A Proud Moment

Today 19th May was a proud moment for VRUK and GIFO our Rwandan NGO.

A meeting was held at Kibuye, a couple hours boat ride from the Village. With the fourteen new GIFO board members present, the progress made will enable GIFO to become a fully registered NGO. Now we will be able to work in this sector of Rwanda with more certainty to progress income generation projects. 

Working alongside Theo, our Rwandan coordinator, great strides have been made today. With opportunities for the board members to share their ideas for income generation projects and improvements to basic facilities in their sector, everyone played their part. Margo and Theo hope to complete the  final registration of GIFo at the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) on the 4th June.

Following the meeting in the beautiful and hospitable Home St Jean, we all shared a buffet lunch. With the royal wedding on tv in the background, the board members went home with much to reflect on.

 

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The new GIFo Board

Kigali Life

Three days in Kigali is wonderful again. Yesterday after admin tasks like money and SIM card purchase I attended the Kigali Institute of Science & Technology to sit in on a couple of sessions of a week long conference for graduates. The purpose was  to provide knowledge and skills to set up new entrepreneurial businesses, very interesting. One of the conference speakers was our long term friend Ken Stauffer from the US, along with colleagues from the US and Cambridge. Joining and getting to know them for a 6.30 breakfast at Hotel Mille Colline was good to understand each of their backgrounds.

All great connections for our VRUK

Chris

 Meeting Ken at Hotel Mille Colline

Meeting Ken at Hotel Mille Colline

Back to Rwanda

Two days ... and we are on our way again. Preparation and packing takes time to organise. Watch our Blog over the next three weeks ... 

Increasing Momentum

Having been home for only two days, I am still re-adjusting. It's like waking from a dream. But I wouldn't have missed this opportunity to visit the Village Rwanda UK project for the world....

Before I left the village, I had a final tour of the almost completed school building.  

 The outside is being plastered

The outside is being plastered

 Stone for the floor being prepared

Stone for the floor being prepared

 Cement, delivered by boat, carried uphill from the lake shore.

Cement, delivered by boat, carried uphill from the lake shore.

Whilst work goes on at the school, life goes on at the guesthouse.

 

Wednesday is market day, so some of us went to get the weeks' supplies. Taking the market boat to Moganero, we met people from the whole area with produce to sell and time to catch up with friends and the weeks events. 

 Cassava 

Cassava 

 Pineapples

Pineapples

 And the fruits of our labours stored back at the guesthouse 

And the fruits of our labours stored back at the guesthouse 

 After the meal, someone has to do the washing up

After the meal, someone has to do the washing up

 While others shell the nuts 

While others shell the nuts 

But the best part of the week was the Parents' Meeting at 7am on my last morning in the village. Around 50 mothers (some nursing babies) and villagers met in the community room of the new school building, perched on piles of sand or stones, to hear the plans for education, health and hygiene and small business enterprises. They were eager to know what was planned and how they could be involved. 

 

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The meeting ended with an air of great anticipation. And I left for home, feeling privileged to have been part of it all.  

There is still a great deal to do in Gadundwe, but the project has increasing momentum. People in surrounding villages are wanting to know how they can benefit from the changes. The officials from the Sector want to visit to see for themselves.

Tricia, there for another 2 weeks, is really hoping to be able help Gabriel, our teacher, move from the temporary classroom in the church to the new school building before she leaves. 

The story continues.....  

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Momentum - part 1

After Chris retuned home, the week has been full of even more activity and happenings. 

 Sunday: Boat to Gasundwe from the nearest road 

Sunday: Boat to Gasundwe from the nearest road 

 Arrived for the long walk up to the village

Arrived for the long walk up to the village

 Monday: Election of local representatives so no school. Teacher training opportunity and making learning resources with Gaudence our assistant teacher. 

Monday: Election of local representatives so no school. Teacher training opportunity and making learning resources with Gaudence our assistant teacher. 

 Visit to the school building to check on progress. Doors and windows being fitted and blackboards in place.  

Visit to the school building to check on progress. Doors and windows being fitted and blackboards in place.  

 Even another torrential storm couldn't hold up the work.  

Even another torrential storm couldn't hold up the work.  

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Tuesday: I walked with Theogene to Viro, the local primary school, an hour away from Gasundwe. It is a walk the primary age village children do every day. 

