Monday, 19 December 2016

Huye Talking To? Week 12

Week 12 – Thank you and Goodbye

When we leave this project, we leave no regrets, we leave something to remember, so they won’t forget, that we were here.

I can’t lie, this is gonna be a pretty emotional post.

How do I, the same person who struggled to write the first post, sum up, in a few hundred words, how amazing this whole experience has been?

From the moment we first met, both in-country and UK volunteers never expected to become as close as we have. We never expected how challenging this entire experience would be. And we certainly never expected to become the people we are, three months on.

Three months isn’t a long time, it’s a weird amount of time, before leaving the UK I remember people saying ‘3 months is nothing you’ll be back before you know it’ and boy were they right, it's flown by.

I, as well as a few other volunteers, kinda wish we could stay a little longer, now that I’m in tune with the culture, know a bit of the lingo and have got so involved with the work, it hurts to leave.

I’d like to thank a few people, firstly the whole of ICS staff, AMU’s Staff, Jean D’amour, Munezero Clementine, and Mama Jeanne, our team leaders Bryony and Messi, and all the volunteers <3 and lastly you, the reader, whose been with us on this journey over the last 3 months.

The number of lives that the Huye team has impacted over the last few weeks cannot be measured.

With the adults  group, the change that they have created will remain, forever.

With the kids group, the impression they have left, will persist, infinitely.

I’d like to leave you, dear reader, with my favourite quote, and then I’ll log out for the final time.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

-   Maya Angelou

Thank you and goodbye.

Huye Talking To? Week 11

Week 11 - Lake kiuv and AMU open day

“Rwanda is a small country, but also one of the most beautiful”.

-          Naomi Benaron, (Rwandan author)

This week that quote couldn’t have been truer, the Huye team were treated to a day trip to one of Rwanda’s largest and most breath-taking natural sites. 

Lake Kiuv, situated in on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake, and the sixth largest lake in Africa, Lake Kiuv is about 3.5 hours away from Huye.

The lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing volcanic activity in the area, and making it particularly deep. Lake Kivu is a fresh water lake and, along with Cameroonian Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, is one of three that undergo limnic eruptions.

The incredible lake provides the perfect spot for some lunch, selfie opportunities, and a chance for one to relax and take in the stunning scenery. Due to high levels of methane in the Lake nobody was allowed to swim, but that didn’t matter, we’d just enjoyed great burgers, fish on a skewer, salad, and chips.

The whole day was a perfect end to an awesome week, it gave everyone a chance to see some really beautiful landscapes, and not to mention how amazingly scary the hills on the journey back look.

In the same week AMU hosted its ‘open day’, it was to showcase AMU Huye’s achievements throughout the year and to look back at all the hard work that the organisation has done, how many lives they have change and the impact it’s had with in the community. 

Each year every district hosts their own ‘Open Day’ this year AMU Huye was in the lead (take that Kigali).

The open day was a vibrant and exciting ceremony filled with singing, dancing, drama and presents. We saw the local church choir sing their hearts out to different hymns in Kinyarwanda (the national language) we saw the young people who regularly attend AMU conduct a beautifully choreographed piece of traditional Rwandan dancing, and some of the younger members of AMU even did a short play on tackling child abuse based on the workshop they had attended at AMU.

By the end of the event we gave gifts to AMU and vice versa, we presented them with group photo so they would never forget what we look like, note books, pens pencils, sharpeners coloured cards and small sweets for the children, (all of which came from the pockets of the generous volunteers), in return to show their appreciation AMU gave us some scarfs, notebooks, bracelets, pens and a thank you card.

Thanks to AMU’s open day, all the volunteers and members of the local community were able to see how much of a positive impact AMU makes in the life’s of others. From day 1 to day 85, we really changed our lives and the lives of others. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Huye Talking To? Week 10

Week 10 – Community Service, Huye Team Party

Week 10 was a pretty big week for the Huye Team, as well as the regularly week-by-week activities that both the Adult’s and Children’s Team are involved in, all of us had the opportunity to be involved with the monthly community service that takes place across Rwanda, known as “Umuganda”.

