A Little History
Azizi Life began in 2008 as an initiative of the Christian nonprofit, Food for the Hungry. Through a business development program, we met a number of artisan cooperatives. What we saw is that the artisans had skills, organization and leadership. They had vision for the future. They were from impoverished communities, but had a means to rise up. The problem was this: although the artisans could sell their crafts to their neighbors or through a middleman, the income they earned was insufficient to support their families. In some cases, they didn’t even cover the cost of the raw materials!
Azizi Life was begun to honor the initiatives and work of the artisans and serve as a bridge to customers around the world.
From the very beginning, we had a vision: to build a family of businesses which would partner with local efforts for poverty alleviation and community development. We learned as we went, and built a business and a team that is self- sustaining.
In 2012, Azizi Life Experiences was launched, based on a hosting day created by one of our artisan partners, Abarikumwe People Who Are Together Cooperative. Since that time, other artisan partners have become hosts, and we offer a variety of Experience days and tours in Rwanda. It is a privilege to serve both guests and artisan communities through these connections.
Also in 2012, American volunteers established Azizi Life US as a 501(c)(3) organization aiming to serve rural Rwandans in partnership with Azizi Life Rwanda. This collaboration has enabled us to multiply our impact.
In Rwanda, as our businesses and team grew in service and success, opportunities began to arise to serve outside of the business sphere. In 2016, we began a new local nonprofit organization in Rwanda, called Ubuzima Bwiza Iwacu. In English, we like to call it Azizi Life Impact. Through Azizi Life Impact, we have had the opportunity to offer solar lamps and fuel-efficient stoves to artisans at wholesale cost through an interest-free payment program. Also in 2016, a new partnership brought forth a beekeeping project to promote further income for people in the rural area. Our two Rwanda-based businesses, as well as Azizi Life US, all contribute some profits back into Azizi Life Impact’s work.
A major step forward for Azizi Life in 2016 was toward our goal of local ownership. Our founder joyfully (and tearfully) handed over the leadership of Azizi Life to Jeannine Umutoniwase as CEO. In addition, Sheila Uwimana earned a promotion to Chief Operating Officer of Azizi Life Crafts.
2017 saw the launch of an adult literacy program within artisan communities, which was funded in large part with a donation from one of our customers. In addition, the beekeeping program birthed a new company, Beeutiful Creations, which offers honey, beeswax candles and other natural products.
All of this progress has come only with God’s help as he has provided resources, key volunteers, and wonderful staff and artisan partnerships. Thank you to everyone who is a part of our Azizi Life story.
Azizi Life aims to work in a way that will make a positive impact for years to come.
What does sustainability look like for us?
Long-Term, Loving Relationships with Artisans: to offer opportunities for growth artistically, organizationally, inter-personally, and spiritually.
Commitment to Rwanda: to support local businesses and services in Rwanda and participate in the national vision for growth and development.
Honor for the Environment: to be mindful of the environmental impact of the collection and use of raw materials. The majority of raw materials used to create Azizi Life products come from local plants which continue to grow and produce even after the fibers are harvested.
Azizi Life Rwanda Leading: to function as a thriving, growing business with Rwandan leaders, respected in our industry, poised to partner locally and globally for years to come.
Azizi Life US Serving through Sales: Our 501(c)(3) dreams of covering all operations through craft sales so that in the future, all profits will not only go to purchasing more from artisans, but to supporting more nonprofit activities in Rwanda.
Did you know…
that Azizi Life US is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization?
• Fair trade craft purchases.
• Promoting Rwandan artisans and their work.
• Connecting Azizi Life Rwanda directly with global customers- like at the NY NOW trade show.
• Offering advice on product design, trends, and resources.
• Contributing financially to our local nonprofit in Rwanda for efforts like training, health and wellness resources, and new work startup capital.
To support local initiatives for the development of Rwandan communities, working for physical and spiritual wholeness for all.