 

 The path needs to be upgraded so motos can drive to the village more safely. For now, the 30 minute boat trip is the easiest route to the nearest health facilities and market.  

The path needs to be upgraded so motos can drive to the village more safely. For now, the 30 minute boat trip is the easiest route to the nearest health facilities and market.  

 I met some of the teachers but many had been called away to a meeting at the Sector Office.  

I met some of the teachers but many had been called away to a meeting at the Sector Office.  

 On the way back, Theogene showed me the main water supply for the whole area, especially in the dry season when other sources dry up. It is a long walk for the Gasundwe villagers. Piped water is urgent for the health of the village. So large international NGOs like Water Aid need to be approached. 

On the way back, Theogene showed me the main water supply for the whole area, especially in the dry season when other sources dry up. It is a long walk for the Gasundwe villagers. Piped water is urgent for the health of the village. So large international NGOs like Water Aid need to be approached. 

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 Everyone was hungry and ready for the evening meal of beans, rice, greens, fried bananas and tiny lake fish called sambaza. 

Everyone was hungry and ready for the evening meal of beans, rice, greens, fried bananas and tiny lake fish called sambaza. 

 There is now a shop in the village. Alphonse and his assistant, Silas, make amandazi (very popular snacks - solid doughnuts without sugar) to sell in his shop. 

There is now a shop in the village. Alphonse and his assistant, Silas, make amandazi (very popular snacks - solid doughnuts without sugar) to sell in his shop. 

All for now as the Internet connection has been really poor. There is no momentum in this afternoons Internet connection! If the blog is a muddle, please be understanding. Part 2 will come when I have stronger wifi.  

I fly home tonight, a wiser, but tired traveller

Best wishes  

Margo Margaret Marigarita xx

Kigali Life

After a few days experiencing capital life, our confidence in exploring the city has grown. Riding the motos to get from place to place has become easier. Chris departs for home tonight, whilst Margo stays on for another week to continue her work with Tricia in Gasundwe on the school project.

Today, after 8 hours of heavy overnight rain, it looks like the long rainy season might have arrived early. This will be good preparation for Chris's return to Bollington.

Kigali has been a week of adventure, education and opportunity.

We had the chance to meet up with connections Margo made in 2012. Yesterday we were welcomed into her former landlord's home and greeted with a special cake ....

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Visiting the Genocide Memorial for the second time brought home the reality of why we need to be understanding of everyone's different lives and stories they have to share.

Rwanda is an amazing country to have recovered so well from such a tragic past. As human beings we would understand the need for revenge. But the government and the people have made a decision to forgive the perpetrators and live together as Rwandans. 

Best wishes to all our followers

Chris and Margo

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Tourism & Tea

Earlier this week we were in the Nyungwe National Park in southern Rwanda. It is a huge area of protected rainforest containing 13 species of apes and 300 species of birds. We 'pushed the boat out' and had a couple of nights of luxury at the Forest Lodge Hotel, set in the midst of a tea plantation on the edge of the forest. In addition to a canopy walk 50 metres above the rainforest, our guide was able to pick out deadly tree snakes and a selection of large colourful birds. Unfortunately, the apes were elsewhere at that time. 

 Man twitchers United

Man twitchers United

Later, we had a tour of the Gisakura tea processing factory. Seeing the process from bush to cup was fascinating. 

 View from the tea lodge guesthouse

View from the tea lodge guesthouse

From there, we returned to Butare through the coffee growing area. Both tea and coffee are Rwanda's main exports.  Chris couldn't resist on stocking up on a good supply of coffee beans to bring home. 

On our travels, we have noticed an increase in private vehicles and petrol stations since 2012. The roads are definitely busier too. Driving schools are now in evidence. 

 

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Back in Kigali, we have been touring book shops and the national library for Early Years story books in Kinyarwanda. Happily these are in the production pipeline but not, unfortunately, available for a few months. 

Chris will be home on Saturday, while I go back to Gasundwe and the nursery school for a further week.  

Thank you for following us, please share

Chris & Margo

 

Nursery School Visits

After leaving Gasundwe village, we met up with VSO friend Roos in Butare, the former capital of Rwanda. The first missionaries to Rwanda came here and established the largest Roman Catholic Church in nearby Save. Rwanda's best performing Teacher Training College for primary teachers stands on the same site. With Roos, we visited the teachers' resource making centre, the library and different classes to see in practice what Early Years teachers are learning..

