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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 07 Feb 2008

Location: Nyamata, Rwanda

MapThursday, Feb 7th,

What an amazing day! We were picked up this morning by World Vision staff and taken to the National Office. Our host, Edward, was standing in for the director who was out in the western part of the country evaluating what WV’s role would be in the aftermath of the earthquake from last week. Edward gave us an overview of what WV is doing here in Rwanda, which was impressive to say the least. After warning MJ what a horrible bumpy road it was out to Nyamata, we left the city and cruised out on a freshly paved road all of the way to the village. The road was lined by brick ditches and freshly painted white lines. Because the building of the straight road had caused many of the houses to be destroyed, there were new mud dwellings along the highway. The whole thing was a welcome and impressive sight.
As we in Canada are just beginning to buy reusable grocery bags, Rwanda had already, some time ago, prohibited the use of all polythene bags. That coupled with the fact that the destitute people here have nothing to throw away, contribute the lack of garbage in this third world country.
We found ourselves in a juxtaposition as the gathering of the 14 sponsored children in Ntarama was taking place across from the church where 5000 people had been murdered in less than two days during the genocide. One of the World Vision staff that was translating for us had lost most of his family in this very spot. The children were wonderful and we were so happy that all 14 of the children that we requested had arrived. Sandra Wright’s boy, Silas was brought in from another ADP (Area Development Project) in Gashora. That was the place where we had gone to the Independent Day Celebrations last time we were here. Wendy set up her tripod and started to meet with her children and their family members while I met with Silas and Gloria, (John and Carmen Rhanta’s girl.) Silas was quite shy but little Gloria, who wants to be a teacher, showed off her English skills by counting to twenty. I asked all of the children if they could dance and sing for us and I got some great video for all of the sponsored families to enjoy! When there wasn’t a WV staff member to translate, we tried to communicate as best as we could with the group of parents and children but by all of the laughter, I’m thinking that I need to brush upon my Kinyarwandan. While interviewing the children it was apparent that the genocide and now AIDS has impacted all those we meet.
Following the Sponsorship visit, we were taken to meet the “Women’s Headed Household Association.” What started out with 19 widows in 2000 has now grown to a working group of 63. A woman named Amina who is a widow with 7 children heads the Association. She owns her own home/compound and everything is run out of there. The Association concentrated mainly on agriculture and livestock initiatives but now also manufactures the most amazing baskets. These tightly woven works of art each take up to two weeks to make. We will be going back tomorrow to purchase what we can to bring back to Canada. The hospitable ladies offered us a large glass of warm, unpasturized milk as a refreshment and then insisted on filling my glass full again just as I managed to finish the first one.
It has only been 1½ years since Wendy and I were here in Rwanda and the positive changes are strikingly obvious. I have read a lot about the president Paul Kigame, who went from child refugee to the RPF guerrilla leader who liberated Rwanda during the genocide and then to president. His government shows no tolerance for corruption, is working diligently with NGO’s to tackle the HIV/AIDS problems and is one of the first countries in Africa attempting to tackle overpopulation. Costa, one of our World Vision friends, was telling us yesterday of the new land initiative of President Kigame’s. Due to the large amount of displaced persons returning to Rwanda and the lack of land, he has formed a committee to evaluate the size of properties that the powerful people, (generals, politicians, etc,) own. For people with large amounts, the land is expropriated, leaving them with 25 acres, then divided and given with deeds of ownership to selected people. Paul Kigame, who owned 500 acres, was the first one to voluntarily reduce his property.
What really amazes me is the fact that only 14 years ago this country suffered one of the worst acts of genocide in history. With so many of the educated population being murdered and then since succumbing to AIDS, with so many obstacles against them, how has this country progressed this far in such a short time? It just shows you the resilience and determination of these amazing, beautiful Rwandans and the forgiveness and reconciliation they’ve embraced.
I will try to post a few pictures from the day but we’ll see how that goes……you know…African Internet…..