Friday, September 2, 2016

Aug. 25 Last day, plus celebratory dinner earlier in the week

Rwanda, Kigali - August 25
Last day to "get 'er done" and then a special dinner. The team was working hard to get the last stretch of wire fence installed.
After a long day at the work site, the team went out for a celebratory dinner.
Last day on the fence line
We went to a restaurant called Heaven and indeed the food was divine! It is a training school for locals for the hospitality industry. It was unbelievably good food. I had goat, as I figured this would be the best goat I would ever taste. Yup, tender, yummy not gamey, delicious kebabs. Falafel so delicate I couldn't believe it. Guacamole with plantain chips, sweet and light, not rich and cloying.
This is a Rwandan success story. Once trained at Heaven, the students are sought after by the high-end hotels. While in training, they receive a good salary, and once fully trained they are guaranteed a good job.

It was a satisfying end to a long day of work.

Luinda Bleakley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016 

Tuesday evening we were invited to dinner in the home Elizabeth's sister. The Ineza foundation board members were there, with their families. Lots of good food, snacks, drinks, conversations in a mixture of languages.

Team leader Michael clowning around with Cecelia, Vilma, Juanita and Stephanie.

The whole team plus new friends

Celebrating the end of the trip, a birthday and a wedding anniversary.

Luinda Bleakley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Rwanda, Kigali - week two
Build that fence!

The height of the wire mesh was marked on the standing posts. The location for the drilled holes was marked, and then laboriously drilled. A large section of wire mesh fencing was unrolled, stretched, and then the top wire was threaded through. The fence hangs from this wire, so it has to be strung taut, and placed at the right height above the ground. There was good back and forth between the DWC team and the fellows from the co-op, as they learned how to install a mesh fence.

Meanwhile, the welders were working on building the big gate. Brian and Al, from the DWC team, worked with the welders from the co-op and with Paul from Ineza foundation, to create the metal gate to go at the top of the property.

Luinda Bleakley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016 

Rwanda, Gashora Sunday August 21

A visit to Covaga co-op centre, which was the site of previous DWC projects

On the way back from Akagera Park, we visited the parched community of Gashora. DWC has been doing projects in this community for a decade.

Half of our current team had worked previously on projects in Gashora. We were all welcomed with open arms and open hearts. DWC's past projects have supported the women's weaving collective. We heard grateful speeches saying that the co-operative provides work, and hence income, to pay for medical care, to pay for schooling for the children and to support families. 

There are over 60 women in the co-op. That means there are over 60 families who are aided by the past DWC volunteers and projects.

The project for the DWC trip of two years ago was to build community gardens and a terrace/patio behind the co-op building (also built by DWC). The kitchen gardens allow each family to grow vegetables and, if there is excess, to sell their produce. 

There is an agriculturalist and a nutritionist in the community. The agriculturalist's role is to help the families know how, when and what to plant, how to use the manure from the goat or cow for fertilizer and how to harvest seeds. The nutritionist's role is to teach the mothers how to cook with the produce.  They plant vegetables such as onions, carrots, beets, greens like spinach and more.

The warmth and good will in the community was palpable; little wonder that the teams keep coming back with such enthusiasm.

Luinda Bleakley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 19: Afternoon road trip to Grace Rwanda school projects

On the road in the eastern district, August 19th. We piled into 2 safari jeeps to begin our weekend adventures.

On the way to Akagera National park, we stopped at two schools that Grace Rwanda has done projects with.

For the first school, Grace Rwanda had built and donated a small library. They commissioned the carpentry coop to build book cases and reading tables and chairs.

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 19: A morning at the Genocide Memorial

Today we went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It has been created as a place of memory, a place of learning, and place of peace and respect.

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 20: Akagera National Park

Safari day!

Impressions of blue sky, red dirt hills, a dirt track through the scrubby forest - red dusty roads, baboons walking around like they owned the place, little wart hogs scampering with tails held high. 

