, and so it is passed on from generation to generation masterfully – much like the oral preservation of our German folklore. As the artisans of these baskets share their traditions through beautiful baskets, they’re also generating a new life for themselves.

In East Africa, these artisans do not have a lot of job opportunities that will pay them a fair wage, meaning much of their joy comes from producing a product that they can look at with pride. The artisans making All Across Africa’s baskets not only have pride in their work, but this sustainable income gives them a new quality of life. Their lives are impacted immediately, but it doesn’t just stop with the individual. Job opportunities create sustainable means for these individuals to improve the health of the entire village economy, meaning one Easter basket can not only give back, but also forward and beyond.

Let the hare fill our children’s baskets to the brim, but let’s also remember that baskets can fill an artisan’s hope to the brim this Easter season.

Practical Design Tips from The Heather Company

All Across Africa partnered with The Heather Company in May of 2015.  Heather Draper, the Founder and Creative Director of The Heather Company, is a brilliant designer and entrepreneur.  We asked her to provide you all with a couple practical tips for decorating your home with All Across Africa items.  The following words are directly from Heather:

“We are so excited to be asked to share our thoughts on great ways to showcase the STUNNING baskets by All Across Africa!

Like many people, we fell in LOVE with them shown on the wall in House Beautiful. However, there are just so many ways to incorporate these beautiful items into one’s daily life.  Here are just a few of our faves:

 1. On the wall paired with paintings and photography

Often times we will have a piece of art we are just dying to use in a particular place, but the size is just not quite right. The baskets are a perfect solution for this dilemma! We love them hung just above a piece, in colors that complement the art. This is a GREAT trick to create a larger “visual unit” and adds an unexpected layer of texture to an arrangement.

2. The oval baskets are a PERFECT solution to a cluttered counter top!

The oval is just the right size to hold hand soap, lotion, and a few guest towels while bringing a little color and texture to the Vanity top. Don’t forget a little plate under the soap and lotion to catch any drips. 🙂

Heather Draper recommends using an oval basket to organize products in your bathroom.

Heather Draper recommends using an oval basket to organize products in your bathroom.

3. Our favorite use is as the perfect catch-all in a kitchen or entry way.

We all have the annoying little pile that seems to collect on our surfaces! I say don’t fight with nature, just decorate accordingly! The baskets are the ideal way to corral all those items while ensuring ones home remains stylish!”


Use small baskets, oval baskets, or trays as a great catch-all!

Our many thanks to Heather for her awesome, practical tips on how to use All Across Africa’s products to decorate and organize your home.  Find your perfect wall-hanging, bathroom organizer, or catch-all at allacrossafrica.org.

An Effective Solution to Ending Poverty: A Partnership of Non Profit and Business

All Across Africa in Rwanda

By: Kristine Sloan, Interim Burundi Country Director

“We are the world. The world is you and me, the world is not separate from you and me. We have created this world – the world of violence, the world of wars, the world of religious divisions, sex, anxieties, the utter lack of communication with each other, with no sense of compassion, consideration for another… There is a common relationship between us all. We are the world essentially, basically, fundamentally. The world is you, and you are the world. Realizing that fundamentally, deeply, not romantically, not intellectually but actually, then we see that our problem is a global problem. It is not my problem or your particular problem, it is a human problem.”

― Jiddu Krishnamurti


You’re sitting in the middle of 80 women. You’re in a rural area, everyone is wearing second-hand clothes, there are babies strapped in every possible way to around 60 of those 80 women. If you were to ask, you’d cry and simultaneously want to laugh jubilantly at the pain, grief, and triumph of their life histories. One woman, for example, knew no home for five years – fleeing perpetually from violence each night, to a new unknown, only to pick back up the next day and keep moving. Most women can’t read, can’t write, and can’t count, having been denied the opportunity of education. Most of these women have worked tirelessly their whole lives in fields, in the streets, for their children, for their families.

These women are survivors. What they are not, however, are artisans. Yet. You’re sitting in the middle of 80 women, explaining that this particular color of pink “isn’t quite” blush. And blush, that’s the color we need for the market. And the dimensions must be 6.5cm in diameter. Always. And oh yeah, you all have to work together in a functioning group. That understands how to save money, and how to operate a bank account, and function within a legal and administrative system. This group should have fairly elected leadership, and should distribute money and resources effectively. This group needs to produce 500 “exactly blush” bracelets in 5 days.

In some ways, the fact that this works ever, at all, anywhere is amazing. The momentum and push that it takes to get this to work in the resource-limited and infrastructurally… challenged East Africa, and specifically in Burundi, is overwhelming.

This is the key difference between Opportunities Across Africa (OAA), our nonprofit organization, and All Across Africa (AAA) our social business. Opportunities Across Africa works with people who have never been trained in artisanal craft – we work to form and register cooperatives, train on leadership and group cohesion, and of course, provide skills development and training for the production of high quality artisanal goods.

