Hello! We are the third ICS team to work with RDIS through Tearfund. We are really excited to find out about the projects we will be involved with and to get to know the staff at RDIS and learn about the great work that they do. We will be writing a blog every week to explain exactly what volunteers get up to when working with RDIS! We hope you will enjoy reading it!
WEEK 1 – With Patrick Isingizwe
Hello! I’m Patrick!
I am very excited to join ICS Team Rwanda as a national volunteer. Together we are committed to challenge ourselves to change the world.
This blog is all about our first week.
On Friday 12th July 2013, the other national volunteers (Claude, Eric, David, Steven, Gisele, Daniel and Didier) and I went to MOUCECORE to join others from the UK (Tom, Hannah, Emilie, Matthew, James, Rob, Matt, Beth, Jenny, Katie, John and Mitch) who had arrived in Rwanda on Thursday evening.
We spent an amazing week together teaching the UK volunteers some words of Kinyarwanda language and having orientation in Kigali.
On Wednesday 18th July 2013, we headed to our different placements. My team went to Muhanga where we will work with RDIS.
In Muhanga, we have been well received by the RDIS staff who took us to visit the office of RDIS and other activities supported by them.
On Thursday, we visited the new RDIS apartments (still under construction), the Compassion project and to see the basketball pitch which was drawn out by the last ICS team.
On Friday, we visited AIDEL where they process water to distribute to the people nearby for use, a fish farm and Saint Peter College.
The weekends have been free days as we wait for Monday when we will start finding out more about what we will be doing.
I enjoyed Saturday with my team; we have amazing cooks (John and Jenny) who prepared a wonderful Saturday dinner with a green theme!
As we all believe in Jesus, Sunday has been a good day for us because went to church.
This week was all about finding our feet, getting a feel for the work that RDIS does and trying to suss out exactly where we will fit in in the grand scheme of things.
Monday was spent visiting the village of Munazi, where previous ICS teams have helped in the building and running of a tree nursery. The nursery now provides the villagers with fruit trees, which play a role in the fight against malnutrition so we will be continuing this work. Also at Munazi, we were able to meet some of the local children who seemed intrigued by our white skin and very keen to hold our hands and just generally see what white skin feels like! In the evening Beth, Mich and John made a carrot cake. At the time we couldn’t work out why it looked nothing like a cake but we later discovered that they’d accidentally used tree milk instead of flour!
On Tuesday we went to a pineapple plantation in Ruhango, which is owned and run by a co-operative that is supported by RDIS. After meeting some of the co-operative members and learning a little bit about what they do and how it works we started harvesting the pineapples. It was really exciting to be able to help in some way instead of just being helpless onlookers but it took us all a very long time to work out how to tell when a pineapple is ready for picking!
On Wednesday we paid a visit to a credit and savings training session for people from the villages of Munazi and Wimana then had a quick look around the village of Wimana, where we will also be working. We’re not sure what this will actually entail but we know that RDIS has a plan and all will soon be revealed…
On Thursday we looked around the different departments at RDIS. From now on Thursdays will be our office days so the plan is for us to spread out among the departments and help the staff with tasks such as website design and proofreading. In the afternoon we played in a football match – team ‘ICS plus RDIS staff’ beat team ‘Germans plus diocese staff’ 2-1 thanks to a couple of spectacular goals from John and Mich!
The Compassion project didn’t happen on Saturday because it was Umuganda so Friday through to Sunday was free, although this didn’t mean we sat around doing nothing!
Weekend activities included performing a song at church, a structured learning session on human trafficking, a ‘Come Dine With Me’ night (theme: Roman kids’ party!), playing table tennis at the Ahazaza Centre, going out for lunch, clearing out a store cupboard at Azizi Life and going on walks.
Next week…START ‘REAL’ WORK!
Week 3 – With Matt Thorne
Monday 29th July –Practice makes perfect
To start the week off, we were back at the Munazi tree nursery, this time to pack avocado seeds and soil into plastic bags ready for distributing to another village, Wimana. It was great to be getting down to some manual labour. However, there was a catch. The bags were made of plastic tubing which was bottomless. This meant it required a bit of skill and a lot of compacting and practice to ensure that the soil stayed in the bags. However, we later noticed the tree nursery manager scrapping some of the less well-made ones, which seemed to fall apart when picked up.
I guess practice makes perfect, I hope! It was hard work bending down, and under attack from an army of giant ants, but a few bites later, a large pile of completed seed bags lay on the ground around us. After going home for lunch, we were off again, this time to a local nursery school to see whether it would be possible for us to paint some of their classrooms, as it was still the school holidays.
