International Citizen Service (ICS)

WHAT IS ICS?

International Citizen Service (ICS) is programme for young people who want to volunteer abroad. Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), ICS is run by six big names in international volunteering, including Tearfund. This partnership allows Tearfund to send more volunteers to different developing countries around the world.

Tearfund designs each programme so that each team can integrate into the life and work of local communities. Tearfund ICS teams will work very closely with the local church and local partners in their community based development projects for 10 weeks at a time. Different teams will be sent to follow up on on-going work throughout the year.

TEAM RWANDA 2013 Jan-March

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(Left to right:  Christine, Sarah, Harry, Esther, Fletcher, Faith, Simeon, Jordan, Lizzie, Chloe)

 

Week 10

Our final week in Rwanda consisted of our debrief at Lake Kivu, finishing off some last minute work and saying our goodbyes to the wonderful people we have met.

 

Saying goodbye to Munazi Village

Saying goodbye to Munazi Village

 

We had a good time at Lake Kivu and it was helpful to reflect on our time in Rwanda and what is coming next. When we arrived at our accommodation we were once again amazed at the stunning view of the lake and green hills. We were staying in a guest house right on the edge of the lake, so it was so lovely to be able to sit and spend some time soaking in the beauty. The time was mainly spent talking about our aims of the trip and how far we have met them, handing over tasks to the next team, reflecting on our spiritual journey and giving feedback to Tearfund and DfID. We also discussed the culture shock that we may experience when we arrive back in the UK.

 

Lizzie and Mordekai (Diocesan youth worker) working in the office

Lizzie and Mordekai (Diocesan youth worker) working in the office

On Wednesday some of the team went to RDIS to finish some work on their personal projects. Some cleared out the nursery school cupboard and others worked in the office. The Youth Project Proposal was finally finished and will hopefully be sent off to potential funders very soon. We then went to Munazi village to say our goodbyes which was very moving. We firstly said goodbye to Theopiste (the lady in charge of the tree nursery) and then we made our way down to the centre of the village where all of the children usually are. It was sad saying our final goodbyes to the children and giving them some last cuddles. We also found out that one of the little boys had caught Malaria. He looked very ill, weak and didn’t have his usual happy smile. His family said that they could not afford the medication which was 10,000 RWF (£10), which was so much because they couldn’t afford health insurance. A team member gave the parents the money, which obviously they were thrilled to receive and said that they would take him to the clinic the next day.

On Thursday we had our last trip into Muhanga town and used our well practiced bartering skills to buy some last minute gifts. We then went to RDIS for a final goodbye meeting with all the staff. We shared food together and we expressed our thanks to RDIS for having us and for being so welcoming. The staff thanked us, and gave us all really nice cards, for our work over the last 10 weeks. The Bishop also spoke and expressed thanks to us for being a part of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in Rwanda. He told us that we are now citizens of Rwanda and are welcome back at any time (an offer that I am sure many of us would want to take up!) On Thursday evening we all enjoyed spending our last night together by eating around a bonfire!
On Friday morning we headed into Kigali and had our last trip to Nakumatt and the indoor market. We then went onto have lunch with the other team and then headed to the airport. It was hard to say goodbye to our Rwandan friends and I think we will all miss them very much.

We have spent 10 beautiful, exciting, challenging, confusing, exhausting and inspiring weeks in Rwanda! We arrived back in the UK after a very long journey at about 7.30am on Saturday. It has been a challenge to adapt back into the UK and feels strange to be home. I am personally missing Rwanda and the amazing team already and would love to visit in future. A huge thank you must go to everyone, in the UK and in Rwanda, that have supported us throughout our journey. Without you it wouldn’t have been such an amazing 10 weeks. We hope and pray that other teams enjoy being in Rwanda just as much as we have!

-Lizzie

Week Nine 

Monday

We went for a walk up a big hill and some of the group carried on to the very top, after we had climbed down we went back to centre St. Charles and had some lunch. After lunch we drove to a local market to buy some jerry cans for the tippy taps in munazi village. When we got to the village some of the group was teaching the villagers WASH and nutrition training. We built a tippy tap to show the locals how to build one themselves when they get home.

Tuesday

We went to munazi village to paint water tanks and build more tippy taps but we had to leave at lunch because the rain was coming down very heavily. At dinner the owners of St. Charles sung and played music for us.

Wednesday

We went to see the lady who makes our clothes at Azizi, then we went back to munazi to finish painting and do so more tippy taps in a different area then we went back to St Charles and had a group meeting.

Thursday

We went to our personal projects but some of our team didn’t go because they were ill, we came back to st Charles to find that all of our dinner was cold but then we had the afternoon off.

Friday

Two of the people in our group woke up in the back of a pick-up truck because they sleep outside under the stars; we all got together at 9am for a team meeting to plan our timetable for the next week. After the meeting we planned our lessons that we wear going to teach for compassion on Saturday morning. In the afternoon we was planning to go to munazi to finish the rest of the tippy taps but it was raining there so we ended up going to a dam which was amazing.

Saturday

We left St. Charles to go to compassion, we taught two lessons and then we had a good bye assembly, in which the children and teacher sang songs to us and us to them. After this we gave compassion footballs and teaching materials which we handed over to them and they were very grateful. We had some time to talk to the individual children and say good bye in their break time before teaching another lesson. We then left to much loved Azizi, where we spent the afternoon relaxing in the confines of luxury. In the evening we packed our bags ready for departure in the morning to Lake Kivu for debrief.

Sunday

We left for kivu and when we got there we met up with Joan and the mousecre team then we went and unpacked then we got our swimming outfits and left the guest house. When we got to Comoran Lodge which was the name of the hotel we were having lunch at. After lunch Joan hired out some canoes for an hour, after we left the lodge we had a meeting back at our guest house, we then had dinner and then just after we had dinner Faith lead us in devotion.

