A Japanese woman is leading economic development through self-supportive skills in Rwanda, as well as across the world. Many of those participating in the project from this Central/Eastern Africa country survived a massive genocide 20 years ago.
Masayo Kodama, the founder of the nonprofit organization (NPO), Reborn Kyoto, is coming to Boston November 13-16. This visit will include the sale of beautifully handcrafted garments created by the men and women her organization trains for economic development.
The motto of Reborn Kyoto is “Women helping women, doing good by looking good.” The NPO repurposes vintage kimonos to be “reborn” into garments local to those whom they train to sew. The organization’s latest economic development project is in Rwanda.
Since 1993, Reborn Kyoto has taught over 600 economically disadvantaged young women and men the craft of high-level cloth fabrication. Projects have been set up in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Laos, and Jordan, as well as Rwanda.
Nearly 70 years ago, Mrs. Kodama herself was part of a war-torn country. Her husband had witnessed the bomb’s devastation in Hiroshima. Japan was rebuilding itself after World War II. Young Masayo’s father was a military doctor and he taught her that all people need help in times of war. She recalled, as a young child, receiving food through the goodwill of people from all over the world, and how this saved Japan from starvation.
She became at that time committed to the concept of world peace, seeking to bring people hope. As a young woman, Mrs. Kodama had been trained as a pharmacist, but realized that she wanted to do much more. She felt that it was time for her to give back. She and an old friend developed a fundraising effort for Cambodian refugees.
The concept of Reborn Kyoto evolved over time, beginning with medical supplies and food for Cambodian refugee camps in the 1980s. As time passed, she realized that relying on charity can harm people’s pride and prevent them from seeking the means for independent economic development. Fast-forward to the birth of Reborn Kyoto.
While collecting used clothes to send to Cambodia, Mrs. Kodama found that many people donated full kimonos. Both because of Cambodia’s warm climate and the sentimental value of the kimonos, they were unsuitable for direct donation in Cambodia.
In 1986, a fashion designer suggested making western-style clothes from the kimonos and reselling them. This developed into the idea of teaching people to learn sewing skills to create the garments themselves, thereby establishing self-sustaining economic development.
Through instruction in the reuse of 100% silk and cotton fabric that come from donated Japanese kimonos, Reborn Kyoto is able to support economic development for trainees in Rwanda and in other Low-and-Middle-Income Countries (LMICs).
The NPO leads instruction with sewing specialists in how to make various kinds of garments that are resalable so that they can sustain themselves and their families. This teaches financial viability and independence.
This November 14 through 16, Reborn Kyoto returns to Boston to sell its beautifully designed, unique, well-made clothing and gifts made from vintage kimonos. Proceeds from the sale benefit the Japanese NPO’s international women’s economic development project in Rwanda and other countries. Purchases of these beautiful, one-of-a-kind items support financial independence for indigent women in Rwanda, Southeast Asia, Jordan and Syria. Attendees at the sale, which begins on Friday evening, November 14 at Bead+Fiber in Boston’s South End, will have the opportunity to meet the founder, Masayo Kodama.
By Fern Remedi-Brown
Related articles by the author:
Kyoto Organization Teaches Sustainable Development Worldwide
Rwanda Genocide Still Traumatic for Mothers at 20 Years
Rwanda Genocide Looks at Allies and Bystanders at 20 Year Anniversary
Rwanda Genocide Survivors Seek Joyous Healing [Video]
Reborn Kyoto Boston web site, with details about the sale
Reborn Kyoto NPO case study (2006), by Cynthia Ingols, PhD and Erika Ishihara
Personal conversations with Professor Cynthia Ingols, Simmons College School of Management
Press release for Reborn Kyoto Boston November 14-16, 2014 visit and sale