As we looked around two classrooms, we could soon see that a lick of paint wouldn’t go amiss. So we were soon given the go ahead, excited about the prospect of seeing our own project through to the end, and seeing what Katie, the most artistic member of the team, might be able to come up with. In the evening, Patrick (aka Paddy) and I headed to the market to get a few things.
I took the opportunity to get a papaya for the team to try when we were back, as I was curious as to what it would be like. They weren’t as nice as I had hoped (mangos are so much better!) but I don’t think they were as bad as one team member described them: “they taste like smelly feet”.
Tuesday 30th July – Mulch to do
We headed back to the pineapple cooperative we had visited previously, except this time not to pick pineapples, but to carry mulch which was to be placed on the ground around the pineapple plants to protect them from the sun. We were given bundles of what can only be described as straw-like bamboo. We were then told to carry them across a river, and then up a steep hill and along the path to where the Matatu “Vehicle” was parked.
It was hard work, with shoulders aching afterwards, but definitely enjoyable. When else do you get to carry the equivalent of a hay bale on your shoulders? Before leaving for home, Beth got the speakers out and began dancing with the children who had surrounded us, who all seemed to love R&B. In the afternoon, we set off for town to buy paints and brushes for the two nursery classrooms. They weren’t cheap or light, but a few paint shops later, we had what we believed would be enough paint and brushes for the job.
Wednesday 31st July – Here’s one I did earlier
We left early in the morning in order to get started early at the tree nursery. We spent the
morning packing avocado seeds again, and I think we were getting better. At least, I don’t think the tree nursery manager had to empty any this time. As we worked, a small audience of children gathered to watch, and began reciting their 1 to 10 and days of the week to us.
This time Katie made a video of the work we were doing, and I managed to say the classic, “here are some I did earlier”. Oooo, yeah! In the afternoon, we got started with the classroom painting. The day was pretty blue for me from that moment onwards, literally! Paddy, Jenny and I were on using rollers to do the side wall, while Katie was on drawing duty and the others made bunting.
At RDIS “www.rdisrwanda.org”,
This is what we do among others for a Healthy Rwanda:
1. Carry a baseline survey in the community to identify what would be ideal plant to respond to the needs in the area of intervention.
2. Establishing tree nursery shade
3. We prepare well treated seeds
4. Pack plastic bags with soil, Seeds and manure
5. Watering the planted seeds that will grow into Seedlings
6. Train Community members who will receive
7. Distribute the seedlings to recipients identified by the field officer and community members with support of the local governance council in the Village, cell, sector and district AS we take part in the Joint Action Forum (JAF) of the partner District in Rwanda
8. Keep consistent follow ups and advice to people (Owner (s) of the woodlot or fruit trees or plantation) growing the trees we distributed and planted.
Join RDIS as we are growing trees for better Rwanda. A brighter future, a healthier World is yours and mine. Share with others responsibly.
These trees help provide the means for people to become more self-sufficient through:
a) Firewood and building timber
b) Sources of food — fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves
c) Livestock fodder
d) Income from these products
e) Medicines from roots, bark, leaves & seeds
f) Absorb CO2 and store carbon
h) Increase rainwater percolation & reduce erosion on slopes
i) Some species fix nitrogen — leading to better crops
You can Join us, by Supporting the tree nurseries that contribute to the mitigation of carbon use! Donations give valuable support for growing trees in Rwanda and mitigate your carbon release.
SCREEN SUPERVISOR: Katie HARDWICK
Published with permission of: Matt THORNE
Approved by: Fulgence MPAYIMANA
Publisher: LEEUREKA CORPORATION
Thursday 1st August – I need a website making!
From now on, Thursdays were to be our RDIS department day, where we were to split up and help in the various areas of RDIS. Each department had a list of tasks they wished to have fulfilled by the team, nearly all of which were “help with making or adding to a website”.
I chose the alternative, helping at the Internet Café. I met Patrick who co-runs the café. I then spent the morning sat next to him, watching as people came in with various needs from photocopies of ID cards to a registration process for a university.
After some time of talking, we came up with the idea that they would bring in some computers which they had in storage and I would start running free IT lessons on a weekly basis. In the afternoon, we were back at painting, but this time Paddy, Jenny and I were in the other classroom. My absolute highlight of the painting session was when John from RDIS turned up in his smart office clothes, and I joked about him painting the top of the wall. And he actually did!
Friday 2nd August – CHOCOLATE
We started the day with structured learning, where one team member researches a topic and teaches the rest of the team. It was Katie’s turn, and she chose to focus on mental health. It was sad to hear that many cases of depression and other mental health issues go undiagnosed, with many people not as willing to support emotional issues as physical. However, we were told of a number of success stories where informing communities about thought cycles had proved effective.