All Across Africa seeks out existing artisanal groups that have capacity to produce but don’t have a market. All Across Africa provides training and support on new colors, designs, and adaptability (leadership) to these existing groups – giving economic and employment opportunity to thousands of talented artisans throughout the East African region.

All Across Africa partners with artisans. Opportunities Across Africa creates them.

Both are hugely important, and we believe that the connection between them is what makes our model so strong.

OAA functions as a nonprofit that accepts grant and private funding for artisanal development and any other holistic social development projects (educational funding for rural schools, campaigns for the urban homeless, etc.). For the artisans that OAA develops and trains, we then provide an optional market to them through a partnership with AAA.

AAA continues to invest and work with these new artisans on new color development, maintaining design and trends for an ever-changing international market, and ensuring fair and just relationships of partnership and trade. OAA cooperatives can also choose not to partner with AAA and to sell to other markets – it’s for them to decide and is enshrined in signed codes of conduct between all partners.

We realize that there are no simple solutions to poverty. We realize that to recreate stability, to bring back tradition, to invest in a human being – this is to invest, with our time, our resources, and our hearts in their complexity. In every possible problem they may face. To make decisions and pursue programs that may sometimes make no financial sense, but are real and matter. To not ignore the problems of one very talented, very creative, intensely intelligent human being for the sake of “efficiency”. Operating both a nonprofit and a business allows us to make these decisions and still pursue healthy relationships with the rural poor based not on dependency, but on partnership.

We believe that one day, we can function solely as a business in East Africa. That there would be no need for a nonprofit in the region. That every person would break the chronic cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. We are working tirelessly to make this belief real.  Actual. Tangible. We aren’t working near as hard as the thousands of artisans, educators, and youth with whom we partner through the region.

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. – Cesar Chavez

Those 80 women – they will break your heart and bring you joy.  They will argue with you endlessly. They will educate their children. They will fight, every day, to see a better tomorrow.  Cheers to them.

Is there a health risk when you purchase products from Africa?

Ebola has devastated the people, communities and economies in West Africa.  Thousands have died, thousands have contracted the illness and thousands more are orphaned as a result.

At All Across Africa, we’re committed to helping people have healthy happy lives.  We want to see joy and dignity radiating on their faces and in their lives.  Our work is located in East Africa, thousands of miles away from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Being that our mission is focused on improving lives of the marginalized, our hearts are broken as we know the pain, suffering and devastation that is occurring on the other side of the continent we love so much.

We commend those involved in containing this health crisis – the doctors, nurses, and countless others risking their lives.   We believe as global citizens we all have a role to play to take care of others and protect ourselves.  At this stage, we’ve donated to support the work of Doctors without Borders and in the coming weeks and months as the Ebola crisis is contained, we look forward to applying our expertise of rebuilding communities and creating economic opportunity in West Africa.

Being that our work is thousands of miles away on the other side of the continent; our products are not produced in areas that have the disease.  Our baskets are woven 2,846 miles away from the Ebola crisis (LA to NYC is 2,440 miles away!).

Additionally, and most importantly, Ebola cannot live outside of the body on any dry or natural surface for more than a couple of hours (CDC.gov).  Our products have a 4-6 week production cycle prior to making their way to our retail locations.

There is no health risk in purchasing products handmade

in East Africa by rural artisans.

Rwanda with All Across Africa

By purchasing products handmade in East Africa you are creating economic opportunity for men and women to feed their families, send their children to school have adequate housing and save for their futures.  You are part of the solution to putting an end to poverty!

As the Ebola crisis subsides and is under control, we hope to be able to help West Africa rebuild in a significant way, providing the victims of Ebola with the same hope and opportunity that we’ve created in East Africa.

Buy a basket. Change a life.

All Across Africa in Rwanda

2014 U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit

“I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world – partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.”
-President Obama

This week, President Obama is welcoming nearly 50 African leaders from across the African continent to Washington to take part in a three- day Leaders Summit. The Summit, which takes place from August 4th to August 6th, seeks to strengthen ties between the United States and Africa by focusing on America’s commitment to Africa’s security, development, and its people.

