Here I am, sitting at my breakfast table. Typing on my laptop. Sipping my second cup of coffee and munching on a snack. (Thank you jetlag-induced 4am wake up.)
After 60+ hours of travel, meeting twelve women who would quickly turn into dear friends, spending time visiting different communities in Rwanda, learning more about the beautiful country, seeing firsthand the hunger epidemic, attempting to emotionally process at the end of each day, trying my best to carefully articulate and retell the stories I heard and so, so much more, it feels odd and surreal to be transported back to “normal life,” sitting here drinking coffee, sharing a collage post with you today.
This trip to Rwanda in an effort to help raise funds for the school lunch program of Rwandan-founded and operated organization Africa New Life has shifted something in my heart. And to be honest, I can’t yet put a finger on what that is. But I am praying the Lord continues to move and stretch and grow that something in my heart so that my life looks different than before, and that I’m able to share that change with you as it unfolds.
(Quick recap: Africa New Life is an organization founded by and operated by Rwandans, which began in the wake of the genocide of 1994 in an effort to transform lives and communities through preaching the Gospel of Christ and Acts of Compassion. Their Food For Tomorrow fund exists to supply students with a nutritious lunch every school day, so they can growing and learning regardless of what is available at home!)
I want to take a second real quick to just thank you. Friends, I am so moved by those of you who decided to stay invested in what was happening last week. (And if you don’t follow me on Instagram, please take a second to view my “Rwanda” highlights here.) There’s a weird tension in being a “fashion blogger” but wanting to your platform for things other than, and much more important, than just that. That tension, and how it would be perceived, is something I worried about for weeks leading up to the trip. So I just want to express how thankful I am for those of you who decided to tune in instead of check out. AND I am so moved by those of you who decided to give to the Food For Tomorrow campaign!!!
Here’s some AMAZING news: Collectively, you all contributed over $5,000! I’m matching $5,000, then a foundation in Austin is matching that… so all in all we have collectively raised $20,000 for this amazing cause. I can’t!!!
Today, smack in the middle of the weird tension I described above, I thought I’d share a collage post with you about some items I packed for this time in Rwanda along with some of the beautiful keepsakes I found while I was there. And there are two reasons why:
First off, I’m hopeful that if anyone didn’t have an interest in the Food for Tomorrow campaign but did have an interest in what I was wearing, they’ll learn more about the amazing movement through today’s post.
Secondly, I didn’t share details on anything I was wearing last week, and that was on purpose. I wanted to keep the focus on the story on the amazing impact that the Rwandans who operate Africa New Life are making in individuals, in families, and in entire communities. Since I did receive tons of questions about different “outfits,” I thought I’d make this a hub for those details for those who were interested.
Finally, I had the chance to visit some amazing artisans and shops in Rwanda that are creating beautiful things. It’s my joy to share them with you!
So, let’s begin with a few things I packed that were particularly helpful:
what i packed
1. Birkenstocks (oh my gosh… the most comfortable shoes I own) // 2. ladies who lunch tee (proceeds go directly to the Food for Tomorrow program!) // 3. hunter green midi skirt // 4. khaki midi skirt // 5. bandana // 6. hat // 7. hand wipes // 8. maxi dress (I ordered this in both the deep blue and the white and blue colorway) // 9. facial sunscreen // 10. red maxi skirt // 11. mini kind bars // 12. green and gold earrings (I purchased these in Rwanda at an amazing shop, DuHope) // 13. backpack (this was a gift from a friend and now I never travel without it) // 14. sleep gummies (these were a lifesaver on the plane and for the time change) // 15. tanktops (obsessed with the fit of these) // 16. sneakers
Dress is much more conservative in Rwanda, and since the thought of wearing jeans all day every day made me cringe, I decided to purchase a few midi skirts and maxi dresses for the trip. It felt odd buying more stuff to spend time in communities where there is much need, but at the end of the trip, our group was able to donate these to Africa New Life.
A few things I’d highly recommend if you’re visiting Rwanda anytime soon? First off: Birkenstock sandals. Oh my word. I used to make so much fun of my sister for wearing these, but now I don’t think I’ll be able to take them off! I spent zero time breaking them in, and felt comfortable in them day after day, all day long. Amazing!
Secondly? Melatonin gummies. I was skeptical, but these helped so much! I will say though… I had some odd, vivid dreams when using them, haha. Has this happened to anyone else?
Finally, I wanted to take a second to share about this Ladies Who Lunch shirt! The amazing company Milk and Honey Tees is donating 100% of the proceeds from this shirt (and the adorable pink pullover) to the Africa New Life school lunch program. Such a great way to become a part of this movement if you haven’t yet!
where we shopped
Now, I’m so excited to share with you a few of the amazing places in Rwanda we got to shop!
DuHope // This beautiful shop exists to create a safe and holistic way for Rwandan women to exit sex work. The pieces in this store were absolutely beautiful! I walked away with these gorgeous earrings and wore them throughout the trip. They were definitely my most-asked-about piece from the trip, and you can make them yours while contributing to an amazing cause for just $26! Follow DuHope on Instagram here!
Rwanda Clothing // Not only is this gorgeous store packed with everything from baskets to furniture to jewelry to clothing and more, it’s run by the most amazing #bossbabe, Joselyne Umutoniwase. We had the privilege of meeting her and seeing the below-store workshop where she manufactures her beautiful pieces. I found a stunning embroidered sheet, coffee cups, a set of beautiful earrings and much more. A must visit if you’re ever in Kigali! If not, be inspired from afar with her Instagram page.
Abraham Konga // We visited this amazing store twice during our time in Rwanda. My favorite purchase from the trip was a beautiful gold cross bracelet, but I came home with so much more! Everything from beaded headbands to colorful baskets to nativity sets and ornaments. A beautiful store operated by an incredibly talented artist. See more of his work here.
This is just a teeny bit of so much more that I’m looking forward to sharing about my time in Rwanda, and again, I’m so thankful for you taking the time to read more about it!
I’m can tell that the transition from sharing about this experience to the usual content I post here on Lonestar Southern is going to feel strange, but I’m hoping to do it one step at a time, with as much grace as possible. We’ll see how much that process is helped by the extreme jetlag I currently have going on! ;)
Wishing everyone a wonderful, short week ahead!
Love from the Sunshine State,