We had the afternoon off, so Paddy, John and I headed to town. Paddy got his hair cut even shorter, if you can believe it is possible, and we went to exchange money and most importantly to buy CHOCOLATE! The first chocolate I have had since arriving in Rwanda and it was just a delicious. Later, Jenny and I prepared for teaching Compassion children, on the topic of Community for lesson 1 and The Creation and Sin of Adam and Eve in lesson 2.
Saturday 3rd August – Rwanda style
We headed to Compassion, slightly nervous about how our first lessons would go. We proceeded with the lessons, and soon realised that we were relying on our interpreter to translate what we said. However, the lessons went smoothly and the children seemed to enjoy it. Although more visual aids might be a good idea for next time, I think! When we got back, I began doing my washing, Rwandan style (i.e. by hand).
My technique has much to be desired, but it is getting better, thanks to the advice of my Rwandan team mates. Paddy and I then went to town to get some last few things for his and Gisele’s Come Dine with Me. They chose an African theme, and they really kept to that well. The music was Rwandan, the food included local delicacies such as Cassava balls (which are amazing!), we wore tribal clothing including banana leaves and the meal was even served at African time, if you know what I mean. However, everyone had a great evening.
Sunday 4th August – The big KGL!
We left early in the morning and headed for Kigali to go to the Expo and also to meet up with the other ICS teams who have been working in Rwamagana and Kimironko. It was great being able to go somewhere different after being in the Muhanga area for a while. After arriving at the Expo, we began exploring. They had business stalls, craft shops and a number of large markets undercover.
It was really busy, but I couldn’t find anything that I wanted. We didn’t have to wait long before the other ICS teams began to arrive. After catching up, we were off to get ice cream! We had our priorities in order. However, soon we had to depart as our team was off for lunch to an Ethiopian restaurant. It was a great experience, and I really enjoyed dipping sour dough into a multitude of meat and vegetable dishes. Afterwards, we went the supermarket and craft market, before heading back to Muhanga.
Week 4 – with Gisele Ingabire
Monday 5th August ¾ In the morning we were to a new village with a different pineapple plantation for a different purpose, this time we were interviewing cooperative members on order to write up some case studies instead of the usual manual labour.Eventually the cooperative arrived and we sat in the shade of some trees and listen to an introduction on and brief history of the cooperative, then we split into 3 groups withFulgence, Gisele and Patrick as the translators to interview 3 of the cooperative members.Before we left we were each presented with a pineapple then we hopped back in the bus for the long drive home.After lunch we went back to the nursery school and made some encouraging progress.
Tuesday 6th August ¾ we went to Munazi for some more bag packing. The day before we’d had some heavy rain so we knew the ground would be wet.on the way to the village we stopped off at the house we visited a couple of weeks ago because the church team from Devon has now arrived and started work.it was great to meet them and see how they accomplished in few days building,and then after some minutes we moved to the tree nursery and time passed pretty quickly.Freddie came to pick us up at two o’clock and took us to nursery school for another painting session. John and Jenny were set the task of painting green bits of the first classroom’s scene and others we started on Noah’s ark. It was really encouraging to see how much progress we made because this morning we were all a bit concerned that we might not be done in time for the children to come back to school but now it’s all looking more promising. Though we did stay until almost six pm.
Wednesday 7th August ¾ As children were about to come back to school, we did the nursery school painting all day in order to accomplish the work on time; Freddie picked us up soon after eight to go and buy some more paint then we headed to our mission base and got work. In the afternoon it was basically more of the same so by the time we went home we were all understandably rather tired of painting.
Thursday 8th August ¾ we were supposed to have a trip to the office but in the morning Beth told us that the minister of labour had announced a national public holiday! Some of us were really confused but we soon discovered that it was to celebrate the last day of Ramadan and the reason they hadn’t announced the holiday earlier was that they have to wait for the moon to appear. So instead of an office morning and a painting afternoon we had a whole day off!
Friday 9th August ¾ as we had our day off last day, we decided that we should spend the whole day
painting. Freddie met us at half past eight,accompanied by Fulgence. We made more good progress but unfortunately more jobs were also created because some people turned up with blackboard and skirting board paint. Whilst we worked Joan came to visit and in the afternoon we went back for another painting session,we were really been to finish today because children come back on Monday and it would be complicated to come back at weekend so it was a pretty intense session and fortunately we managed to finish.
Saturday 10th August ¾ After every one breakfast, Beth led our structure learning session on women in Africa which was really interesting and there was agood mix of positive and negative points,which was encouraging. Next we had a team meeting and a quick discussion and prayer time about the things we have been doing so far and that we have planned for next week. In the evening we had Katie and Matt’s come dine with me and since they did decided on a safari.
Sunday 11th August ¾In the morning we went to church in Munazi,it was a half-constructed building but we found a seat right at the front so that we could sit in the shade of the tarpaulin that had been strung across part of the church. It was a really nice service even if it was quiet long and we also performed a couple of songs.After yet singing the service came to an end and we hopped back.