-Jordon

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Week Eight

Oh, how time has flown, I can’t believe that we’ve been in Rwanda for 8 weeks already. My time here has been an adventure and leading a team of 9 is pushing the boundaries of my capacity and allowing me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills. I feel so blessed to be leading the team and I’m incredibly proud of the hard work they have put in and everything that we have achieved so far.
Our Team has been primarily been working at a tree nursery in Munazi Village alongside Theopiste, the nursery manager. Our work involved packing over 2,500 with a mixture of soil and manure and planting a variety of fruit seedlings (papaya, passion fruit, avocado and egg fruits). The team managed to distribute about 30 trees to around 80 villagers. The fruit trees will help villagers to grow the crops they need to feed themselves and their families as well as protecting the environment and helping them to achieve economic security. The team has now started on building tippy taps and training the community on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and nutrition. So far we have helped built 24 tippy taps and have given WASH and nutrition to everyone who received the tippy taps. Tippy Taps are a foot-operated water dispenser, made from a plastic container with a small hole, in which you only touch the soap. They’re very hygienic, cost effective (about £0.70) to install and a better option for rural areas where there is no running water. Our aim is to give each of the 220 households a tippy tap and our team will help build as many as possible before we leave. If our team is unable to help each household build a tippy tap, the next team will build on our work.
One of my highlights during my time in Rwanda has to be the the official project launch of all the projects started in Munazi that year (e.g tree nursery, water tanks and banana plantation) Government officials and dignitaries showed up and the villagers were full of joy and welcomed us with singing dancing. It was really good to see how our hard work was aiding the community. It reminded me of why I do what I do.

-Faith

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Week Seven

What a week we have had! Our Rwandan adventure continued with another week of amazing experiences and hard work!

Monday was a long tough day but we accomplished a lot. In the morning we visited one of the pineapple plantation cooperatives to do some hoeing. However, our driver was running on African time and we were over one hour and thirty minutes late. Nonetheless we joined in with the work in the boiling sun but before long we had to stop as the Africans said that it was too hot to work! After lunch we went to the RDIS compound where the boys, led by Sarah, managed to complete a hefty part of the Keyhole garden project whilst the rest of the team continued their work on the painting of the playground at the nursery – managing to almost finish. Because of the heat and the exhausting work we were all knackered and so after dinner most of us went to bed.

We were lucky enough to have a lie-in on Tuesday morning which we all fully appreciated. When we had all awoken and had breakfast we then began to edit the information booklets that we were given so that the next group will have more accurate and useful information. We split into two groups and spent the whole morning editing them, we were also joined by Beth, the leader of the other ICS team in Rwanda who helped with the editing which was nice. After we had lunch we went to Munazi Village to build a Tippy Tap. We gathered members from around 10 different households and showed them how to build a Tippy Tap correctly and also delivered lessons on WASH, led by Sarah, and Nutrition, led by Jordan. After that we handed out the materials to 8 different households so that they could build their own Tippy Tap. We then returned to Azizi for dinner and to relax for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday saw the official launch of the Munazi Village project. We were part of this as we helped at the tree nursery and educated village members on WASH and nutrition as well as building tippy taps. When we arrived at the village we were greeted by the village choir singing and dancing. We then joined in the tour of the projects with some other British people who were linked to the projects. After seeing around three projects we joined the choir in a march to the meeting area where we sat down and listened to several village members giving thanks and the Tearfund Regional director gave a speech in Kinyarwanda. After some more singing and dancing we left Munazi for lunch. After lunch we had free time to prep for Compassion and some of the boys went to play football.

Thursday saw more work on personal projects. Esther, Sarah and Chloe went to the nursery to continue teaching. Harry and Christine went to the Pineapple processing unit. Liz carried on the project proposal for the youth in the diocese, whilst Simeon and Fletcher continued the work on the Keyhole garden. The afternoon saw the continuation and completion of the painting at the nursery and more progress made on the keyhole garden. In the evening after dinner, family time was replaced by Sean and Jessica (a Canadian intern with RDIS) coming over to watch the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

On Friday morning we returned as a team to the keyhole garden in a last ditch attempt to get it finished. Unfortunately the day was so hot that we struggled to complete it but we were close. After lunch we had time to wash our clothes, finish Compassion prep and pack for our trip to Akagera on saturday!

Saturday morning came and there was an air of excitement within the group. We had breakfast and packed the van with all of our bags for the Akagera trip. Before we left we went to Compassion to teach our weeks lessons, however we were only able to teach the first half as after their break they were being assigned into new classes as it was the end of the their school term/year. So we left Compassion for Kigali and then Seeds of Peace, our accommodation for the next two nights. We arrived in Kigali and stopped off at Nakumatt which is the closest thing to a supermarket that Rwanda has to offer. Whilst there we had lunch and bought enough food for the weekend including treats. After we had finished in Nakumatt we said goodbye to our team leader and departed for Seeds of Peace. When we arrived we were taken back by the beauty of the accommodation which was right on Lake Muhazi. Our rooms were a good size with running water and power, so relatively good for African standards! And some of us who had twin rooms were even given a double bed instead of one of the twins which was greatly appreciated. The other ICS group in Rwanda then joined us and we had a catch up and just chilled for the rest of the evening until dinner which was a traditional Rwandan buffet and very nice. After we had finished our dinner we played Sardines around the compound. None of us knew the area very well and so this was an interesting game. Fletcher was the first person to hide a somehow managed to fall out of the tree he was hiding in. Charlie, from the other team, hid next in a rather inconspicuous place and despite being looked at by two different people, was never found! When we had finished most of us went to bed as we had an early start on Sunday!

Sunday Morning we woke up around 6 am as we were leaving at 6:30. The safari car came to pick up half the group whilst the rest joined Freddy in the Minibus. When we arrived at Akagera we were all so excited, except from Freddy the driver who said “Elephants very bad!” After slight confusion about Christine’s nationality we entered the park! To travel from one end to the other it takes up to six hours and so we only went into the top third of the park. Akagera is attached to Tanzania as well as Rwanda and our team phones all got messages welcoming us to Tanzania although were still in Rwanda. I know that we can all agree that it was an amazing day and such an incredible experience. The minibus followed the safari bus and we saw many different animals including Zebras, Buffaloes, Impala, Water Buck, Hippos and many more including a Giraffe which we were less than ten metres away from! Just incredible!!! We had lunch down by a lake where there were some Hippos further down. After we had lunch our tour continued and we saw some more animals and even a small herd of elephants from across a valley. We continued to go around the park for a while longer enjoying all the views of the landscape and the animals. We left around 4pm to return back to Seeds of Peace. When we arrived back we were all knackered and so dinner was a massive welcome to us all, another buffet. After dinner we heard what we though sounded like English voices and so we went to investigate… To our surprise and delight there were four British students who were staying there for a few days. They had come over as part of a charity from Bristol where they all went to uni. We had a nice conversation with them and afterwards some of us went to bed whilst some played card games.

