Zaina is 65. She is one of the most senior coffee sorters at the Rwanda Trading Company in Kigali. She’s worked there for somewhere around 20 years – if you ask her how long, Zaina will laugh and tell you that she can’t remember exactly!
Zaina used to cultivate crops in the fields, but lost her job when the local area became urbanised. As a widow with 4 children, she needed to find work. One day, she was walking past the Rwanda Trading Company and decided to ask if they had a job for her – fortunately, they did.
Zaina feels lucky to have her job as a coffee sorter – she thinks it’s the best match for someone of her age and skills.
“Look at me. I am old, and this is the best job for me, because it doesn’t require a lot of energy.”
Zaina sorts the beans by hand and removes the ones that are broken, discoloured or too small. The Rwanda Trading Company also has machines that do this job, but sorting by hand is more accurate so Zaina always works on the most profitable batches of coffee.
Her work allows Zaina to look after herself and support her children. She has an adult son who still lives with her due to mental illness. But her work is more than just a job – it gives her a sense of purpose, pride, and place.
A few years ago, Zaina realised that she could not see the beans clearly. Her vision was deteriorating. She found that she could not sort the beans quickly enough. She started making mistakes and would then have to redo her work. If she continued performing poorly, she would not have been able to keep her job as a sorter.
One day, while she was busy sorting the coffee, Zaina was called by her boss. A team had come to Rwanda Trading Company to give vision screenings to the workers, and she would have the chance to get her eyes checked. After being assessed, Zaina was told that she qualified for glasses and received them just a week later.
Zaina loves her new glasses.
“They help me do my work, and now I can sort well and meet my quota. I feel very, very happy, because by doing this job, I can earn money to help my family, to buy beans to eat… I am proud with all my body.”
When asked to describe the impact that getting glasses has made to her life and her ability to provide care for her disabled child, Zaina’s voice becomes shaky.
“May God bless you for how you have blessed me…” she says, speaking of the people who helped her that day.
Zaina’s story was made possible by the brilliant work of Vision for a Nation. Their award-winning programme has ensured that every single person in Rwanda has access to local, affordable eye care. Find out more