Week 5- Building site
(with Katie Hardwick)
On every journey that we’ve made to Munazi Village, we’ve passed by the stone foundations for a house on the verge by the track, complete with thousands of stacked mud-bricks. We once stopped by so that Fulgence could make sure that the right amount of bricks had been delivered to the plot, and he explained that the house was intended for a widow living in Munazi, who currently had only a single room for herself and her four children to share, and that a team would soon be arriving in Rwanda to begin construction work. In fact, the team – from Devon – arrived last week and the ICS volunteers decided that a few extra hands wouldn’t go amiss. We stopped by on Monday morning, and on Thursday morning to lend and hand, and soon got stuck in (not only with construction, but also the vast amounts of wet mud on site!).
Some of the team from Devon were skilled builders, and they were mostly up on the eucalyptus scaffolding, but the rest of us formed mud and/or sand chains to shift mud from the ground to those laying bricks and sand from the track to the plot for rendering. With no clue whatsoever about brick laying (or standing on the springy eucalyptus scaffolding without falling off for that matter), throwing sloppy balls of mud to the next person in a chain was a task that I could whole-heartedly get involved with, and one that did inevitably end up in a mud fight and war-painted faces. Saying that, I think that even those from Devon who knew a thing or two about building had to bite their tongues on one or two occasions – house-building in Rwanda is a very different thing, and I don’t think it’s as much of a technical art as it is in England. You simply have to trust that the Rwandans have a sense of how the bricks should be laid, and since most are involved in thebuilding of their own houses in remote villages, they must have a good deal of experience. For mud-brick houses, the mud-bricks are layered with wet mud between them, acting as cement. I was a thrower of the wet mud for the layering, and soon found myself at the front of the mud-queue, with the responsibility of throwing the mud right up to the men on the scaffolding. A very daunting task, and rightly so considering the amount of mud that went splat on the ground or on the walls because of my poor aim. Of course, I’m only including evidence of my success for you to see! It’s amazing how quickly the house is coming along. From bare-bones, to a fully constructed house with only the floors to fill and the rendering to be done. A few weeks more, and a whole lot of difference will have been made to the life of that widow and her children – I’m sure that they won’t know what to do with all the space!
We returned to the Munazi tree nursery on Tuesday morning, accompanied by our In-country Coordinator Joan (the boss!), to share with her the work that we’ve been doing, and to give her a lesson or two on packing soil and seeds into bags without bottoms. We’re slowly, very slowly, inching our way to 20,000 packed bags! We made sure to stop by Zion nursery school on the way back, to show Joan how we’d painted it up, and the children there had a great time pointing out the animals and saying their names in English. Kangaroo was certainly a new one for them!
Timetabled in for that afternoon was ‘interaction with the youth of Kavumu parish’, so we found ourselves filing onto a bench in said Kavumu parish hall, with an audience of young people – who, by the way, in Rwanda can be anything from thirteen years old to thirty-five years old! They wanted to hear from us about all sorts of things, from the unemployment rates in England to the reason that so many people don’t go to church. We debunked a fair few myths about our country: they were surprised to hear that it can be hard to find a job in England, and that there are struggling young people there. It was a funny thing to sit facing each other, learning about what it is to be a young person in Rwanda and what it is to be a young person in England – I think we corrected a lot of our mutual misunderstandings about each other. They explained to us the difficulties facing young people here in Rwanda, especially those who are orphaned and living on the streets, and shared their own vision for transforming the youth in their village. It was really encouraging to hear them speak about those things. We finished up with a prayer, a song in English and one in Kinyarwanda, and a quick (and manic!) game of football out on the parish plot.
On Wednesday morning we visited a Health centre in Gikomero that’s run by a parish there. As soon as we arrived for our tour, the staff were keen to know if anyone in the team was a qualified nurse (which none of us are), and if they would be interested in assisting the nursing team. A grand total of six nurses are employed by the centre and these nurses care for all those who might travel to the centre from surrounding villages – that’s a total of 17,000! So, the place is very short-staffed, and the parish is currently unable to afford to take on new staff. We were surprised to be informed that the centre had only recently established an electricity source, using solar power, and asked how they had managed before this – power wasn’t needed for a great deal of things, and many of the apparatuses that they used were manual ones, but the darkness was a real problem. Without power, they simply tried to care for over-night or resident patients as well as they could under the circumstances. Can’t imagine a clinic being able to operate very well in the dark! We were given a tour of the ‘smaller’ pharmacy rather than the main one – essentially a very empty room with a table that had a handful of containers on it – the maternity ward, and even some of the consultation rooms, whilst consultations were being conducted… It was quite an eye-opening experience, and we were asked to continue praying for the centre – so it would be great if you could keep it in your prayers too. Some of the work that it does is a real blessing to those who visit though – they told us that a patient must have health insurance to be treated; otherwise affording the treatment would be a very difficult thing for them. Yet, if a patient came who did not have health insurance and had no hope of affording such a thing, the centre would try their very best to treat that person anyway. So, they try to do all that they can for those who come to the Health centre, but it’s often a costly thing to do.