-Fletcher

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Week Six

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Another pretty standard start to the week, we headed out to a pineapple plantation in the morning to mulch with the community.  Tuesday was our midterm debrief so we took a wander up to Mata dei to have a chat as a group about what we have done and achieved in the last five weeks. Joan made some absolutely amazing banana cake! A select few of us then spent the afternoon at RDIS processing plant labelling bottles for sale at a later date.
Midweek was the first of our lessons to the pineapple cooperatives. Three of us taught micro finance and book keeping to around 20 people who congregated in the village church. At the same time, another group of three taught the children from the village parts of the body in English whilst playing games. We also bought the items that we needed for making tippy taps, most of the time was spent driving between the different markets in Muhanga/Gitarama whilst stopping of at a few shops on the way! In the evening, we went to Fulgence (our translators) house for some birthday celebrations  Rwandan style. Esther and Sarah baked him a cake which we took and shared after the meal that Fulgence’s wife Christine and their maid cooked for us. It was a wonderful experience.

Thursday  was the grand day of tippy tap making; in the blistering sunshine with a cool breeze we set about making a tippy tap. It was rather a community effort with many of the local children joining in. Unfortunately  when we returned to the tippy tap we found that it was left standing but the soap had gone missing…everyone’s doubts in the safety of our beloved tippy tap had been proved! Then the group separated in to two groups, one cleaning and re-marking the playground and the other digging and putting in place the foundations for the Key Hole garden. This being closest to relief work that we are likely to get, it had felt like we had made a major impact and that there is now something that will be a lasting memento of what we are doing in Rwanda.

Saturday was Umuganda Saturday so we all had a chilled out and relaxed with most of us sleeping in till late, then eagerly waiting for the end of Umuganda so they could leave the compound and head for town! I think that after the end of the first really physically challenging week we all deserved a cold drink in the coffee shop, the coffee shop that actually does cold drinks! It was also the last of the ‘Come Dine With Me’ series in Rwanda it didn’t go out with any sort of a bang like it did the previous week, just a casual seafront supper with fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. I think we did it for a chilled out night with a subtle reminder of home. On Sunday we headed for Kigali, joined the Moucecore team at church, it was a bit of a saga getting there but we managed! From church we went to Nakumatt where we all stocked up on those luxuries that the Rwandan equivalents just don’t live up to! (These things are hoped to keep us going for the last four weeks) We all contemplated buying Ferrero Rocher but they were £32 for TEN! Throughout the day we visited many shops such as the old Kenyan market where we all bought lots of little craft items i.e. earrings and necklaces. We dined in Shokola Lite which is an African Restaurant with western style…a great combination. From there we went to Kimironko where yet again we engaged in bartering to try and find a good deal, I am not too sure if we were all successful but I think we were all happy with our purchases. Just before heading back to Muhanga we thought we had time for a quick coffee, not that it turned out to be quick. As a result of a power cut we all sat there waiting for drinks for about hour and a half, there were benefits of free ice cream for having to wait though, was very nice too!

Murabeho

– Harry

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Week Five

Monday we spent the morning with the pineapple co-operative getting involved in hoeing a Pineapple field and then mulching it. Mulching involves covering the soil with dead weeds, banana leaves and other dried plant material to shade it from the sun and retain moisture in the soil. After the long drive back to Azizi’s from the field a few of us decided to take a walk up to Muhanga market. Big mistake. About 5 minutes after leaving Azizi’s the wind started blowing hard, which is never enjoyable on a dusty road; we decided to carry on regardless to then be pounded by heavy rain. We looked for shelter to wait it out, a gathering of locals who had done the same called us under a porch, just as we were under, it began to hail. None of us were expecting to see ice in Africa! It started to look like it wasn’t going to pass so when the hail stopped and the rain lightened we decided to make a break for it to the market. We were greeted in the market by laughter; the locals must have found it funny to see drenched Mazungu’s. The rain was a lot lighter on the walk home but the thunder was worse, it sounded as if we were being bombed, I’ve never heard anything like it. We got our oranges though so we were happy.
Tuesday we were back at the tree nursery in Munazi village to help distribute the trees we had previously been helping to pack and plant. It was a little chaotic as it wasn’t easy to get everyone to follow the numbering system we put in place. However in the end all 78 villagers that turned up out of the 220 households in the village to receive trees got their minimum requirement of trees (roughly 20 trees per household of both fruit and forestry trees.) Some also received more for personal projects or to set up businesses. The remaining villagers will receive their trees at a later date. It was very stressful but also very rewarding to be part of the distribution process to see what our hard work and the previous team’s hard work was resulting in. Then of course it was Pancake Day so in the evening after Beata’s lovely meal we made pancakes with nutella.
Wednesday we were with the pineapple cooperative again only in a different field this time continuing with hoeing and mulching. The local women who were working the field were very amused and slightly surprised to be seeing Mazungu’s at work. Although they may actually be more productive at hoeing and mulching than what we can bring to the field this process is vital to build a good relationship with the local people as they don’t expect us to be willing to get our hands dirty. In the afternoon we began to prepare our lessons on Finance, Nutrition and W.A.S.H (water, sanitation and hygiene) that we will be teaching to the villagers next week. At tea time we got to try a traditional African dish called fufu, a mixture of maize flower and water. We then had a bit of a flood in the evening due to a bust pipe in the toilet, which was a bit of a challenge to mop up without a mop but we got there.
Thursday morning everyone was back to their personal projects at the RDIS offices. Those of us that have been teaching at the school faced a new challenge as one of the classrooms had been rented out; meaning that both classes were together in one classroom. The different age levels and overcrowding of the classroom made it slightly more difficult to keep control of the class but we persevered. In the afternoon everybody decided to do their own version of exercise, some of us danced then went for a run/power walk whilst others played football with some local kids. Then for tea we all got to try a traditional goat stew. Simeon and Jordan hosted family night which consisted of blind date and a drawing game.
Friday morning Faith surprised us with a Muhanga challenge day, which involved getting pictures of certain things such as the Fatima monument and a photo with a Rwandan family in their front room as well as purchasing a stick of sugar cane and a live rabbit. It was a challenge and only one team successfully purchased a rabbit which the guard at Azizi’s then slaughtered for that night’s tea, safe to say it didn’t go very far. In the afternoon we had structured learning. Fletcher and I gave a presentation on W.A.S.H to the rest of the group followed by Esther and Lizzie’s presentation on the cycle of poverty.
Saturday morning we attended a Dowry, probably the most traditional part of a Rwandan wedding where the groom buys the bride from her family traditionally with a cow, however in modern times some families do prefer cash. Freddie our driver was about half an hour late so we were starting to worry that we would be showing up late only to find that when we got there we had a 2 hour wait before the groom finally arrived, however we were entertained by a young choir during the wait. The service involved a spokesperson from each family having a discussion about why the groom deserved the bride, at one point the brides spokesperson insisted that the bride wasn’t there due to their lateness and he should come back another time (the groom was seated amongst his family at this time.) after a while of this back and forth the groom then revealed himself to the bride’s family and they accepted him, the bride then came out of her house to meet her groom and the families exchanged gifts. Traditionally before the bride appears 3 different women would be put before the groom for him to identify if they were his bride before finally revealing her, however this tradition was skipped due to the lateness of the groom. The actual wedding service will then have been held that afternoon in the groom’s village. In the afternoon we had African dancing and drumming lessons, which involved some very interesting, unflattering costumes but it was all good fun. We decided to go out for a meal at Splendid for the evening meal.
Sunday morning some of the group attended the Kinyarwanda church service whilst some of the group opted to stay home to start their washing or spend time on other projects. The afternoon was spent similarly. In the evening Simeon and Fletcher had prepared a Murder Mystery dinner for their come dine with me evening which involved Faith killing the security guard and Sarah robbing the Azizi safe!!