And then giraffes - an undulating walk, so slow and immense. Hippos in the water, the mother pushing her baby away from us, protective.

A moon, big and round, blessing the land. An openness, spaciousness, rightness to the feel here. Warm air, oh it is so relaxing to be in this temperature zone, feeling held by the warmth of the air. What on earth are we Canadians doing, contracting with the cold, bracing ourselves against the chill?

Park lodge on the crest of the ridge - a long view down to the lake, kilometres away, stretching out of view to the right and the left. Oh what a place! 

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 17, Day 5: Dinner with Coop boys

Overall the team is doing well. 

The work is hard labour in the heat, and by the end of the day everyone is looking like various versions of "bagged". The group spirit on the project site is good. There's good cooperation between the local young men, hired to do the heavy lifting, and the international team. Wednesday, the mood was easy and relaxed, as everyone had found their pace, and gotten familiar with the project and the site. 

There was a big dinner Wednesday night and all the young men from the carpentry coop were invited (37 of them!). By "big dinner" I mean it was the largest pot of spaghetti that I have ever seen. There was drumming and dancing, and there was back-and-forth between our younger team members and the coop guys: singing, dancing and amazing break-dance and acrobatics.

The difficulties these young men have faced is hard to comprehend. Their personal stories reach right inside and shape me somehow.

It is unclear whether this fence we're building will even be allowed by the neighbourhood. The Ineza land is a big patch of open space that is used as a major walkway with trails. They are going to limit access to the land, leaving a perimeter pathway. Today, one side the fence could not be worked on. It's just like running a small business: real world challenges come up that need to solved.

There are so many things that work differently here, or don't work the way we're used to. I came here thinking I had an open mind. I have been surprised to find I *do* have opinions - I'm full of attitude! So it is interesting to watch myself: a thought arises "I would do that differently". Then I just get to sit with my discomfort, try to lessen the grip of the feeling that I am right, and try to soften my position and move from separateness to a feeling that we're all in this together.

Enough for now.  Dinner is at 7. We get rice, fried potatoes, steamed vegetables in a light sauce, some kind of meat in a sauce (chicken or beef or fish), and maybe fried plantain or some other veggie.  There's cut up fruit for dessert. There is endless yummy papaya and fresh sweet pineapple. The avocados are ripe - with a tinge of sweetness. Not transported a long distance, they are... well I don't even know how to describe them. They're flavourful and good and... well, you just want to eat more of them!

Friday we go to the genocide museum, then the market, and then pile into jeeps and drive 2 hours to Akagera National Park for the weekend.

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August 15: Day 3

Starting to make concrete and keeping the fence posts vertical.

There was a keenness on the job site this morning. "Is it time to start mixing the cement?" But the voice of experience said it was more important to make sure the posts were straight and at an even height so that the fence itself would be level and straight. Of course, each of the post holes was a different depth.

Meanwhile, the young men have been carting wheel barrow loads of concrete ingredients. First sand, then gravel, then cement. It's all mixed by the shovel full until all the components are evenly distributed. Next come the buckets of water, gradually added, with vigorous mixing by the shovel load. The women on the project who have mixed cement in other projects are disappointed at the size of the mix-pile ("too many wheel barrow loads, we can't mix a pile that big and heavy"), whereas the young men bring their shovels and muscles and go at it with gusto.

Painting the fence posts with rust resistant paint is an ongoing project.  More fence posts keep being created at the back of the house and brought round to the painting area.

Lorne went with Elizabeth to buy more construction supplies.  The construction market is a combination of small shops selling new materials and a large area of recycled materials and lumber.  The small shops might specialize, such as the tile shop, or they might be a general store with everything you might need. Each shop is tucked into a narrow long shop layout. All prices are negotiable here. If you look like a local, you get one price; if you look like a foreigner, you get a higher price.