We spent that afternoon in Munazi, invited into the homes of single-mother families so that we could ask each a set of questions, learn about their lives and identify their needs. In the future, RDIS hopes to establish a support network for single mothers in remote – and poor – communities, and it was our task to talk to these women, and to suggest from the things that we learned how RDIS should intervene. In fact, we’ve just finished writing the proposal, so hopefully it’ll be given the go-ahead! In Rwanda, the term single mother has a very specific meaning, and it’s one which has a great deal of stigma attached to it. Here, a single mother is usually an unmarried young woman who has had a child, and who receives no support from the father of that child. Having a child under these circumstances is really frowned upon – the word ‘shame’ certainly cropped up quite a few times. That means that these women, already vulnerable and carrying the burden of being both sole-breadwinner and caring for a young child, also face ostracism from their community. I really think it’s possible for RDIS, in time, to transform the immediate circumstances of these single-mother families, but changing fixed attitudes of an entire community is another thing entirely. We’re hoping that community building, and teaching on compassion might go a little way to change this. Viateur, RDIS boss-man, told us that even if you teach an entire congregation and only five or six of those go away with a transformed perspective, then it will have been worth the effort. Great attitude.
Jenny, Gisèle and I met with Lorence, a single-mother living in a small house in Munazi. She lives there with her widowed mother, her younger brother and sister and her new-born child. Her mother works with her on a small plot of land because she is too sick to work alone, and so they earn only 14,000RWF (the equivalent of just £14!) between them for the crops that they harvest in any given four month period. Her younger brother has dropped out of school and is looking for a job and her younger sister, a parish youth worker, is the only family member who earns a fixed monthly wage. There is never enough money for the entire family to eat well, and sometimes not enough to buy porridge for the child. The problem, Lorence told us, is that there is only agricultural work available in her village, and when the harvest is over she is unable to find a second job to provide for her family. We asked her, can’t you travel outside the village? She would travel to find work, she said, if only she did not have to carry her child with her each day. Though she had no training, Lorence hoped that she could one day become a tailor. As a tailor, she knew that she could work from home in the afternoons, when it was too hot to work out on the fields and that there would be enough demand for tailoring in the village to earn a wage for herself. We agreed that this was a very good idea, and in our proposal recommended a set of training opportunities in tailoring, hand-crafts and entrepreneurship, with a budget covering the costs of a sewing-machine, materials and training. If the funding is found for a programme like this, then perhaps Lorence and other women like her will no longer struggle to find work opportunities.
Thursday and Friday passed with the usual RDIS office work, structured learning (on HIV/AIDS this time, really interesting!) and planning lessons for Compassion. Other notable things included: goat brochettes and chapattis for lunch, very tasty, and a lesson in Kinyarwanda from Fulgence. I now know useful phrases such as ‘I’m twenty years old’ and ‘Fulgence broke the mug’. Classic Fulgence.
Compassion lessons on Saturday morning – this time on ‘The Characteristics of God’ and on ‘The Rights of Children’. Getting to know my class fairly well now, and I think that they’re growing to love my strange Mzungu (white person) games! Beth returned with her fam. in the evening and we had a delicious dinner of sausage pasta bake and pineapple upside down cake – sort of upside down, sort of everywhere.
Then, an exciting team excursion to the King’s Palace on Sunday, complete with a tour around the traditional palace-hut, an introduction to the royal cows, which are regularly serenaded by the cow-herd (and VERY adorable royal calves) and a bit of an incident with a climbing-frog outside the modern brick-palace – Gisèle tried to make it move and it jumped right at John and made him scream several octaves higher than he would ordinarily talk. The royal cows were by far the best part – I would have loved to have heard the song that the cow-heard sung translated, but apparently they’re so old that the Kinyarwanda is difficult to understand. I think that the boys liked them best for a different reason – I over-heard them keenly discussing buying/stealing one so that they could barbecue it, for a royal dinner at Azizi house. Very bad.
In the evening, we went to our first Rwandan naming ceremony. It was for Gisèle’s newborn nephew… Everyone who was invited had to choose two names (one Rwandan, one English/French) which they stood up during the ceremony to suggest to the parents. Though the parents have usually chosen a name themselves, all the other suggested names go into a book for the child to see when he/she is old enough. I suggested Kaze (welcome) and Thomas after my brother, and those will now be written in the naming book. So one day Rugwiro Alain Thierry (the baby’s actual name, and Rugwiro means ‘kindness’) will look in his book and see all of the names that were suggested for him, including Boris and ‘small child’ – a name suggested by one of the children there, very funny. It was lovely to be there, and so much fun to think up names!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our week!