-Chloe

8.Chloe handing out saplings[1]

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Week Four

Every day we step outside Azizi’s and venture off on another day’s activities, the beauty of Rwanda always astounds us , the hills are simply breath taking, and the view offers a much needed distraction from the very bumpy roads leading to the villages.

On Monday we embarked on a new challenge, we took a break from Munazi village and started work on a pineapple plantation sponsored by RDIS. Although it was a very long journey we arrived in one piece, (despite the mad driving.) When we arrived we were greeted by all the workers on the plantation; however this did take a while as there were about 40 people you had to individually shake hands and say ‘muraho’ to. After the lovely welcome we were off to work. Hoe’s intact we dug away at the weeds. The locals seemed surprised that muzungo’s (rich, white people) could actually do physical labor. Our hard work was spurred on by a local who provided the group with music from his phone, although we were putting a lot of effort into hoeing a westlife tune was also being shouted out. We finished the work quicker than planned, so we went off to another plantation ran by the same co-operative, to pick some pineapples! Guided by the workers, we all ended up picking a pineapple each which were going to be sent to RDIS’ pineapple processing unit to make yummy products such as jam and juice.

On Tuesday we returned to the much loved village of Munazi. Every time we get off the bus we are greeted by the same beautiful children, who despite how little they have, always provide us with a smile and a giggle. Whilst some continued to map out the village, others helped unload a truck of 4000 saplings. Although it was hard work in the blazing heat, it felt rewarding knowing that all the saplings were going to benefit the communities’ lives.

On Wednesday, we visited a different pineapple co-operative sponsored by RDIS. The manager of the plantation explained how long the plantation had been running and talked us through the plantation’s 5 year plan. We also gained an insight into how pineapples are grown. Again we were given the opportunity to pick some pineapples, this time we kept the produce for ourselves and they were thoroughly enjoyed later at tea!

Thursday was much the same as usual; everyone took part in their own personal projects at RDIS. In the afternoon one of the staff of Azizi’s kindly took us to the market to help us haggle on prices for some material, we all came away very satisfied with our purchases. Many of the girls were excited to have their material made into dresses by the mother’s union at RDIS. When we returned from town, some decided to go for a run, whilst others were relaxing or running around baking a cake and making decorations for Fletcher’s birthday.

On Friday it was Fletcher’s birthday! He woke up to a beautifully decorated house full of banners and balloons. As well as a cooked breakfast …. including bacon (a well deserved treat for all!) We surprised Fletcher with a day to a local town called Butarie. On route we visited Kamagen’s rock in Ruhango . We all sat on the rock whilst Fulgence told us the history of it. In Rwanda there was a man who had committed a crime and needed to be punished, the king asked his advisors what they thought a fit punishment would be for the criminal . One advisor suggested that they strip the prisoner naked and let him burn to death on a rock. The king was shocked by such an outrageous punishment, so decided it was fit for the prisoner to be freed and for the advisor to have the punishment he suggested. After ‘story time’ with Fulgence, we drove on to a pottery centre in Gatagara, we had the privilege of being shown around their complex and we were lucky enough to watch the men at work. At the end of the tour we entered the gift shop (bad mistake!!) we were in there ages most of the guys got extremely bored as the girls couldn’t decide what souvenirs to buy, eventually we left souvenirs in hand. We then travelled onto the King’s Palace in Nyanza, we were guided around by a guide called David who kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the tour. First we got told a little bit of the history of the kings in Rwanda (as now they don’t have one!) We went on to visit a traditional hut where the king lived. It was amazing inside the hut it was a huge with a big bedroom (fit for all the wives the king had!!) We then visited the modern palace, which was a modern brick house decorated with lavish pottery. We were then taken to see the ‘traditional cows’ these were the king’s cows, they were treated with high respect as even after death they were buried and not eaten. We had the privilege of trying some freshly squeezed milk from the cow, with a bit of persuasion most of the group tried the milk and we universally agreed how sweet and good it tasted. After the tour we made it into Butarie for some lunch, again no surprise the lunch took about 1 hour and 30 mins to come (but that is quick in Africa!!) . After lunch we took the time to have a look around a little souvenir shop, where it seemed like we entered into another land as there were muzungo’s everywhere. After we had shopped till we dropped, we decided to regain some energy by getting an ice cream from a local cafe in Butarie (it was lovely treat!!) We then made are way home……

