Saturday, January 27, 2007


January 27, Saturday (Ku wa gatandatu)

Gorilla, photographed by Barbara.

A warm welcome by Symphrose.

Traditional huts at Symphrose's BBQ restaurant.

Sabra and Lee being served breakfast in a staged photograph for Symprose's
hotel website and marketing materials.

Day is almost done.

Bpeace staff Richard, Marla and Susan laying down on the job.

While Stephanie and Barbara broke away from the pack for an incredible day of gorilla trekking in the north, the rest of the team journeyed southward to Butare where we were amazed and impressed with the progress Symphrose has made on her hotel. The conference center, hotel, restaurants and surrounding gardens are nearly complete. The hotel offers a serene, lush setting which we enjoyed while dining on a delicious lunch provided by Symphrose and prepared by her new chef.

While Sabra and Lee stole away for a visit to the National Museum of Rwanda, Marla and Anne staged photo shots for the hotel’s website (to be prepared by her mentors, Matt and Mary in Australia), brochures and other marketing materials. And, they prepared a customer survey and strategized for business development, marketing and branding. Bpeacers in the New York area will have the opportunity to meet Symphrose at a Bpeace Rwanda Team meeting in April when she will be visiting New York.
All in all, the whole team was very impressed with the hotel and with Symphrose. There was significant progress made since we were last there – seven months ago. The hotel rooms, conference center, restaurant and bar were opened for business. She had four guests staying at the hotel and a few customers came by for lunch and late afternoon drinks. Symphrose served us breakfast and lunch during the day, the meals were quite good. Better than some of the meals we had in Kigali. She has hosted a few weddings and seminars as well. Symphrose hired a manager, who has nine years experience at the Novotel in Kigali. This is his first job as Manager. There hired 42 staff members who are on probation for three months.

Although the hotel is open for business, it’s not completely finished. A second restaurant – BBQ and bar – is not yet finished. It will be a very nice attraction when complete. There is space for a gift shop and business center. Symphrose is waiting for 10 computers to be delivered – four for the hotel and six for the business center. She will be getting wireless connection, a big competitive advantage considering that none of the other hotels in Butare offer wireless service. We advised Symphrose to hire a good IT technician for the inevitable problems.

We spent significant amount of time talking about the hotel’s brand identity. We discussed changing or modifying the name of the hotel – Le Petit Prince – to get rid of the French identity and create a brand image around having an authentic Rwanda experience. We recommended using local crafts to decorate the hotel and naming the hotel restaurants using local names. Symphrose welcomed this idea and relayed a local folktale about the area, which could be useful for the rebranding. We will provide Symphrose with three options for a new name and brand identity from which she can choose. We all agreed it’s important to decide soon before designing marketing materials. We recommended that Symphrose start developing relationships with hotels at the nearby game park as well as hotels and tourist board in Kigali. She asked for help in this area. Later this week, Anne and Richard will accompany Symphrose to a meeting with the tourist board. Once Symphrose sees a sample sales call, she will be better prepared to make sales calls on her own.

Symphrose’s biggest need right now is help in staff training and marketing. For the marketing materials, we collected pictures and information for development of brochures and a website. We would like to find another volunteer hotel consultant interested in helping Symphrose in these two areas

B2P down to the wire
Meanwhile on her last day in Rwanda, Wendy met with Emerita for a B2P interview. Emerita who, together with about 30 other women partners, owns and runs Maman Sportif, the conference center where Bpeace has been holding its workshops. Emerita and her partners spent their adult lives as refugees in Burundi, and returned to their homeland after the genocide. While in Burundi, Emerita and her partners formed Maman Sportif to teach literacy and handiwork to the Rwandese women living in nearby refugee camps. After the genocide, Emerita, her family and her Maman Sportif partners returned to Rwanda and have been continuing the Maman Sportif mission. They manage literacy centers throughout the country and fund them with the profits earned from conferences (including Bpeace workshops). As all working women, Emerita felt pressure at home. But she never felt the pressure of balancing her home and work lives. “When you see success, you don’t feel your burden.”

Hello Ladies,

I've just caught up on the blog -- I missed 2 days and so much happened! I love reading about the B2P discussions. How exciting to facilitate this kind of conversation. And the insights and wisdom the women shared was really beautiful. I'm happy that we are making connections between Rwanda and Afghanistan. One day these women will meet.
Fantastic photo of the gorilla Barb. I can't wait to hear all about your experience at the park.

You are all doing important work there and I know the associates feel supported by you.

Fabulous! The realization of all the dreams, plans and work is overwhelming. Seeing is believing! Thank you team, thank you associates for your uplifting efforts. There's so much to do! Love to all, Golde.
Dear Friends,
I am envious. Little gorilla is adorable but rather close, no? Symprose's hotel looks incredible. The progress she has made is unbelievable. It was not much more than a shell in May 2006. Sabra, I hope that you took Lee to the picnic site. Great views and great adventure. Finally, I am so glad Wendy and Emerita had a chance to meet each other. Meeting Emerita is an inspirational experience. She has alot to share and is such a role model for everyone.
And one more comment. Lying down on the job--I dont know. It looks as though you are about to do start jumping on the bed. Continue the progress. Loretta (the only thing you are missing here is the cold and some pretty good tennis)
You guys are amazing! And I'm soooooo jealous! Can't wait to hear more in person from all of you. With lots of work done and always more yet to be done, you exhibit the energy, dedication and passion that we all strive to have.

Sorry for being late in commenting - all I've done the past week is hunt for my bed by day's end here at the CHA trade show in Anaheim - but will have lots of good news to tell you about Rwanda Knits when you return. Keep up the great work and be sure to smell the Rwandan roses! - Cari
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