The Huye team spent the Saturday morning planting trees in the local area, the trees were provided by the local council all we had to do was dig the hole, and plant the seed around various locations.

Umuganda, can be translated as ‘Coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture members of the community would call upon their family, friends, and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task.

As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs.

Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between the ages of 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda.

Later in the week we were invited to the home of the team leader’s Bryony and Messi, who live with the head of AMU Huye, Jean D’amour. To celebrate our achievements and hard-work the whole team enjoyed a lavish meal of Brochette (goat meat on a skewer), fish and chips, salad with salad dressing (might I add), mangos, passion fruit, bananas, roasted peanuts, corn on the cob, biscuits and to wash it all down we had soda pop and African tea.

The evening was a perfect chance for everyone to reflect on the last couple of months, to appreciate how far we have come, and how much each and every one of us has grown. What started off as a few volunteers coming together to change the lives of other people, blossomed into a closely knit family ready to change the world for the better.

Jean D’amour and his wife Mama Bebe closed the evening with a very touching and deeply warm speech expressing gratitude and voiced how much they loved and cared for us, that almost bought me to tears (not even joking).

All in all week 10 has been pretty amazing, stay tuned for week 11…

Friday, 2 December 2016

Huye Talking To? Week 9

Week 9 - Seeing Kigali team and visiting the King's palace.

As you are probably aware by now there are three teams in three different parts of Rwanda, the UK volunteers originally left the UK stayed in the capital (Kigali) for 6 days, during this time we met the in-country volunteers and established bonds, before being spilt into different groups and travelling to our respective cities, Huye, Gatsibo while some stayed in Kigali. 

A majority of the in-country volunteers are from Kigali, and some are from different provinces. 

However, this week we, the Kigali team were lucky enough to visit our beautiful city and take a break from the hustle and bustle of busy Kigali and enjoy some down time with the Huye team.

We welcomed them with open arms, and were more than excited to see their faces; they spent the early afternoon in the museum that I wrote about in week 7.

We had lunch together, chips, and then proceeded back to AMU where we took a coach to none other than THE KING’S PALACE! In the nearby town, Nynza which is about 45 mins from Huye. 

We reached the king’s palace where we took plenty of selfies and had an in depth tour of the King’s home, we also had a chance to see some of the Royal Cows (Rwandan’s have a lot of respect for cows, it’s a pretty big deal so they have a number of royal cattle at the King’s Palace.)

Based in Nyanza, 88 km south of Kigali City, this was the residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa and the Royal Palace that was traditionally built. This Palace offers a detailed look into Rwandan traditional seat of their monarchy, it is an impressive museum, restored to its 19th-century state and made entirely with traditional materials. Recently the Long-horned Traditional cows, known in Kinyarwanda as "Inyambo" were also introduced because of the fact that cows form an integral part of Rwandan Culture . On the neighboring hill of Mwima, one can also visit the burial grounds of King Mutara III and his wife Queen Rosalie Gicanda.

The day was an opportunity to experience more of Rwanda, for both in-country and UK volunteers, everyone had a fantastic time. All in all the two groups had lots of fun and it gave the Huye team an opportunity to reflect and consider how differently things could have been.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Huye Talking To? Week 8

Week 8 – Cravings, Illnesses

What is the point of life if you can’t have Nutella for breakfast or enjoy a decent packet of cheese and onion crisps? By now many of the UK and in-country vols are experiencing serious cravings and I’m talking SERIOUS cravings, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few UK vols drool at the thought of cheese.

