The Empowerment Project

The Empowerment Project was inspired by the women of Rwanda. Strong, beautiful and like many of us trying to make a difference for their families by earning a living doing what they can. Rwanda is a country close to my heart. My husband is originally from there and he has family still living there.

In 2009 I visited Rwanda for the first time. I was at the lowest point of my life having just lost my unborn son. A few months earlier I had been made redundant. These two challenges together made me feel like I had nothing. When I arrived in Rwanda, I quickly realised my troubles were nothing compared to what others have faced.

It was Rwanda that inspired me to finally start my business. I realised that I was so lucky to have the opportunity to start out on my own and my fears of failure were in fact nothing. I had food on the table and shoes on my feet. I thought I had nothing when in fact I had everything! Things that cost so little in the UK, were out of reach for so many in Rwanda. I vowed that when I returned it wouldn’t be empty handed.

With my brother in law getting married in Rwanda in May, I grabbed the opportunity to start this project.

The Empowerment Collection

I have created The Empowerment Collection- a workbook and inspiring prints to be sold to raise money for sewing kits.

Every Empowerment Kit or set of digital prints sold = one sewing kit for Rwanda.

View the collection

It’s a simple as that.

Each year in Rwanda women try their best to find ways to create a living so they can buy food, medicine, school fees and supplies for their children. One way these women are rising above poverty is to use their sewing skills. Some have been trained by charities on courses designed to help them start up as seamstresses. Some are given sewing machines whilst others struggle to raise enough to put their skills into practice. Haberdashery supplies are costly when you have no funds to help.

The Empowerment Project aims to raise enough money to buy supplies for as many sewing kits as possible. The fundraising will last 7 DAYS. This gives me the chance to make up the kits before I travel at the end of April. In May, I will personally be delivering these kits by hand to women at Aspire Rwanda. Aspire Rwanda is a charity that works with women helping them to become self-sufficient and create income streams.

I worked with Peace Ruzage who founded Aspire Rwanda in 2007 to find out what her women needed me to bring. Each sewing kit will contain needles, thread, safety pins, knitting needles, wool, measuring tape, scissors and more.

These kits are our gift to these inspiring women who despite the atrocities they have witnessed still have hope and courage, strength and laughter.

To stay up to date with this project including photographs of my trip to distribute the Sewing Kits in May, please follow my personal blog at

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading these words. It means the world to me.

Isa Maria x

If you want to help, please spread the word. If you want to buy an Empowerment Kit or just the Prints, you can do that too ;)

If you have any questions please contact me. 


26 Comments on “The Empowerment Project

  1.  by  Geri

    What a wonderful thing you’re doing, Isa! I was so sorry to hear of the loss of your son – how tragic & awful. The fact that you turned something so personally devestating to you into something so positive is remarkable in itself. You are a truly kind & generous woman & this is a such a beautiful & amazing venture! Count me in… I’m off to share & pick up an Empowerment Kit!


    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you so much Geri! It feels like a lifetime ago now but the whole experience was the catalyst for me to start my business. Rwanda unknowingly gave me so much and I want to help give back in any way I can. Thank you for your support x

  2.  by  Sian

    This sounds like a great project Isa. I’ll put a bit of publicity on my blog too and help out any way I can. You are such an inspiration and I hope it all goes well! Xx

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you Sian! I can’t wait to share photos of the trip and the women who receive the kits. I’m going to try and document everything I can!

  3.  by  Nicole

    Yes!!! Will spread the word. I’m so proud of you and I wish the best to all the ladies receiving the sewing kits!!

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you Nicole! Big huge hugs to you x

  4.  by  Kerry

    Wow! I just read this post then read through the kit I bought and I am crying! This is amazing and you are amazing! What a wonderful idea to help others by helping others. This is really something special. I was just thinking this morning that I need a mentor and this kit is a great start. I will spread the word!

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you so much Kerry! It took a long time to get to this point but it’s so worth it to see people responding and understanding the project. It means so much to me to be able to give back something to Rwanda and it’s women. Thank you for all your support a long the way!

  5.  by  Bridgett

    You’re amazing Isa! I’m so glad I could help you in your endeavor. xoxo B

  6.  by  Bee

    Hooray! Your project is done in the ISA way, perfectly inspiring. Not only will I spread the word but I will use The Empowerment Project as you taught me. With much affection. Bee

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you Bee, I really appreciate your kind words x

  7.  by  Patti @ Easton Place

    You are such an inspiration to so many. Thank you for being the fabulous you that you are!!
    I’m am honored to be a tiny part of this project by purchasing a kit :)


    •  by  Isa Maria

      You are so kind Patti, thank you so much for the support in this project. I first started working on it six or seven months ago, so to have it released in the big wide world feels so good!

  8.  by  Patricia

    Hi Isa
    Such a wonderful & inspiring idea and personal vision! Just bought the kit – and I have selected your project for our monthly Design Trust campaign = it will go in our newsletter (going out tomorrow) to 1,300 people and will give you lots of tweets this coming week too. Keep us posted about how you get on in Rwanda.
    All the best, Patricia

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you so much Patricia! Thank you for spreading the word through your newsletter too. I appreciate it :)

  9.  by  Jessika

    You are stupendously brilliant Isa! There is such symbolism, beauty, and healing in your going back there with your hands full of tools to support other women in their own rebuilding. Helping them stitch together a new world! It gives me goosebumps. I think so many of us are trying to do this for ourselves in the handmade community but we are so inherently privileged. Nothing prevents our success & empowerment but our own limitations, fears & uncertainties-we have access to the tools we need if we choose to pick them up. It is hard to imagine how it would feel to have so little ability to find the tools needed to simply live, let alone thrive. Charity & pity doesn’t change the world, giving tools does. Those tools=hope & access to the future. Isa you are a hopemaker! I got my copy of the Empowerment Kit & it is truly empowering! You are giving the world such a gift with this project-we give hope & get hope at the same time. It isn’t charity, but an exchange of value. I love it & adore you & you are brilliant. Wait, did I already say that? Can’t say it enough!:)

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Where do I even begin to reply to this comment? Just thank you Jessika for your unwavering support and patience over the last few months! I am so grateful to have connected with you x

  10.  by  Vicki Knights

    A truly inspiring project Isa. I’m really looking forward to seeing the photos of your trip.

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you Vicki! I’m trying to improve my photography before I go because I want to make sure I capture everything!

  11.  by  Kira

    Isa, I have been out of touch this week, I didn’t see this until now! Congrats on getting this project off the ground, that is so great that you are working with the local women to provide them with what they really need! My mother works with a group that supports building secondary schools in Uganda (I actually blogged about it last week!) and I hope to travel there with her someday! Congrats again and good luck!

    •  by  Isa Maria

      I’ll have to check out your post! Thank you for your support x

  12.  by  Sabina

    Isa I admire you for starting this project! I am donating to an organization helping women in Congo. I do believe that even my small contribution helps someone and that makes a difference. I wish more professionals got involved in helping others. Keep up with the good work Isa!

  13.  by  Modupe

    Whoop! I’ve been waiting for this :-) This is amazing just like you are Isa – those women are blessed xx

    •  by  Isa Maria

      Thank you so much Modupe! I’m so grateful people are supporting this project. Thanks for buying a kit!

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