I recently had the opportunity to visit Rwanda, The Land of a Thousand Hills. When telling friends I was going there I was met either with a blank smile, ‘it’s a tiny country in the middle of Africa’ I’d say or ‘ooh will you be safe’ – as all people can remember about Rwanda is the catastrophic genocide that took place in 1994.
Of course on any journey into the unknown we have apprehensions and excitement and I wasn’t an exception. The plane touched down into Kigali airport on a warm, barmy evening. First impressions - all very modern and efficient. In fact I was carrying a moto helmet - as we planned to grab rides on these ‘taxis’ during our travels – in a plastic bag and immediately the bag was confiscated and was told ‘we don’t allow plastic bags into Rwanda! Well, very impressed!
The city was bustling, friendly, clean, felt safe and welcomed us. After a couple of days to acclimatise we headed west to Lake Kivu – surely the most stunning place I’ve ever seen.
After an overnight stay we took a 2 hour boat trip to Gasundwe our final destination. It’s a remote village on the south of the lake that a charity Village Rwanda UK has adopted. We moored on the shore of the lake to be greeted by a reception party of about 20 people from the village all smiling and willing to help with the bags a 20 minute walk up the hill to the village.
Janice my travelling buddy, Margo a trustee of the charity and I ‘moved in’ to Mamas a comfortable house and during our stay were fed 3 times a day with delicious food. The country is full of hills all carefully terraced to make the most of the beautiful climate – a constant between 18-28 degrees and rain 10 months of the year hence avocados, mangoes and pineapple trees everywhere. They grow coffee mainly for export.
We set to work with our respective projects – Janice, a special needs teacher for 30 years working in the school giving curriculum support for the 3 teachers. Margo, working on supporting the registration of the charity with the powers that be in Rwanda. The whole idea is for the charity to withdraw in 2021 and give responsibility to a locally formed charity GIFO. And me, working with Theogene the Rwandan Project Manager on Income Generation ideas that will help to sustain the local economy in the future.
I visited the Sewing group working in the Community Room in the school building. There are 16 local people being trained to become tailors. They are so enthusiastic, one lady walking 3 hours to attend the training! Tailoring is such a cultural phenomena in Africa – everyone has their own tailor! Theogene and I worked on the next stage of the project where they will form a Sewing Cooperative and are able to take orders of school uniform, shirts, skirts etc.
Lots of other ideas were discussed like transforming the already established Savings Group into a Micro Finance Project and Bee Keeping in the village. I found the people so willing to work hard and open to new ideas. All they need is a step up in order to improve things for themselves and their families.
The genocide seems a million miles away as we wonder through this beautiful peaceful place discussing how things can improve in the future. The Peace basket is one adopted practice that sums up the atmosphere of friendship and collaboration. If you have extra food grown on your land you put it in the basket and give it to your neighbour. Makes perfect sense just like a lot of other things in Rwanda.
Yoga Teacher at Lifeways | 07946 389 070