Fanta to go:
I went for short stroll from our hotel (Ninzi Hill Hotel). There was a large sign "Wine & More Supermarket". I was curious what might be in the supermarket. While trying to find it, I checked out two small grocery stores. These are small store fronts, deep and narrow, carrying a mixture of convenience foods (read imported) and basic staples ( bread, milk, eggs). I bought a Fanta and was surprised it was only 300 Rwandan francs. That's about 40 cents in Canadian funds. Then the clerk told me I had to drink it in the store. If I wanted to take it "to go" it would cost 800 Rwandan francs. So I stayed in the tiny shop and slowly sipped my cold lemon Fanta while looking over all the goods.  While I was reading product labels (goods from UAE, Netherlands, Rwanda, Italy) a fellow came in and bought a pop. He poured it into his own water bottle. Ah, that's how it's done!

Weather Report:
When we arrived, the weather forecast was sunny with clouds until September 1st.  Michael, our team leader, assured us it doesn't rain in the dry season.  Well, today it rained with a thunder storm during the afternoon.  It continued to rain all night.  It's the second night in a row it has rained.  The frogs were chirping in the middle of the night in the fresh cool drizzle.

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 14, Day 2: First we measure, then we dig

The team is pretty excited to be starting the project.  Elizabeth, host partner, gave us a tour of the property.  They have 2 acres on a slope, with a view of the valley bottom and the downtown rising up across the valley basin.  The new development plan for this area of the city will turn the valley bottom into a green space with a lake.  Half of the property is included in the new green space zoning.

Grace Rwanda is the Canadian-based ngo and its sister organization in Rwanda is Ineza Foundation. Ineza Foundation will be able to create a garden for growing food on the property, and plans to plant trees and flowering shrubs in the green space zoning.  Currently there is one house on the acreage.  Elizabeth and her  husband  Paul, have painted the house and cleaned the random trash from the land. 

The vision is to create a green Eco-lodge for paying guests, and to use this revenue to support the operations of the not-for-profit society.  Grace Rwanda has been creating libraries in the rural communities.  The longer term goal of the Ineza Foundation is to build a skills training centre on the property for children & youth and women.  They are also passionate about promoting literacy.

Our DWC team is the first team to come and participate in building the vision.

Our task during our stay is to start building the perimeter fence.  This may sound like an odd place to start, but every building here has a wall around it.  In general it is for security; but in this case it is also to keep the property from being used as the local trash deposit.  There are places to take one's local trash, and for a small fee get rid of it, but this neighbourhood doesn't have extra cash.

A neighbour's goat on the property.

We are working with a group of local youth on the construction.  

With the construction know-how of some of the DWC volunteers combined with the vigorous efforts of the local young men, there is a happy hum of work progressing. 

 Al is making sure the fence will be 6 feet from the neighbour's wall.

Setting up the fence post holes is a three step process. First, we measure the proposed location of the wall/fence.  It is 6 feet from an existing neighbours wall, leaving a corridor for people to walk between properties.  Tape measures, spikes and string are used to lay down the line of the new fence.  Second step is to approximately level the ground, so the bottom of the fence will be parallel to the sort-of-smoothed ground. Third, the holes for the fence posts are dug: at even intervals and to a sort-of-uniform depth. The dirt is rock hard and pick axes are needed to break into the hard pan.

While this is going on, Elizabeth and a few volunteers went to the hardware store to buy welding rods, anti-corrosion paint for the steel posts, and metal-cutting saw blades.  

By afternoon everyone has found their rhythm: measuring the line of the fence, levelling the ground, digging holes, painting fence posts, checking out the donated sewing machines and teaching the young men basic sewing, or cleaning up the upper yard with local children, all amongst a lot of laughter and joking.  There is liveliness and good will everywhere.  The hosts, Elizabeth and Paul, are doing everything to make this a well supported, productive volunteer experience.

Luinda Bleackley
DWC volunteer
Rwanda, August 2016