Therefore to help all ya’ll currently reading this we’ve devised a “Craving’s list” to help you come to terms with what you’ll be missing out on. (Items in bold are things you could probably bring with you)

Crips, Falafels, Camembert, Bacon Butties, Domino’s Pizza, Pancakes, Humus, Yorkshire Puddings, Cheese, Olives, Lasagne, Quorn Nugs, Cheesy Garlic bread, Normal Garlic Bread, Sausages, Chocolate, Strawberry Bon-bons, Nachos, Roast dinner, Biscuits, Cheese savoury rolls, Jaffa cakes, Terry's chocolate orange, Dairylea Dunkers, Mustard, Gravy, Proper salad, Proper cuppa tea, Cherry coke, "strong drinks ;)", Apple juice, Orange juice, Mikado sticks, Chilli cheese bites - burger king, KFC, Oreos, Bread that isn't sweet, Warburton’s Toastie Bread, Tiger bread, Multi seeded bread, Vegetarian haggis, Garlic mayo, Kebab, Vegetarian Lasagne, Subways and Fried egg sandwiches. 

Obviously not forgetting other things that we all miss like friends, family, and pets. Some of the in-country volunteers miss being able to use ‘taxi motos’ (motorbikes) and staying out past nine, “and pizza, I miss good pizza” says Messi, (team leader).

One of the in-country team members Pascaline, was recently contracted malaria. Whilst every precaution is taken to make sure the health and well-being of team members is maintained, there’s just no escaping those pesky mosquitos. Pascaline received treatment at the King Faisal, and is regularly taking her medication, it’s safe to say that after that brief scare she is much better.  

Pascaline looking and feeling amazing.

One of our team leaders; Bryony, unfortunately fell unwell and had to take a couple of weeks off the project. She was transferred to King Faisal Hospital in the capital city where she received (in her words) ‘some of the best health care ever!’ She went through phases of having chest pains, sickness, headaches and muscle pain… all symptoms pointed towards Malaria. However, this was not the case. There was word that it could have been pneumonia, tonsillitis, a viral infection, even a tropical disease she may have picked up from her previous trip to India. It all still remains a mystery but whatever medication she had and all the bed rest she was granted resulted in her returning to full health and back in the office as fit as a fiddle.

King Faisal Hospital, Kigali.

A Story by Matt Blood. (Very loosely based on ‘true’ events)

“It was a dark Monday evening, there was a chill in the air as the clouds settled over Huye. Matt was weary from his day at work and decided to wander into the dark streets to clear his head before he settled down to more potatoes, rice and beans. He stepped out of the house and was making his way to the gate when he was accosted by a ferocious beast in the garden. 

The beast, a dog named Bobby, bounded towards our young hero, clawing and biting as he did so. Our heroic protagonist attempted to shield himself from the monstrous figure. “Tokka,” he yelled at the dog, but alas it was too late. The dog had already scraped a tooth along the fabled traveller’s arm, showering the yard with blood and muscle sinew. Quickly, Matt rushed inside and called for a medic. “Is the dog vaccinated?” He asked with a look of terror on his face.

His head dropped as he saw the dejected shakes of the head. He was rushed to hospital, his face whitening as he struggled for consciousness. The blood loss was dramatic and the doctors toiled for hours into the night to close the wound and inject the great warrior with powerful stimulants and anti-rabies vaccines.”

Disclaimer: This was a playful and friendly house dog who merely scratched Matt with his tooth after becoming well acquainted with him. A warning to ALL prospective volunteers: Do not go near any animals no matter how cute or you will incur a warning just like Matt did.

Bryony and Matt feeling much better.

Stay tuned for week 9...

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Huye Talking To? Week 7

Week 7 – Huye and Birthday Celebratories.

Huye, formally known as Butare which used to be the capital city of Rwanda during colonial times, is one of eight districts that make up Rwanda’s southern province. It has a total surface area of 581.5 square kilometers. It has fourteen sectors and 77 ‘cells’ with a total of 509 villages in total, with a population of roughly 314,022 inhabitants.

Small and friendly, its tree-lined streets are pleasing to the eyes. Huye also home to the first Rwandan hotel, Hotel Faucon, which also happens to be the hotel that the King of Belgium stayed in when he came to visit Rwanda, so take that Kigali and Gatsibo.