On Saturday, we returned to compassion. We split off into our three groups to teach the class, some had a shock when they were faced with 65 children instead of the 20 expected…… but it is Africa, so we soon readjusted and it all went smoothly!! Every week everyone in the group finds compassion such a rewarding experience, this week the boys were busy playing football at break whilst some of the girls were lucky enough to learn a Kinya-rwanda song taught by some of the compassion teenagers. In the afternoon we relaxed some washed their clothes, whilst others were helping prepare food for ‘come dine with me’. We were all eagerly waiting from the other team from Moucecore to arrive. In the evening the other team arrived, and we all dressed up in pajamas (as that was the come dine with me theme). When we entered it was a kid’s party theme so we all had party hats, and fruit punch. The meal was delicious… burger and chips, it felt like we were back in the UK, and then for pudding we were spoilt with a delicious pineapple crumble (everyone should try this its yummy!!). After dinner we played traditional children’s party games such as; pass the parcel and musical bumps. Again it was very successful and lovely evening!!!!!

On Sunday, we were treated to a day to Lake Kivu, as we arrived all of us were shocked with the beauty of the lake, the scene was picturesque, and it made us reflect on how truly privileged we are to be such a wonderful country. We had lunch at a hotel on the lake, although most of us ended up with the wrong food, it was lovely to spend time together. We then went out on a boat ride to an island called ‘peace island’. Here we had the chance to play volleyball, explore the island, and take advantage of swimming in the fresh water. We were even lucky enough to see some local wildlife; a monkey we decided to call ‘Bruce’. It was a great afternoon to relax and spend time together. It’s hard to describe how magical it was swimming whilst those amazing views surrounded you, you felt in awe of God’s amazing work. We took a boat trip back to land where we saw some sea wildlife (aka a sea snake!!!!). Then we made our way home.

All in all this week has been very busy, starting new projects, celebrating a birthday, visiting new places and meeting up with the Moucecore team. However it seems it has been one of the best weeks yet. Every day as a team we feel so privileged to be in this amazing country, surrounded by amazing scenery and people. Let the memories continue ………….

-Esther

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Week Three

The start of a new week saw us under-way again at a respectable morning hour, driving through the distinctive Rwandan landscape. On our somewhat circuitous way to Munazi village we pass inevitably the gangs of men pushing bicycles laden with yellow jerry cans containing the local banana beer. ICS volunteers are necessarily on the wagon but we are told it is pretty rough and ready. Another landmark of the trip is when we pass a Catholic primary school where the kids always seem to be engaged in a drill that involves holding hands in a large circle. The formation is swiftly broken as we drive past on the bumpy road amid happy cries of ‘Umuzungu!’. The Rwandan education system has also precipitated every small child knowing how to say ‘How are you?’ and ‘Good-a-afternoon’ which is quite sweet but can sometimes irritate.

This week we intended to map the village to allow for ease of distribution when the saplings are ready to be freely claimed by the villagers in a few months time. Thus, with a group of spectating children in tow, we skirted the valley that marks off Munazi’s natural boundaries and made a record of the households that we came across. We subsequently used reasonably up-to-date satellite imagery from Google Maps to corroborate our findings and produce the beginnings of a map.

On Tuesday we resumed the survey, with an emphasis on working out the official borders of the village to identify which households were beneficiaries of the tree nursery. This season is perhaps erroneously known as the ‘dry season’ and although all in all it is incredibly warm, there is also a propensity for extended periods of very heavy rain. Ironically, our water was cut and the rainwater tank ran out by the evening making use of the facilities slightly impractical.

Wednesday found the intrepid mappers delivering tokens to households. Our map had made provision for new buildings, however it didn’t take into account the fact that some buildings are not inhabited or, in the case of two widows, have no land attached to plant the trees. We also found a missing section of Munazi village that had hitherto eluded us – a result of being misinformed about the village boundary. Again, we continued with the custom of eating with local hosts. As well as the compulsory dishes of rice and beans, we were also offered boiled maize on request. In our host family we made the ultimate faux pas of eating the cobs with our main course.

Thursday being the day earmarked for personal projects, we decamped to the RDIS compound for various activities. Some team members were helping the staff with website development, proposals and business strategy while others were working in the nursery school.

On Friday, Christine and Simeon delivered a session of structured learning on the subject line ‘Technology in the Developing World’. Rwandans in general seem to have a mobile craze, with coloured murals for the major networks adorning numerous roadside houses. It was interesting to investigate the more innovative ideas for mobile phone use and in a simulation the team members had to tender their own original idea. Although the effects of technology are mainly positive, there is a risk that poorer people can be disadvantaged by a ‘digital divide’.
Since Rwandans were observing ‘Heroes Day’, [dis]organised sports were dropped from the menu.

On Saturday we were able to teach at a extra-curricular school run by Compassion which was a mixed experience depending on the translation skills on offer. However, everyone seemed appreciative of our help and hopefully we can improve for next week.
In the afternoon we set off (under promising weather conditions) to a swimming pool located at a hotel couched in the hillside near Shyogwe. Although it quickly became overcast and thunder sounded close-by, the team made the most of an afternoon off with water-volleyball and general relaxation. One of the highlights of the week may have been our driver Freddie shouting ‘Umuzungu!’ at some kids as we were half-seriously contemplating returning the oft-aired descriptor.

For church on Sunday morning we visited the Kinyarwanda service atop the hill beside RDIS. In keeping with the Anglican tradition, Fletcher and Simeon donned surplice and a holy mien to deliver readings. This service seemed closer to African culture than previous experience, with enthusiastic, clapping, singing and dancing/swaying. The music was interestingly accompanied by use of the keyboard rhythm function. At three and a half hours long, the service lasted a bit more than we are accustomed with, but forewarned is forearmed. The style of preaching was particularly impassioned!
That evening saw Faith and Jordan compering the second edition of ‘Come Dine with Me’, with the theme of World Culture. Although the dishes took a long time to wash up, it was a culinary high point on which to end the week.

– Simeon

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Week Two

It is our second week in the beautiful country of Rwanda. We are all starting to miss warm showers and bacon butties but enjoying our time out here. Fletcher continues to motivate the group with his singing!

