According to the Britannica Encyclopedia online, Rwanda has about 10 million people in a total area of about 10,000 square miles. This is double the population of Wisconsin in an area a sixth the size of the Badger State. Known for being the most densely populated country in Africa, this means that people in this country are living on the bare essentials; often people do not even have what they need to survive.
“Everyone is willing to learn and wants opportunity but there is none,” said Ron Schoenfeld, founder of the Seven Loaves Project and owner of Chives Restaurant. “So through this project I figured out that not only can we help feed them, but we can teach them a trade, the passion for bread and small business and maybe it will spur into other businesses.“
The Seven Loaves Project is a non-profit organization that Schoenfeld thought of coordinating after an inspiring humanitarian trip he took to Rwanda in 2009. Initially, he went to Rwanda to help feed an expected 1,500 people spaghetti, French bread and Coca Cola when 4,000 impoverished people showed up. The overwhelming response for such a simple meal made Schoenfeld realize that he could do more for these people.
It was a big process trying to feed the underestimated amount of people who turned out that day. Schoenfeld had to have the Coca Cola shipped in through a grocery store chain in Kenya, have a tiny store bake bread for 24 hours and then use an indigenous method of cooking on coal in pots that were manufactured for him out of 55-gallon oil drums.
Leszek Czelusniak, director of the Marion Missions in Kibeho-Rwanda, explained to Schoenfeld how much of an impact he was making. He told Schoenfeld that because the villagers do not have the means to bake bread without electricity, they are only able to get bread once or twice a year. This got Schoenfeld thinking.
“Then my wheels started turning,” said Schoenfeld. “And I was like, ‘wood fire ovens.’ ”
With his passion for baking, Schoenfeld decided he wanted to provide these people with bread more often, but to also teach them the skills to bake it themselves and for small business.
The Seven Loaves Project does just that. Its goal is to provide communities in Rwanda with green, energy efficient wood ovens, training programs and training facilities in order to teach small business and the vocation of baking bread.
With the first vocational center being dedicated in February at the Marian Formation Center in Kibeho, Schoenfeld is going to go over and teach a combined six weeks with his son to give the participants the knowledge that they need to bake on their own. He wants to be actively involved with the training process and go to Rwanda for about nine weeks a year.
“My goal is so that I am not a part of the program. I want to train them, to train. I hope that they’ll learn how to bake it and be able to teach themselves, which will really speed the process up a little bit, “said Schoenfeld.
If the process goes accordingly, Schoenfeld hopes that within six months they will be baking 4,000 loaves a month, within 12 months they will have the school and ovens operational and within 16 months they will be baking upwards of 20,000 loaves a month.
With the recent donation of the Green Bay Packers and Coach Mike McCarthy, Schoenfeld said that the awareness of the project has grown in the Green Bay community. Every Thursday Chives hosts a small farmers market where Schoenfeld sells 200 loaves of special Seven Loaves Project bread an hour. With every purchase of a loaf, a dollar goes to the Seven Loaves project. Schoenfeld feels that he can sell even more once his new prototype oven of the ovens that will be built in Rwanda is finished, and he will be able to raise even more money for the fund.
There are many ways to get involved with the Seven Loaves Project. Schoenfeld encourages people to come to buy a loaf of bread at Chives, donate money and even just spread the word about the project on Facebook.
“It’s not about what you can get, it’s more about what you can give as a person,” said Schoenfeld. “It’s not an infomercial at 10 o’clock at night to help feed a child. We really have zero administrative costs. When you donate a dollar to Seven Loaves, a dollar goes towards Africa. There isn’t a CEO making a quarter of a million dollars a year and we don’t spend money on promotions. I do it all through word of mouth and trying to make the best bread I can make to help spread the word.”
A fundraiser called Chivefest was held Aug. 21. All proceeds from the event support the Seven Loaves Project. The festival was held at the Vicker Village grounds in Suamaco. Highlights included food, beverages, artisan crafts, a farmer’s market and live music.