Rugerero Survivors Village Sunflower Oil Cooperative
Through the work of the ex;it Foundation and its founder, Alan Jacobson, the Rugerero Survivors Village Sunflower Oil Cooperative near Gisenyi, in western Rwanda, has been operating since 2008 in a neglected building near the village.
The foundation has worked with 50 Rwandan genocide survivors to create this rare opportunity for income-producing activities, with the goal of improving living conditions in the village, including health and education.
Most cooking oil products in Rwanda are imported from Uganda and Republic of the Congo; yet, if available, Rwandans would prefer to support local community products.
In 2009, the foundation worked with the cooperative on a branding project to improve its facility and help promote its products and purpose. To communicate the energy inside the building and visually broadcast its purpose, the group envisioned painting a simple and colorful sunflower mural on the building itself. Jacobson drew a rough concept sketch on note paper. The cooperative did not have the skills to paint the mural so the sketch was taken to a young women’s group in the village to explore their interest in helping. The 10 women in this group were victims of violence during the genocide and gather weekly to learn new skills and work toward healing and creating a new future.
Although they had never done this kind of work before, they agreed to paint the mural. With paint and brushes supplied by the ex;it Foundation, along with some assistance in charting the mural on the building, they completed the mural within two weeks. The total cost of the project was one paper napkin (free), $200 for paint and brushes, and a donation to the women’s group for sewing supplies (made by an anonymous donor).
Rugerero Womens Support Group, Meghan Morris (mural painting facilitation), Rukundo Ephrem (translator)
“This entry had the most profound emotional response for me. The simple act of painting the building façade with the sunflower pattern instantly identified the building in a non-verbal way, enhancing and beautifying its surroundings and supporting the brand—everything a successful environmental graphics program should do!”