Today’s Unbuttoned With is the deeply inspiring story of Suzette Munson: wife, mother of two, entrepreneur and sponsor mother to hundreds. Far from a faceless donor, Suzette has created a legacy of support for Rwanda with donors to foster active relationships with children through her company Love 41.
A first experience in Rwanda
The 1994 Rwandan genocide took the lives of over one million men, women and children in less than 90 days, and displaced millions more from their homes almost overnight. The entire population of Rwanda, a little African nation just smaller than Maryland, was nearly wiped out, and for 100 days of slaughter the rest of the world turned a blind eye to Rwanda's suffering. When the genocide was eventually stopped from within, it had left the region irreparably damaged.
Like many Americans, Suzette Munson had heard of the tragedy, but when she was invited to visit Rwanda in the summer of 2010 by Africa New Life Ministries, she found nothing could have prepared her for the absolute devastation she experienced.
The heart wrenching stories of books like "Left to Tell," and films such as "Hotel Rwanda,” pale in comparison.
Love 41 is born
When she returned home five weeks later, Suzette was still consumed by the stories and people of Rwanda. There were so many children longing for someone to love them. Something had to be done, and she knew she had the ability to help. There was no choice.
Suzette always had a eye for fashion. While praying about how she could help the people of Rwanda, a light bulb went off; she could use her talents to help these people. So, she decided to start an online retail business, Love 41, where 100% of the profits would support the work of Africa New Life Ministries.
A deep love for the people of Rwanda may have inspired her concept, but a favorite passage from Psalms the name of her business:
“Blessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; you will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness, you will sustain him on his sickbed.” Psalm 41:1-3 (NKJV)
350 children sponsored in just two years
With Love 41 still in its infancy, much remains to get done and accomplish. However, there is a lot to be proud about as well. The impact that Love 41 has already made in the lives of the needy in Rwanda is encouraging. This includes educating the uneducated, loving the unloved, feeding the hungry and getting over 350 kids sponsored in just a little over two years; that's a great deal of work for a company that only has two full time employees.
Relationships often begin at Love 41 through a sponsorship program fostered by Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM), which is ECFA approved (www.ecfa.org) and founded by Rwandans for Rwandans. ANLM exists to break the cycle of poverty in Rwanda by providing education, spiritual insight and basic necessities to poor children and families through sponsorship and community
“Some of my sons in Rwanda have special names for me, ‘my joy mom’, ‘mama muganga’ or mama doctor, and ‘mama Africa’." I think they call me what’s most dear to their hearts, perhaps what they need most in a mother but never received it since they were orphaned as young children. I have a heart for the older kids who really, are young adults. To them, they never think of the possibility of having parents or a family. Because of their age, they seem to appreciate it more, understand it more and cherish it. I don't simply sponsor children, I treat them like my own, discipline them like they are my own and love them like they're mine; they are my children and they know it,” she shares.
Unbuttoned with Suzette Munson
Style icon: If I had to pick I’d say Amelia Earhart. I love jackets and coats. She had great style when it came to outerwear. Amelia just knew which coat to put on for the occasion and then would often throw a fabulous scarf on to top it all off. Love that combo.
Favorite heroine: I don’t do drugs :) I think it would have to be Rahab from the Bible. She was a prostitute who helped save God’s people. She went against her culture and against the flow and became a follower of Christ. I dig women who have some manly parts.........if you know what I mean. I love that she was willing to risk her life to do what was right.
Dream lunch date: My husband OR Bono
Favorite cliché: I always say there's no such thing as a mistake if you learn from it. We ALL make mistakes but if we choose to "Live and learn" a mistake isn’t something we should be ashamed of anymore.
Personal motto: Don't complain...there's always someone worse off.
Idea that changed your life: To read the book Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Always trying to improve: My marriage
Most envious of: Women who can achieve a lot quickly. But then I remember that placing my focus on my husband and children first will be far more impactful in the long run.
Most inspired by: Mother Teresa
Fashion item you would ban: Little girls thongs.............yes, I've seen them they exist!
Favorite piece in your wardrobe: Oh man, I have this adjustable leather skirt I bought 20 years ago when I was a size 0. I’m a size 4 now and if I gain more weight, I can still wear it! IT’S FABULOUS!
Biggest extravagance: We're about to buy a huge tent to live in for a while. This isn’t a typical tent you take to go camping overnight. It’s a huge safari tent that has two stories and even a bathroom. It will take several people to build and set up.
Can’t bare to spend on: Electronics / the latest phone............ugghhhh
Irrational fear of: It CANNOT be irrational to fear rats and mice but maybe frogs?
Brains or beauty: Always brains.
Audrey or Katharine Hepburn: Easily Audrey. I loved her philanthropic work with children and her graceful style.
Jennifer Lopez or Lawrence: Oh my too hard to pick! Both women are beautiful and talented.
Diamonds or pearls: My style has really changed since I became a mother. It used to be pearls then it was diamonds and well now it’s anything leather; including a leather ring I just designed.
Editor's note: I'm still reeling over the idea of thongs for little girls, but how can such an obviously fearless women be afraid of a frog? Ah, well, I supposed we all have our weaknesses. Thank you Suzette for being part of this series! We are honored to share your beautiful story.