It costs just $3,000 to build an Inshuti home in Rwanda, including all building material, labor, project coordination, and home provisions.
Courtesy photo
It costs just $3,000 to build an Inshuti home in Rwanda, including all building material, labor, project coordination, and home provisions.

Building a bridge from Brattleboro to Rwanda

The Inshuti of Rwanda project calls on Vermonters to build homes and more for those in need in Africa

BRATTLEBORO — Through her local nonprofit, Inshuti of Rwanda Incorporated, Rosa Marino continues to connect people in Rwanda with the “socially conscious and giving” community here, hoping to build 25 new houses in 2023.

“Inshuti” means “friends” in the Kinyarwanda language, Marino says, adding that if successful in achieving the goal, the number of families sheltered since she founded the nonprofit in 2015 will rise to 100.

“Our mission is to construct sustainable houses in Rwanda to build wellness, stability, and a future for impoverished families,” she says. “Through our house-building projects, we are improving living conditions, creating local jobs, and growing the community of Inshuti.”

Cross-continental community connections

Marino, better known here by her legal name, Lauren Rose Marino, is a native New Yorker from Long Island who moved to West Dover and worked as a nurse at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

While Lauren is her legal first name, Marino says she learned many years ago that it is a difficult name for most Africans to pronounce, “so I started using my middle name.”

She then massaged it to “Rosa,” as that name is more common in East Africa. Marino says as she traveled more and began to live most of the year abroad, “Rosa became my preferred choice.”

As the project has grown, Marino, who has called herself “practical” and is certainly hands-on, has been living half the year in Rwanda.

The idea for Inshuti of Rwanda was born of Marino’s desire to build one house for one family she had met on her second trip to Rwanda.

“Since then, we have continued to grow, sheltering 75 families, and even became a nonprofit organization in Rwanda,” says Marino. “The impact of our house-building projects extends past our home recipients and into the community by providing hundreds of local jobs with livable wages.”

Why did Marino choose Rwanda?

“I think Rwanda chose me,” she says.

“I believe people who travel have a gravitational pull to certain regions of the world. I have always been pulled toward Africa,” Marino explains.

“My first trip to Rwanda was in 2011 and, from my first steps in the country, I knew I would come back. A year later, I returned and volunteered for a micro-loan organization. This was when I met Solome, who became Inshuti’s first house recipient.

“At the time, I could not envision one house for one family would be the catalyst for an entire organization and we would grow a community of Inshuti (friends) from it. But we did,” she continues.

She describes the connection between Rwanda and Brattleboro as “linked through community.”

“As a transplant to Brattleboro, I always found the town to be socially conscious, to be involved in community-led initiatives, and to have a strong sense of connection among its citizens,” she observes. “This is very similar to Rwanda.”

“I always felt that Inshuti’s purpose is not only to build homes to shelter families or create jobs but also to grow a community of Inshuti,” Marino continues. “One that links our previous house recipients and workers in Rwanda with our many supporters around the world.”

Building bridges

Housing is the primary focus of the Inshuti project. It costs just $3,000 to build an Inshuti home, including all building material, labor, project coordination, and home provisions.

“Inshuti families are given all the essentials to begin a new life, such as a pit latrine, electricity, beds, mattresses, mosquito nets, and cookware,” says Marino. “Inshuti’s newest initiative of providing necessary school uniforms and books to house recipient families ensures children have access to Rwanda’s free education program. The project has grown from one building season to two, and with that, the amount of families they support is ever-increasing.”

Honoring the second part of Inshuti’s mission, the organization plans on providing a 20% raise for all Inshuti masons, workers, and porters, guaranteeing that their wages are not only keeping up with inflation but also are higher than those of other local jobs.

“The extra income gives Inshuti employees a chance to better support their own families by paying for clothes, national health insurance, buying livestock, and increasing their standard of living,” Marino says.

To date, Inshuti of Rwanda has sheltered 75 families and created hundreds of jobs through its house building projects. Since 2015, Marino and her group have raised more than $250,000.

Inshuti works closely with the Rwandan government, Marino says, to select families to help, with 80% chosen from the government’s list of people in immediate need of housing. The other 20% are chosen from the Inshuti community of masons, workers, and porters.

“Predominantly, our families are single mothers whose husbands ran off, an unfortunately common problem in Rwanda,” says Marino. “We also help widows, genocide survivors, and hard-working father families who have school-aged children. By focusing on younger families, our houses have a longer-lasting impact by improving lives early on.”

How to help

Inshuti’s fundraising goal for the 2023 programming year is $75,000 to build the 25 new houses and provide local jobs with livable wages for staff members.

Those who wish to support Inshuti can donate at and choose to contribute to such specific items as cookware ($40), a truck of bricks ($80), or a mason’s monthly salary ($120). A $10 monthly contribution can give a child school uniforms and books.

To become more involved, supporters can start a campaign for a family in need of shelter.

Each person starting a campaign will be connected to an Inshuti family through stories and pictures. With this information and guidance, campaigners raise money from their circle of friends for a new house for their Inshuti family.

“These campaigns allow for more than the building of homes; it also builds a bridge between communities, and a lifelong connection is made between the campaigner and their Inshuti family,” Marino says.

“The community extends to the many supporters around the world who help Inshuti succeed in their mission. In essence, creating a community of Inshuti — friends — with the common goal of providing the basic need for shelter and necessary local jobs in Rwanda, further strengthens the idea that we are all interconnected people and the importance of supporting each other,” she says.

“Inshuti house recipients are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to start a new life by having the stability provided by secure, safe, and clean housing,” Marino says. “It has been astonishing to witness house recipients’ progress in the following years.”

“Many of our Inshuti community members have saved money to buy living room furniture, put their children through secondary school, or buy pigs as a form of investment,” she notes.

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