United States national security Advisor Susan E. Rice previews the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in the following video: Susan E. Rice: Previewing the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

The theme of the Summit is “Investing in the Next Generation.”, as a lead- in to discuss ways of creating a progressive environment for the next generation in Africa

African leaders will have an opportunity to engage with President Obama, his Cabinet members, and other key leaders in Washington.
On August 5th, President Obama welcomed African leaders to the White House at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Dinner.
Watch his introductions here:President Obama Speaks at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Dinner

Young African leaders shared their hopes for the U.S-Africa Leader’s Summit while visiting the World Bank in July.Watch here: Young African Leaders Share Their Hopes for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Many of the current issues that young African leaders hoped to improve through this Summit included greater collaboration between the U.S. and Africa, as well as an increase in investment opportunities.
To increase the investment that U.S. companies make in Africa, a U.S.-Africa Business Forum will take place as part of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit. Strengthening the economic relationship between the U.S. and Africa will result in a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa.
US_Africa_Summit_Website_slider-1024x564:U.S.- Africa Business Forum Preview Video

Here at All Across Africa, we see socially-just, fair trade in Africa as the way forward for economic development and even stability.
This first ever U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit is bringing much needed attention to the places we are devoted to creating market-driven employment opportunities for everyday. We look forward to learning more about ways of stimulating growth and opportunity in Africa, and hope the U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit further improves and empowers the lives of rural and poor people across Africa.

Behind the Scenes of All Across Africa!

By:  Taylor

While Modeste, Kristine, Ellie, Alison, and the weavers are busy at work in Rwanda and Burundi, we have staff at the San Diego office that keeps the day to day market-delivery operation running smoothly. We have been at the office for about one year now and we are still working every day to make the new space feel like home.

I was recently tasked with bringing a little bit of Africa and our love for our partners to our conference room. Cameron Karsten, a fantastic photographer based out of Washington, took wonderful photos of our partners, during his trip with us in East Africa. We decided to place some of these photos of the men and women on the wall.

It is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks. Now whenever we are meeting, we can’t forget the faces of those we serve and why we do what we do! Since we cannot always be with the artisans, our new wall allows us to engage with them from another part of the world.

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We also mounted a chalkboard on the wall with Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” as all of the staff are living out what it means to be a change in the world through our rewarding careers.

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The new décor in our office are fun additions to continue to connect us to the people behind the products.

Our beautiful basket walls showcase two unique and fun ways to decorate open spaces. One is very symmetrical and organized while the other is asymmetrical and flows across the width of the wall.

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As far as the day to day outside of our office décor, Bryan, our General Operations Manager, works hard every day to fill your product orders and oversee the day to day warehouse operations. No two days are the same at All Across Africa!

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We’d love to hear from you about how you use your baskets to decorate your homes or offices.  Send us your photos on facebook or to info@allacrossafrica.org

And, as always, check back soon for new products, decorating ideas and ways you too can personally connect with the men and women in Africa!

Tales from an All Across Africa French Intern in Rwanda

Alison, an All Across Africa intern originally from France, writes about her experience interning for us in Kigali, Rwanda!

Hello! My name is Alison Cabaret and I have been an intern in the All Across Africa office in Kigali, Rwanda for more than two months now. My internship is scheduled to end after one more month and I do not want to see the end of this adventure.

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As part of my Master’s in International Business, the choice of my final internship was crucial. I wanted it to be challenging and inspiring. Because I had never been to Africa before, I did not know exactly what to expect. I am delighted to have landed in a welcoming and beautiful country with remarkable people.

I found the grail in AAA.

The atmosphere in the office is warm and gratifying. Everyone is very patient and attentive. At every Monday staff meeting, we all sit together and share what we did the past week and what challenges there are for the next. Thus, our tasks are well defined and I’ve learned that we all want to be team players.

I especially love that in this internship I am tasked with multiple, interesting projects at once. I’m working on projects that are in line with my university studies, such as supporting the finance and accounting department of the Kigali office.

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I am also getting the opportunity to see every aspect of this Benefit Corporation grow through various projects. For example, we are currently trying to implement a dye process for the paper beads in Uganda. I really enjoy doing the preliminary research and sharing my ideas with others in the field.

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During many of my days I am working with the weavers. I get to meet their friends, their children, and hear their stories. I particularly remember the testimony of Cristilla when we went to Dyimana. It is just one of the compelling stories of the heroes that we are working with.

I see how hard the members of AAA are working in Rwanda to send these beautiful handmade products to the US. Knowing I am working for this great cause gives me the energy to always try to work harder. This internship has been empowering, challenging and exciting all at the same time. I’ve learned to be proactive and help as much as I can.

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In addition to this outstanding work experience, living in Kigali is very stimulating and exciting. Kigali, known as ‘The land of a thousand hills,’ is breathtaking in its beauty. We are living in another culture, with a different rhythm and a vibrant atmosphere.

My internship is not yet over, but I can affirm that I have already learned that there are some things that years of university study cannot compensate for. My internship has shown me that theory is far different from practice, especially where human relationships are concerned. Since human beings are all so different, there is just no possible way in which all circumstances and situations can be treated similarly.

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This experience is evidence that change is possible. I see how many people are committed to supporting rural and marginalized communities in East Africa and it brings hope. I’m happy, proud, and thankful to contribute to these sustainable projects that effectively change the lives of these men and women.

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