RDIS Blog Week 6, 19th – 25th August – Andrew Michelmore
On Monday morning the ICS team, along with Beth’s family as guests, went to the Munazi tree nursery again. Previously we had been packing bags with soil and avocado seeds, but for the first time today we were packing much smaller bags for passion fruit seeds. These smaller bags were much easier to pack so what with the extra people working, the greater reluctance of these smaller bags to fall apart just when they were nearly finished, and a competitive edge brought in by the visiting Adams family, we made rapid progress. Despite the clear progress being made, some members of the team, me included, find it difficult to concentrate on a single task for several hours so we tried our hand at catching a young goat. It turns out this is a much more difficult task than we’d imagined, and even with three of us working together to capture a single goat none of us managed to even touch it.
In the afternoon we visited a village in which the people collect clay from the valley bottom and make pots for a living with a large communal village kiln. A local woman showed us the how to shape a small pot with her hands from a lump of clay. She was clearly very well practiced and made look easy a process that I’m sure any of us would have found impossible. However, what I found even more interesting about the place was that the people there had their own way of living that was individual to just their tiny region. The government had provided the people of the village with more permanent housing, but all the doors and windows had been considered an excess and had been sold. Also the locals have their own dialect of Kinyarwandan that even the Rwandan members of our group couldn’t understand. I got the impression that very few people ever visit the village and the children especially seemed delighted to meet us.
In the evening Beth’s parents, Mark and Helen, cooked dinner for all eleven of us – lasagne followed by chocolate and banana bread and butter pudding. I have enjoyed the Rwandan cuisine here over the past five weeks but it was a very welcome reminder of just how good European the food can be too.
On the Tuesday morning Beth’s family left for Lake Kivu, Gisele went for her university graduation day and the rest of us all went in to the RDIS offices. Once there Matt, Paddy, Katie and Jenny wrote up some proposals for how to go about solving the issues we’ve found among the single mothers in rural areas, while John and I went to the pineapple processing unit to turn whole pineapples into jam and juice.
In the afternoon we visited a savings and credit co-operative, whose aim it is to improve the long term welfare and living conditions of its members. Each member contributes a small amount of money monthly and then the co-operative is able to grant loans to members who come across unexpected costs or opportunities, such as the wedding of a child. They also raise money by offering their services as a manual labour force and help one another by providing labour when they need it. One member had a roof built on her house by the co-operative and therefore did not have to take time off work and pay for labour. The profits they make also go back to the long term welfare of the members; currently this includes buying a piglet for each member.
On Wednesday Matt and Paddy continued writing the single mothers proposals, including further details on the finances and…. Meanwhile John and I went back to the pineapple processing plant for a second day of producing jam and juice, and Jenny and Katie went to the nursery school we had previously been painting in to teach the youngest class of children there about colours and numbers. Having finished at the pineapple processing plant, John and I also went to the nursery where we amused the children who had finished all the planned activities by teaching them how to make a colourful pair of spectacles out of pipe cleaners. I’m not sure how impressed the teacher was with this as an activity but the children loved it!
On Thursday the whole team returned to the RDIS offices, this time to put labels on the pots of pineapple jam and bottles of pineapple juice. We had a volleyball match planned for the afternoon, but having arrived at the court it transpired that no one had thought to bring a net. Oops! We ended up playing a football match instead with some locals. It always seems very easy to find volunteers here when more people are needed to play a game of football.
On Friday our in country co-ordinator, Joan, and a man called Iain from the ICS hub in England came to see how we were getting on. We took them to the Munazi tree nursery where we had finished packing bags and all that remained to do was to move all the bags into lines onto the soil carefully voided of weeds under the shelters. Having done a full morning’s work all the bags were in place and now just need time and a little care to grow. It’s possible that we will not be needed back at the tree nursery again and the next time work will be done there by an ICS team, it will be when the next team go to start distributing the trees to the people in Wimana village.
Saturday was the day on whichTom, our landlord and owner of the charity Azizi life, had the traditional Rwandan ceremony where he must ask his bride-to-be’s father if he can have her hand in marriage and then barter for the dowry price. We left early to go and have breakfast at the African Bagel Co-op, a café with a very American feel to it. The venue for the ceremony was much further away than we had expected and we were already running behind time. This meant we were all very nervous arriving half an hour late, but fortunately everyone else was running on “African time” also so we turned up along with the majority of the other guests. The ceremony itself was very amusing; the whole thing is a bit of a pantomime, with jokes such as the wrong sister being led out as the bride first and having to be returned in exchange for the one Tom wanted.
