Beyond the promise of economic growth for Rwandans, social enterprises bring a host of benefits to their members. “In Rwanda, this kind of community-based tourism—not the one from national parks—has been a tool for peace,” says Bakunzi. He cites a new fireside storytelling and dinner experience at his cultural center.
“When they sit together around a campfire, they start interacting and exchanging ideas, history,” says Bakunzi. “It develops a dialogue between the foreign visitors and the local communities and creates understanding and long-term friendships.”
There’s more to the Red Rocks cultural center than catering to tourists though. The women use the outdoor oven for their bakery business, and they make banana wine to supply markets. An on-site arts and crafts gallery trains adults and youth to grow into creative entrepreneurs, with painting, sewing, and other workshops. Their colorful handmade creations are also on sale at the shop. It’s a thriving business.
As the banana beer-making class ends, I sip on the traditional beverage and learn to say cheers in Kinyarwanda—kubuzima bwacu! “Now that we have our banana beer, the ladies are inviting us to a dance,” says Emma. I join a circle with the women who now feel like my sisters: Florentine, Maria, Colette, Gertrude and her daughters Delphine and Marceline.