Huye has many restaurants and craft shops, a huge forest, and an ethnographic museum.
2 super important facts about Huye….

-          The NUR (National University of Rwanda) considered the oldest university in Rwanda is located in Huye. A popular and large University, NUR, founded in 1963 with three academics units and at time, had 51 students and 16 lecturers and kept on growing, by 2005 the university had 8221 students and 425 lectures.

-          The Ethnographic Museum was presented in 1989 as a gift from Belgium in commemoration of 25 years of independence. It is one of the most beautiful building with beautiful structures and the best ethnological and archaeological collection.

The first hall contains the museum shop. The second hall has geological displays including a large relief map that depicts the topography of Rwanda as something akin to a crumpled piece of paper. The middle hall exhibit items used in agriculture, hunting, animal farming, weaving, pottery and woodwork. The museum is also used as a venue where the ‘Intore’ dancers and drummers perform for special events.

On November the 11th we celebrated Tahir’s 25th birthday what would normally be a quiet celebration turned into a wonderful fun party, with an amazing cake and lots of dancing. Huye is a fairly quiet area so the team does what it can to stay entertained. Tahir describes celebrating his birthday away from home as “An odd feeling, where you’re surrounded by loved ones but also away from them, I had no idea that this time last year I would be in the heart of Africa eating banana cake dancing to Afro Beats.”  

Stay tuned for week 8...

Huye Talking To? Week 6

Week 6 - Children's Group

Matthew Blood, Collette Adams, Tahir Shah, Mico Ayoubu, Mellisa Umutesi, Marie Merci make up the Children's Group.

Creativity and imagination. Can this be learned? The going has been tough, fraught with frustrations (we asked them to draw imaginary animals and about 15 of them drew hens?) and some mind-numbingly dull stories (two people went to market, bought some clothes and some food and went home), but we’re getting there!

We’ve moved from stories detailing the amount of money a couple took to market, and an exact list and receipt of what they bought with it to people finding cobras and enlisting the help of taxi drivers to dispose of the pesky serpents.

It’s great to see their imaginations blossoming. We’ve moved from basic tasks like making little people out of play dough and describing how we’d like them to act if they were our friends, to creating entire countries of dozens of provinces and listing the rights the children believe they should have in these countries.

Real change happens slowly…

What the kids initially struggled with in the imagination and creativity department, they made up for in the resilience department. They throw themselves into any task, often quite forcefully and inducing many a bump, scrape and clatter on the way. Hundreds of them turn up for sports days to show their skills at football, volleyball, rugby and many more activities (the skipping skills are actually ridiculous). As you’d expect, high-intensity sports result in quite a lot of trips and collisions but the robust nature of these tiny people is completely baffling. We witnessed an 8 year old stand up and brush off a tackle that would leave any professional screaming on the ground for minutes. Their resilience and will to get stuff done is infectious.

It’s noticeable that the volunteers are learning from the kids resilience and resourcefulness of just getting on and dealing with everything that’s thrown at them … it’s great to see the team just come up with new ways to tackle any problems they encounter. One example is that a major part of our goal here is to do inclusive sport with the kids, but the field is about 2km away, the day was boiling and there wasn’t any water for the kids – getting them to sprint around for 2 hours in those conditions was out of the question, so up came the genius idea of indoor water bottle bowling. The kids loved it, they stayed cool and they learned a new game they could take home and play.

Another skill we’ve been striving to help the kids develop is sharing. When we first arrived we’d split the children into groups, hand them their resources and be mauled by hundreds of children all reaching for the red crayon. We decided we needed to stamp it out as soon as possible and as resources started to dwindle the team had to come down hard on the kids who tried to snatch the pencils and crayons as soon as they hit the table. More than once the “share or you’re never getting this stuff again” line was used. It clearly worked as the number of fall outs lessened and lessened until finally the sharing culture permeated even to the most stubborn and we achieved blissful harmony as pens, pencils and crayons were treated with respect and shared kindly. 

Stay tuned for week 7...