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we spent the day in a local village helping in a tree nursery, built by the previous ICS team. The village came as a complete culture shock to many of us, and helped us to understand the extent of poverty in Rwanda. When in the village, we spent most of our time in a tree nursery ran by a local lady called Theopiste, with her assistance we planted 2000 saplings.  We had our lunch each day with local families; the meal consisted of beans and rice. Some of us experienced our first time using a hole in the ground! All of us were absolutely smitten with the local children, and wherever we walk we always seem to have a fan club following us shouting ‘Umuzungu!’ All the locals we encountered were extremely friendly and welcoming.

On Thursday, we spent the day working on our on individual projects in RDIS. Some observed and assisted in the local nursery school, in order to understand what teaching is required with the intention to teach as of next week. Others assisted in the production of various business plans that RDIS required to extend their work within the communities. Thursday are now family night therefore we enjoyed playing games together. One of the games required a member from each team to be wrapped in cling film from head to toe, then waddle to the other side of the room to eat a biscuit and waddle back. Eating a biscuit proved difficult without the use of hands!

Friday morning consisted of structured learning to help us gain a better understanding into international development. In the afternoon we all took sports equipment to the local sports community centre, to our surprise it was just a basketball court! Initially a small number of local children came to play various sports with us but as the afternoon progressed the children became increasingly numerous. Some of us participated in our first Rwanda aerobics class; it was extremely enjoyable and energetic.

On Saturday, we had our first lie in of the trip, much needed and deserved. This was because it was Umuganda and therefore the compassion school we will normally help out at on Saturday was not running. We had a day filled with laundry and other household work. In the evening we went out of a meal at a local hotel. We waited over two hours for our tea, but kept ourselves entertain with various table games which had us all in hysteria! It was lovely not to have to wash up and spend time all together as a team.

Sunday evening saw our first couple take on ‘The Come Dine With Me’ themed evening. The group has been split into twos to provide the group with an exciting evening of good food, entertainment and creativity. The standard were set very high for the rest of the group, this being a completely unbiased opinion!

The week has brought us all laughter, enjoyment and a better insight into poverty and international development.

-Sarah

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Week One

Muraho (Hello)!

It so hard to believe that exactly a month ago I was working in a 900 year old church constantly complaining about how cold I was but today I am sitting in my bedroom in East Africa after a great day in the beautiful sunshine. My first week in Rwanda has been absolutely amazing! ICS Transform Team 2 arrived in Kigali, Rwanda on Sunday 13th January. We were then driven for about an hour to our accommodation in Muhanga. I was absolutely gobsmacked by the breathe-taking landscape and thrilled by the sunshine. Rwanda is full of several hills all covered in rich green plantation. The people are warm and cheerful and the weather is even more cheerful than the grey clouds we left behind in the UK.

Since arriving in Muhanga, the past four days have been spent preparing us for what is ahead. It has included cultural and language training which has been extremely beneficial in getting us acquainted with the locals. They love to see the foreigners (locally known as muzungu’s) trying to get down with the culture.

We have also had the opportunity to visit offices of the host partners RDIS (Rural Development Interdiocesan Service) and some of the projects they are involved in. For example we visit a processing plant which was an initiative of our host partner RDIS. The plant was a means of adding value to pineapples and other fruits to insure farmers got a better price for their fruits. The staff at RDIS are very thrilled to have us here and eager for us to get stuck in. We have especially formed a strong bond with our Volunteer Service Coordination called Fulgence (Notorious for his “African time” and his cool fashion sense)

 Thursday the 17th January was a trip to Kigali (the capital city) with the smaller ICS Transform team (who will be based in Moucecore, Kigali, Rwanda doing a water and sanitation project). We were invited to DfID (Department for International Development) Rwanda. The visit gave us better insight into Rwanda’s relationship to the UK and how the recent decision of the UK to cut aid to Rwanda will most likely affect the previously pleasant British-Rwanda relationship. We then proceeded to the Kigali National Genocide Museum which was extremely educational not to mention emotional for many. We learnt about the proceedings of the Rwandan genocide and the devastating consequences it had on the lives on many individuals and Rwanda as a country. We also learnt how remarkably Rwanda has recovered despite its scars. How it no longer regards ethnicity but regards all its citizens as one (An example most of the world should follow in my opinion). And how Rwanda, despite its horrible past, is making remarkable progress towards a better future for all its citizens. The experience also educated many of us of several genocides that have occurred in history namely the Holocaust, Namibian, Cambodian and Kosovan genocides.

The team has bonded extremely well. We are an extremely diverse team and we celebrate it! Most evening are spent together conversing/ playing games or snuggled up on the sofa watching movies. Most car journeys are spent half-screaming a mixture worship and pop songs led by our choir master Fletcher. I am truly enjoying my experience so far and I look forward to being a tiny part of Rwanda’s journey to a great future. I am certain however, that this experience will open an exciting new chapter in the story of my life and I am excited to find out what that chapter holds.

Mirirwe (Goodbye)

-Christine

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TEAM RWANDA 2012

In September, the very first team of 8 Tearfund ICS volunteers began work with RDIS on a variety of different projects. spent our first week building relationships within the community and having Kinyarwanda lessons. We also visited the local Compassion project to observe the different classes and really enjoyed sitting under the trees participating in the children’s lessons. We will soon be getting more involved in these classes by assisting the teachers each week. We were also able to explore the beautiful setting of RDIS with a visit to Muhanga market and a hike to Mzizi Dam. We are excited to visit local churches and have already taken part in one service so far! It must be said that the kindness and hospitality shown to us by RDIS staff has been overwhelming, and the food in particular has been outstanding!

Week 2

Week 2 began with us visiting a tree nursery in Shyogwe Diocese and learning from the local community the skills needed to create and maintain the land. Our long term aim is to create a shared piece of land for the local community which will help minimise the effects of landslides and droughts. This will also help in providing a variety of fruit and vegetables that will assist in the prevention of malnutrition. On Tuesday we cleared some land in Munazi and with the help of the local community, we began to prepare the terraces that will be used to plant the seedlings. We will be working on this land erecting shelters to protect the young trees from direct sunlight and heavy rain, as well as planting the seedlings and looking after them for a couple of weeks. Once these tasks are completed, the community will take over the maintenance of the nursery. It has been such a privilege to work alongside the locals in a project that will really make a difference. It has already made us appreciate the hard work it takes to prepare and cultivate land in extreme conditions.

