Getting ready to go!
A lot has happened in Gasundwe over the last 12 months and Darryl and I are heading out there shortly to see for ourselves. VRUK trustees visit each year to catch up on developments, meet up with key people and find out directly about ongoing progress and some of the continuing challenges our friends face. Last time Darryl and I visited, this time last year, we saw the newly built Children's Centre which was wonderful and the building has been in continuous use since then. This year, we will be checking on the Children's Centre again but also inspecting the new village boat! We will have time to discuss with the cooperative their operational plans for the boat as well as meeting with the women's cooperative to discuss income generation and GiFo (our partner, local NGO) to undertake some joint development planning. Fortunately, we have Theogene to translate as our Kinyarwanda is shamefully inadequate! We are also hoping to work with some larger, international NGOs on common areas of interest such as water supply and early years education as well as ensuring we continue to comply with the expectations of the Rwandan government. Quite a tall order but when the work part of our trip is complete, we'll become tourists. Rwanda is a beautiful country and a fascinating one to visit.
So, we're packed and have started on the antimalarials. Although Darryl and I lived in Rwanda for 15 months, I had forgotten that kick to your insides about 30 minutes after taking them but ......I really don't want to catch malaria and mosquitoes just love me! Flight is really early tomorrow......up at 3.45 and next time blog will be from Rwanda!
We are here! (Thursday 25th May)
All worked to plan. We stayed 2 nights at the Auberge Beausejour in Kigali before heading off to Gasundwe via Kibuye. We have to travel light, personal possessions at a minimum as we are travelling by bus and we have a large bag of supplies to take out there as well as picking up some essential supplies (toilet rolls, bottled water, coffee....) and other foodstuffs it is difficult to get hold of in the village. Finally we are ready and head off at 16.10, in the new village boat with little time to spare. We arrive in twilight but the trip was beautiful, with views across Lake Kivu to Idjwi island and the DRC. It's great to be back!
Our late arrival, but fortunately plenty of assistance to get our stuff up the hill!
We start work! (Friday 26th to Monday 29th May)
Lots to do in our first trip of just 4 days and the first day is spent doing a lot of talking to plan who to meet when and get ourselves ready for a joint GiFo/VRUK workshop. GiFo is our local NGO partner and we used the day to get to know each other better and find out more about each other's organisation before identifying the challenges to progress, our priorities for development and how we might address these. The main local priorities are,
- to bring electricity to the village,
- to improve access to clean water,
- to develop a stronger GiFo,
to improve communications.
There were others such as ensuring more income generation projects but these were the big ones. We agreed that we would work closely together on some of the possible ways forward once GiFo and VRUK have had a chance to consider the outcomes in detail.
Some fun to start!
Pastor Kanazawa talking about the priorities for development and GiFo.
Stephanie, Gaudence, Pastor Kaneza, Elise, Versace and Alphonse looking very serious. At times, the work was hard!
On Sunday Darryl and I go to church. We can't understand the sermons in Kinyarwanda but the singing, is sublime. A small crèche is set up and the children wander in and out, rarely causing problems unless hungry.
The women's choir. Allelujah!
We spend the remainder of our first trip completing a workshop report which Theo kindly translates into Kinyarwanda to share with members of GiFo and the villagers.
Wednesday 31st May to 3rd June
Our second trip to Gasundwe started with a boat ride from Mugonero. While we wait, we watch the loading and unloading of animals to and from the market, so different from loooking at rows of trays of meat in the supermarket! A pig is particularly reluctant to board, but he gets a rough heave ho and with a high pitched scream, he's in and bound for someone's dinner! Once back, we catch up with Theogene and discuss developments for the future.
The following day we watch as 47 children are fed their porridge. This happens twice daily as there is another lot of children in the afternoon. Gabriel has told us about 10 children locally who have been identified as malnourished by Stephanie and Routhe, the local health workers. Six of these are at the nursery and 4 are still too young to attend.
The stickers are on their foreheads because that's where they like them! They have been good!
So the porridge is helping but there are still problems and Stephanie and Routhe have some suggestions. They propose a 7 day theoretical and practical training programme for all the families in the village. Everyone is involved to avoid stigma and everyone will benefit but particularly those families with malnourished children. The focus will be on having a varied diet and making low cost, nourishing meals. Here they are with Gabriel and Darryl checking on some rather meagre and basic medical supplies, with Atanase, the watchman in the background. The village really needs a medical post but Stephanie and Routhe do as much as they can as trained volunteers.
Darryl and I are invited to a Parents meeting. What is wrong we ask and we're told that the parents want to thank VRUK! It is singularly humbling to be thanked individually by over 30 parents, most of whom live on less than a dollar a day.....they thank us for enabling their children to go to school, for helping them to grow strong and for helping them be healthy. The thanks are for everyone who has helped and donated of course but we are the ones listening and we are deeply moved! I explain that I will speak because Darryl's heart is touched. I tell them that all our children are blessings for everyone, all over the world they are the future. There are gifts, a photo, peace baskets and a rooster, all wrapped up!
It's a great honour.
Darryl tells everyone that I'm not sure which end to hold! He's right...
Darryl, Mamma, Jocelyn, Gabriel, me and Theo!
We also managed to meet the Boat Management Committee, (photo above), the people with oversight of the boats use and care. Gifo will own the boat and will lease it to the Women's Cooperative so there was a great deal to talk through.....the appointment of the captain and other staff, security, insurance, operating permits etc. Operations will commence quite soon.
We depart for Kigali and time to think, discuss and do some essential administration jobs before taking a holiday! On each trip we learn more, but with each trip we see progress. We'll be back.