Every fourth Sunday all the local churches gather for a joint church service which we attended this week. We weren’t sure what to expect other than a normal church service in Kinyarwandan and the testimony, reading and two songs we had been asked to prepare ourselves. Since it was a clear sunny day the service was conducted outside, mostly under the shade of some trees. Each church had brought its choir and each choir seemed to have prepared something, along with members of each church having prepared readings and short talks. I missed much of what went on due to the language barrier but there was a lot of singing and worshiping and dancing and Matt delivered a testimony translated by Fulgence and Katie read some passages. When we performed our songs I was presented with a microphone to hold between myself and John; for the sake of the audience I subtly switched it off before we started singing. After three hours of this pleasant but lengthy service we noticed there still hadn’t been a sermon and there were no signs of anything stopping soon so we slipped off to get some lunch. We have since been informed that the plan was to continue for a further four hours!
In the evening Jenny and John cooked a three course meal for us and presented us with a murder mystery to solve. Beth, the murdered performer’s singing coach did it, but only Matt, the professional assassin having a weekend off, managed to work it out, which statistically speaking is the number of people you’d expect if everyone guessed blindly, so Matt and Beth were both declared winners.
Week 7 – With Beth Adams
After a lovely few weeks with my parents, I’m pleased to be back with the team and enjoying getting stuck back into work! This week we have had power cuts every night…we are really starting to get used to the difficulties of living in Rwanda and learning to fully charge the laptop during the day and then enjoy devotions and film nights in the dark!
On Monday, the team went to the fruit-processing unit to help with the final stages of the jam making such as sticking labels on the pots. Everyone was very pleased when tea break time came and pineapple jam and bread was presented as a snack! We definitely want to help there again! This afternoon and Tuesday afternoon, we spent making posters for the nursery school to finish off it’s transformation into a set of bright and interesting classrooms for the children to learn in.
The fruit-processing unit is currently undergoing some changes to expand it and allow more delicious products to be made there. Tuesday morning was spent helping with the building which meant that half of the group fetched water from a water hole which looked a lot like a pond while the other half tried to make the floors flat enough to be concreted. Sometimes Katie and I felt like we weren’t doing the best job due to our tools being repeatedly taken away but we were reassured at the end that we had been of some help! Maddie came to visit us for lunch; she is a new Tearfund employee and will be supporting all of the teams under Joan. It was especially nice to see her as she has helped out previously with teams and was involved in the recruitment and training of the national volunteers in our group!
We continued with the building theme on Wednesday, heading to Gatenzi to help build their church. The boys strolled off once again to collect water for the cement while the girls made a brick chain so that the builders didn’t have to get off the wall every time they wanted more bricks.
Thursday was spent in the office helping with proof reading, training creation and website design. Our individual projects in the office are starting to come together now as the weeks draw to a close. We also attended Gisele’s graduation party on Thursday afternoon, a party in the UK is very different to a party in Rwanda but we had a lovely time with a meal, soda and even cake!
We had a very exciting day on Friday due to a small termite problem in our bathrooms. After a really interesting structured learning session by Matt, we had to gather up our belongings and move out of the house for the night to Mater Dei, a guesthouse a few houses along from our own. The showers were a dream so it wasn’t too annoying but we still missed our own beds!
On Saturday, the team had their first experience of umuganda – a nationwide morning of community work – hard graft but a good experience! Some of the team even had blisters on their fingers to show how hard they had been working…or maybe just how soft their hands are?
We can’t believe we are already in week 8, time is going by so fast!
A week of training and teaching 2nd-8th September, with John Fernandes
On Monday, Jenny, Giselle and I having prepared lessons on numbers and the alphabet set out for what we hoped to be a successful venture. The nursery school children were well versed in the alphabet from ‘A through K’ and from ‘U through Z’. Jenny and I took it upon ourselves to right this wrong and teach them the middle portion of the alphabet. After 40 minutes of teaching them ‘L, M, and N’ using various methods and them still reciting the letter ‘U’ we decided it was time for break. After much ‘football’ and kids throwing Frisbees at each other’s heads it was time again to ingrain in them the letter M, as we felt most progress had been made with this letter, but it was to no avail. Giselle, in typical Giselle style,taught by herself and had all the children nicely controlled, reciting their numbers with utmost ease. Perhaps the teacher training she received at university helped, or maybe it was because she spoke the local language.
Matt, Mich and Paddy went to train a savings and credit cooperative in business management, having prepared the training in a grand total of 1 hour. Part way through the training, Fulgence had another one of his classic moments stating that due to his mind reading ability he could tell that some of the co-op members were asleep. Back to the drawing board.Maybe tomorrow would be a better day.