Throughout the rest of the week we have continued to work on the tree nursery. Our main task was to manually transport logs from a hilled area and carry them to our tree nursery. These were trees that we helped to fell and cut into slightly smaller logs so that between two of us we could carry it! We made ingatas (the local tool made from banana leaves used to help soften the weight of the log on our heads or shoulders) to make it less painful. The walk there and back consisted of us jumping over small streams between the cultivated land of the locals – a 30 minute round trip each time! Needless to say every muscle hurts after doing this all week!

On Friday we went to Azizi life, a day in which you spend with a local family living like a Rwandan! We did more land cultivation, carried grasses on our heads, fetched water from the local water point, pounded cassava beans and made cassava bread that we ate at lunch. In the afternoon we were taught how to weave jewellery and made a lovely pair of earrings and necklaces (Christmas presents to our lucky mothers!)

On Sunday we visited a local pottery village where a lovely lady taught us how she made pots out of clay. We also met some of the children and handed out biscuits which they greatly appreciated, “they were delicious, thank you.” (said by a child called David, aged 22). It was challenging to see a way of living completely different to what we are used to back home.

Week 3

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we were back working at the tree nursery finishing the construction of the area. This included even more logging, hoeing and cultivating of the land leading the multiple blisters, sore backs and general tiredness but it was great to see it all come together. All there is left now is to wait for the seedlings to begin to sprout so that we can plant them in the soil.

On Thursday we were all working in different departments within RDIS – such as in the Mother’s Union helping with English classes, in Compassion teaching English to the local staff, in the Pineapple processing unit and in the main office.

On Friday we spent some of the morning clearing and preparing some land in the compound to plant watermelons and went to the busy local market to buy food for cooking over the weekend. In the afternoon we had the privilege of going to a small village in the countryside to meet with a family whom previous Tearfund teams have helped in the past. (They were found to be one of the most vulnerable families identified by local churches as the mother of four was raising her children on her own as her husband is in prison). The previous Tearfund Transform team had raised some money to build the lady a house and buy a small plot of land. We went with the final items; mattresses, blankets, soap and hoes. All the neighbours and church leaders turned up to welcome us, the lady was very thankful and it was wonderful knowing she wouldn’t have to sleep on the mud floor anymore.

Saturday was a glorious day; we taught different classes at Compassion in the morning on a variety of subjects ranging from Healthcare Workers to Healthy Families. The classes had between 20-40 children and were taught outdoors under the shady trees! Imale then took charge of the cooking for lunch and we feasted on a home-made Mexican delight of fajitas, guacamole and salsa that could easily have been the piece-de-resistance of any Michelin star establishment! (There were, however, a few injuries sustained during the cooking of the food but we believe it all added to the taste!) We invited some of the local staff to join us for lunch and experience something they’ve never tasted before! Naturally, they totally loved it and we received rave reviews all round. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and recharging our batteries after such a busy week.

On Sunday, we climbed the short, steep hill to Zion church and enjoyed a three and a half hour church service in Kinyarwandan! We were scheduled to take a post-Sunday lunch hike up one of the many hills (but they certainly look a lot like mountains to us) but, alas, the weather turned and the heavens opened. Instead, we created our own make-shift cricket set out of twigs and our washing line and had a game of girls vs. boys in the rain. Boys won- just so you know. (Girls comment – “no they didn’t.”)

So thankful we haven’t had any serious injuries or illnesses in the team and can’t believe we are already entering week four!!

Week Four

This week our work had changed as we are no working with 3 different local pineapple farmer’s cooperatives – both out in the field and then in training.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we met and worked out in the fields cultivating the land for them to plant pineapples. It was hard work- we’re pretty sure we’re going to be very muscular when we arrive back in the UK- and there were quite a few annoying prickly things that stuck to our clothes. We can’t emphasize how hard the locals work throughout the year for us to enjoy a tasty pineapple!

On Thursday we worked in different sectors of RDIS including teaching English to the staff, working at a nursery, working at Mother’s Union.

On Friday we went to Butare and looked around the Ethnographic Museum. It was fairly interesting- there was lots of information about the different kinds of pots that carry different kinds of things and the evolution of tools throughout the years. There was also a cool walk-in straw hut that people used to live in a while back; it was surprisingly comfortable and roomy! We also went shopping and bought quite a lot of handicrafts (which you will all get for Christmas *Note to David’s family – this is especially accurate when it comes to you!* ) and had some delicious ice-cream. Yum.

On Saturday we taught at Compassion again in the morning and we were also visited by Rachel Stevens, a Tearfund colleague who was visiting RDIS.  The highlight of this day was our participation in the YMCA World Challenge Basketball day which Andy organised. We ran lots of ball games, relay races and shooting competitions and the children seemed to love it. And we finished off with an improvised dance off- pulling out our favourite disco moves surrounded by a cheering crowd of children.

On Sunday we lead the service at Gahogo Church, an English speaking service, where David preached and Hannah did the readings. We also performed a song and did a dramatic reading of Luke 13!

Week Five

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we went back to the different pineapple cooperatives, but not to their cultivate land, but to train them on Disaster Risk Reduction strategies. As this was our first week, each of the sessions involved learning more about the problems they face, what strategies they have in place so far to combat the problems and what additional help we could provide. It was very interactive, and we had the locals working in groups to get the most information possible. We found mixed responses; some people thought the biggest threat was drought, some thought flooding but we will be working on both these aspects just in case!

Thursday morning again was working at different sectors within RDIS but the afternoon was a different matter – we were going on a retreat to Lake Kivu! This was our half-way point rest bite.

We stayed at a guesthouse with the most wonderful views of the lake and we spent Friday night settling in and playing games.

On Saturday we took a boat ride out to Napoleon Island where we saw an amazing bat colony! Our boat captain went and disturbed the bats while we watched from a safe distance; they ascended into the air in throes… a black cloud of tweeting night dwellers. It was pretty impressive. We also picked some ripe guavas off the trees which tasted delicious.