 Interactive learning, but formal layout

Interactive learning, but formal layout

Afterwards, travelling by moto, we visited two nearby nursery schools and observed lessons by both experienced and student teachers. Seeing education in action, the provision of resources and facilities will be very helpful in establishing the Rwandan Early Years curriculum in Gasundwe.

 Interactive learning, visual resources and child friendly layout

Interactive learning, visual resources and child friendly layout

We now have plenty of ideas to share with Gabriel, our Gasundwe teacher. Next week we can make progress together making teaching resources on rice sacks and planning interactive lessons. 

Margo

Leaving Gasundwe behind for the time being

Saying farewell on the lake edge to the lovely people we met was emotional. However Margo & Tricia return in two weeks time to continue their work with the teachers. Now Margo & Chris head from Kibuye to Kigali, then to the very south to visit Butare, which is a university town, where we will be meet Roos a Dutch girl, who has been here 3 years working in Nursery schools and has produced the new curriculum for Nursery schools. We will also meet Theogene, the student from Gasundwe, who helped us so much as a translator and imparted so much knowledge to us. 

Chris & Margo are then off to Nyungwe Forest to stay in a lodge for a couple of nights. Nyungwe forest is where the largest group of apes & chimps in the world live.

 Children enjoying new activities

 

 

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Life in a Day Of

Thursday -  morning spent investigating other natural water spring sources with the Water Technician to try an connect to the village, as the mains connection may take more time and money. This involved hiking around the hills - good exercise in 30 degrees. 

After another delicious Rwandan lunch including freshly butchered chicken, Tricia, Gabriel our teacher, Diogen a university student, who speaks good English and Chris walked an hour to the next village to an important District Leaders meeting. Held in the woods, it was attended by senior leaders and 60 locals rather like our Parish Council meetings (see photo). The leaders outlined the new land registry system being adopted so important in a small country the size of Wales with 12 million population. We were given a platform too with our interpreter to outline our school and community centre to gain local support and volunteers to help make it happen.

The evening meeting with our builder Fabien confirmed our costs to complete our building.

Margaret spent the day showing villagers how to make jigsaws and play dominos whilst sorting through the teaching resource cupboards - a task more difficult than it sounds.

 District Meeting - Important issues presented and discussed

District Meeting - Important issues presented and discussed

 Lunch - simply delicious   Margo, Chris & Tricia

Lunch - simply delicious 

Margo, Chris & Tricia

Gasundwe Work

With intermittent Wifi here in Gasundwe we have been off the 'Grid' for a few days.  

So much to convey in terms of activity, the buzzy visit to the market for supplies which included mattresses, fish, veg, & fruit. The legistics of six of us shopping in a colourful chaotic market would make a wonderful painting. The trip by boat was an experience to be shared only on our return. We have met wonderful people and great friendships established. Margo spent a morning working with Gabriel the teacher with over 80 children in the old school hall, whilst Tricia & Chris had a tour of the village. Today Thursday, Chris & Alexis (our project manager) are planning the financials of completing the new nursery school, very exciting and so much needed to accommodate the eventual 100 children.

Moving On

First task of the day tackling Nyabugogo Bus Station on going back to school day. Mayhem like you've never seen before. despite having tickets pre-paid, students come first along with their belongings, mattresses etc.

Looking like an impossible task Tricia successfully negotiated our money back and a taxi to Kibuye, a 2 hour drive for about £40, not a bad deal. What relief watching the stunning scenery over the mountains. 

 Chris, Margo & Tricia

Chris, Margo & Tricia

Day One Planning

Met up with Tricia at our lovely guesthouse Beausejour. A planning session for our next 4 days in Gasundwe followed by Chris on missions to the bank, the mobile phone shop for Rwandan SIMs and to design and print business cards for Tricia - busier than his proper job. Today Monday we hopefully catch our Express bus to Kibuye on Lake Kivu en- route to Gasundwe - however being 'Heroes Day' here and the first day of school after Christmas, the roads & buses will be manic.

 Regards Chris, Margo  & Tricia

Regards Chris, Margo  & Tricia