Our last day with The Women’s Bakery started off a little bit differently than the rest of our week in Rwanda. Instead of waking up and looking out over Kigali, we woke up to the sun rising over the hazy Congo, just barely visible across the beautiful Lake Kivu.
We made our way out to the Western Province the day before, climbing over a mile in altitude and watching the fauna become increasingly mountainous and green. This area of the country sees much more rain, which we learned first-hand in the village of Bumba while visiting one of three TWB bakeries in Rwanda. We experienced a massive downpour that came in quickly as we met with Ernest, a member of the cooperative that owns this particular bakery.
Ernest was one of the many people that we met throughout the week who is involved with The Women’s Bakery at all levels of the value chain. In addition to Ernest, we met with three other field partners, both men and women, who are helping to run their bakeries with their co-ops. We also had the chance to meet with and watch the women themselves in action.
In addition to visiting the bakeries, we were able to meet with partners of TWB. Atikus is a microfinancier who is working to make loans available to the women who go through the training program. And SMGF is a firm that is taking steps to become a hiring partner that will invest in building a bakery in the future. And finally, we spent a lot of time with the TWB team themselves, trying to figure out how to best help them.
As we met with all of these people throughout the week, we regrouped whenever and wherever we could as a team to unpack everything we had been hearing. These ad hoc meetings happened at restaurants, in our hotel, and in the car as we moved around the country. And now our task, as we sat in the lodge overlooking the water, was to bring all of the information together and figure out how to move forward.
We sketched out possible solutions to multiple challenges and debated the merits of each. We did a brainstorming exercise that was used in creating Apple products and addressing the financial crisis to bring out issues we may have missed. And when all was said and done, we were ready to present our preliminary thoughts and plans for the rest of the semester to the TWB team. It had been a long and tiring week, much of it spent in very close quarters, but it was all worth it to see the enthusiasm on the TWB team’s faces as we presented and celebrated over one final dinner.
Guest blogger: Erin Ilic, MBA ’17
Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning (CEL) is committed to creating innovative learning opportunities that result in meaningful impact in the business and nonprofit communities.