We then continued on to a tiny deserted Island called Peace Island which was beautiful. If you had to be shipwrecked on any island… pick Peace Island in Lake Kivu. We relaxed on hammocks, went swimming in the lake, played volleyball and really relaxed. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we managed to spend the morning in the sun, but as we settled down to lunch (of fish caught just a couple of hours before) the heavens opened and it poured with rain! However, nothing could take away from the most relaxing day we’ve had in a long time. We spent that evening exhausted but happy and was looking forward to Saturday!

On Saturday we had a lie in and a lazy morning just gazing out over the lakes as we ate breakfast. On our way out we called in at the Genocide Memorial Church, just a walking distance from the guesthouse we stayed in. During the genocide in 1994, over 11,400 died in the church whilst in hiding. Some of us went in there to reflect peacefully on the past, and it is amazing how the church seemed like such a place of peace and calm, despite the tragic past.

We also visited a very classy hotel and went kayaking and swimming on the lake! It was so peaceful and serene (till we arrived!). It was exhilarating and liberating; kayaking on such a large, beautiful lake feels like you’re at one with nature with not a care in the world! We then feasted on some wonderful food for lunch – complete with ice-cream- with the most awesome views of the lakes and the eagles swooping down catching fish.  The journey back home felt so long as we had the best time, however, we did stop at a beautiful, brown waterfall called Ndaba Falls. It is an impressive 100m cascade and just completed our most amazing weekend retreat.

Week 7

This week the team have entered the second stage of the Disaster Risk Reduction programme. We worked with two different co-operatives and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the communities they live in; we found that, in drought, there are lots of vulnerabilities but a few capacities that we hope the community can maximise on. A large part of this work is getting the co-operatives together to think and plan ahead as a group- we are trying to encourage the communities to be as self-sufficient as possible and to support each other.

This week a couple of us also continued our English language lessons with some of the staff here at RDIS. It’s fun to do but learning a language is hard work and a lot of things are not so straightforward in English! So far we have built on making introductions, talking about family, emotions and we are now trying to cover the basics of past, present and future! A couple of us have also been teaching the girls at Mothers’ Union how to create a good CV. This will be a very useful tool to have.

This weekend we were very privileged to have experienced more of what Rwanda has to offer. We set off on a long journey in the heavy rain (it was proper bucketing it down, cats, dogs and cows and all), stopped over night at a guest-house with quite basic amenities and then made our way to Akagera National Park. We saw lots of different animals; Impala, Buffalo, Warthog and Baboons. We also stood a few metres away from about twenty submerged Hippos (the world’s most dangerous land animal of course) and glimpsed a lonely Giraffe. By far the stand out experience, however, was coming face to face with a massive elephant that was coming down the road towards us. It lumbered down the road like the Emperor of the African Plain- owning the road and commanding immediate respect. Although most of us wanted to get closer to get better pictures our more experienced guide and driver maneuvered us out of harm’s way… or so we thought because, as we inched ahead, the elephant started moving towards us, we could see the white’s of its eyes and there was quite a bit of screaming and laughter (and a few prayers). All of a sudden another elephant appeared on the other side of our small minibus and we decided not to stick around much longer. We sped away as fast as the bumpy road would take us. It was an inspiring brush with nature. We enjoyed it very much.

Week 10

Our final week in Rwanda consisted of our debrief at Lake Kivu, finishing off some last minute work and saying our goodbyes to the wonderful people we have met.

Saying goodbye to Munazi Village

Saying goodbye to Munazi Village

We had a good time at Lake Kivu and it was helpful to reflect on our time in Rwanda and what is coming next. When we arrived at our accommodation we were once again amazed at the stunning view of the lake and green hills. We were staying in a guest house right on the edge of the lake, so it was so lovely to be able to sit and spend some time soaking in the beauty. The time was mainly spent talking about our aims of the trip and how far we have met them, handing over tasks to the next team, reflecting on our spiritual journey and giving feedback to Tearfund and DfID. We also discussed the culture shock that we may experience when we arrive back in the UK.

On Wednesday some of the team went to RDIS to finish some work on their personal projects. Some cleared out the nursery school cupboard and others worked in the office. The Youth Project Proposal was finally finished and will hopefully be sent off to potential funders very soon. We then went to Munazi village to say our goodbyes which was very moving. We firstly said goodbye to Theopiste (the lady in charge of the tree nursery) and then we made our way down to the centre of the village where all of the children usually are. It was sad saying our final goodbyes to the children and giving them some last cuddles. We also found out that one of the little boys had caught Malaria. He looked very ill, weak and didn’t have his usual happy smile. His family said that they could not afford the medication which was 10,000 RWF (£10), which was so much because they couldn’t afford health insurance. A team member gave the parents the money, which obviously they were thrilled to receive and said that they would take him to the clinic the next day.

On Thursday we had our last trip into Muhanga town and used our well practiced bartering skills to buy some last minute gifts. We then went to RDIS for a final goodbye meeting with all the staff. We shared food together and we expressed our thanks to RDIS for having us and for being so welcoming. The staff thanked us, and gave us all really nice cards, for our work over the last 10 weeks. The Bishop also spoke and expressed thanks to us for being a part of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in Rwanda. He told us that we are now citizens of Rwanda and are welcome back at any time (an offer that I am sure many of us would want to take up!) On Thursday evening we all enjoyed spending our last night together by eating around a bonfire!
On Friday morning we headed into Kigali and had our last trip to Nakumatt and the indoor market. We then went onto have lunch with the other team and then headed to the airport. It was hard to say goodbye to our Rwandan friends and I think we will all miss them very much.

We have spent 10 beautiful, exciting, challenging, confusing, exhausting and inspiring weeks in Rwanda! We arrived back in the UK after a very long journey at about 7.30am on Saturday. It has been a challenge to adapt back into the UK and feels strange to be home. I am personally missing Rwanda and the amazing team already and would love to visit in future. A huge thank you must go to everyone, in the UK and in Rwanda, that have supported us throughout our journey. Without you it wouldn’t have been such an amazing 10 weeks. We hope and pray that other teams enjoy being in Rwanda just as much as we have!

-Lizzie

4 thoughts on “International Citizen Service (ICS)

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