Meanwhile, Beth and Katie, ready to get down to some office work found there was no work for them there, and so proceeded to plan for Tuesdays training events. How thoughtful.
The afternoon was spent by all preparing for Tuesday afternoons training in Wimana village. Jenny, Giselle and I made a healthy eating pyramid for our nutrition training; Beth, Katie and Paddy prepared a drama for their water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) training; and Matt, Mich and Fulgence went out to buy supplies for the tippy tap training.
In the evening Mich and Beth had prepared a treasure hunt for the group, girls vs. boys.Mich prepared clues for the girls and Beth clues for the boys, this way everyone could be involved. It started off pretty frantic. The girls got a lead on us straight away, and increased the gap while we were stuck on what at the time seemed like an illogical, unreasonable clue, and after having not showered for a day or two due to water problems some of us resigned ourselves to showering. Fortunately the girls gave us hints as to where the next clue was hidden, and it turns out, the clue was very clever and cryptic, well done you. We were unable to bring back the deficit and the girls found the chocolate hidden in the freezer, and graciously shared it with everyone. It turns out pity chocolate tastes every bit as good as regular chocolate.
Tuesday was a better day for all involved. Jenny, Giselle and I had a much more productive day teaching at the nursery, after a hectic day yon Monday. We decided to let the children just draw a picture before deciding that we should actually teach them some numbers. Giselle was busy doing her Giselle thing, being good at teaching. Katie and Beth didn’t waste their time with things like waking up and getting the minibus to the office, they were busy preparing for that afternoon’s training. And the business management training went a lot smoother.
In the afternoon we travelled to Wimana village, about 15 minutes, as we arrived it started to rain, and the locals after having set up mats and chairs outside for us had to vacate and move everything in to a nearby house. Unfortunately this meant that tippy tap training had to be suspended until the rain stopped. The villagers were split into two groups and one for WASH and one for nutrition training. 30 minutes later after the rain stopped and the training finished, everyone joined back together and Mich and Matt lead the tippy tap training.
Wednesday was a bit of a surprise for us all, after the near 2 and a half drive, including a road block we arrived at a vocational training centre in Vunga village. The school manager was very passionate about his job and was glad for our visit. We were taken on a tour of the school, which at first seemed like an average sized school, but turned out to include numerous acres of farm land which was used to teach some of the students, rather impressive. After the tour we were taken to the school hall where the students lead a couple of Rwandan songs for our entertainment and subsequently were allowed to ask us questions about our visit to Rwanda or what England is like. After this dinner was served, which included triple carbs, rice, pasta and chips, beans, assorted veg and much to our surprise some chicken – after 8 weeks of no chicken it was a welcome sight, if not such a welcome taste. We departed soon after lunch.
Thursday was a typical Thursday, office work in the morning, for Mich, Beth and myself doing typical office things, proof reading and label designing for the pineapple processing unit. Matt and Katie were at the nursery teaching Components of the Evironment. Giselle was Ill and Jenny stayed behind to keep Giselle company. The afternoon was spent planning for our compassion lessons on Saturday. In the evening Matt received an exciting phone call from the IT café he has been working at, saying that some students were able to attend the computer lessons Matt had been preparing, the following morning. We had brochette Wednesday on a Thursday.
On Friday morning Matt and paddy went to the MyTech IT café to teach the students about Microsoft word and excel. More compassion preparation was done in the afternoon, alongside some machete buying and sunbathing, all in all a very successful day.
Saturday morning was spent teaching the children at compassion and the afternoon was spent relaxing by most, Beth and Mich spent the afternoon preparing for their come dine with me. Sticking with tradition, we were told the theme was going to be superheroes, and we could choose existing heroes or make up our own. Naturally this theme announcement was met by typical group enthusiasm.In the photo: from the left, Paddy as A Pirate?? Jenny as The Iron Lady, me as Thunder Leopard, Mich as Blue Man, Beth as Tropical Glitter Girl, Katie as Iron Man and of course Matt as African Bird Man. Obviously Jenny was Margaret Thatcher.
On Sunday, we visited Zion church, we performed the standard two songs and Mich gave his testimony, after 2 hours of service and a lot of dancing it was 12 o’clock and Fulgence suggested that the sermon hadn’t even begun yet and was likely to last over an hour. All in Kinyarwanda. So we departed. It was Giselle and Paddy’s turn to cook come dine with me, there was no theme announcement, but we presumed it was going to be another African theme, fortunately this time, there was some entertainment in the form of a traditional Rwandan dancing lesson hosted by Paddy and Giselle. Against all expectation I was enthusiastic about the idea. Fortunately for me there is only video evidence of Mich and myself being backing dancers for Giselle and no photo evidence for me to upload here. Phew.