I am writing this post post trip. I have been home for a few days now and am almost fully recovered. Still taking the  malaria pills, although I probably saw all of one mosquito the entire trip. I hope to be able to recap my last few days on site in Rwanda and give everyone the desire to go along with me next time!

It’s hard to believe I spent only a few short days in Rwanda. Floriane really knows how to pack it in. She had four groups including me there helping, her largest crowd yet. The Scottish group, the students from Pennsylvania and finally the Belgians.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of working with the students from Villanova University from Pennsylvania. The service trip was part of their class on the Rwandan Genocide and organized by their Professor. The university gladly funded the Gazebo and the kids worked really hard. I enjoyed interacting with them and was told by Katie that people from Princeton don’t work this hard… So, her name from that moment on: Princeton. Here she is working hard. Her team helped with the fence, the clean up around the site and on the Gazebo. Mostly they helped haul cement made of mud and water in containers with holes in them. Even though it was hard, dirty work. they all appeared as if they had great joy in what they were doing. 

The Belgians were introduced to Floriane through a friend who is a member of the Rotary. They caught the vision and organized a run to help pay for the furniture for NCV. The run was held in Rwanda and it was widely publicized and a great success. It was a real run, by the way…these were serious runners making their way over the hills of Rwanda. My hats off to them.

The Belgians also were the first people to stay onsite. They brought their packs and running shoes of course and camped in one of the houses. The furniture is lovely and will last a long time. These homes will house 12 orphans and two widows. The facilities have a kitchen, running water and two full bathrooms, complete with toilets, showers and three sinks. The facility will be of high standards and create a sense of safety and well being for staff and children alike.

But, in the meanwhile, Floriane arranged for water to be brought in so the Belgians had a few creature comforts. The furniture was delivered Monday late and after their first night they were served coffee in the morning by one of the neighbor women. It was obvious their joy in being there working on the site and being a part of this wonderful work.

We went to church on Sunday…4 hours of singing and dancing in a lively, but humble facility. The people were not poor by any means. The one room building was covered with canvas, the chairs plastic. These people were rich in faith and joy. They provided us with interpreters so we could enjoy the spirit and the message. This is a dancing people, they break out in dance and clapping much easier than we Americans.

Francine is the Cooperative's President

On Monday, we all made it back to the site. It was a full crowd, all of us in attendance. Floriane and I were to meet with the women cooperative again on Monday and we found Marie who agreed to help coordinate the effort. She will work with Rick from East Africa Metamorphosis project in administering the micro financing. Rick has agreed to take on the women and help them get started successfully. Marie works for Brussels Airways and is a law student…so she will help us at least get the program off the ground here.  The women were elated and broke out  dancing for joy. 

   We met for about an hour or more and they brought two business plans with them that they prepared previously. One was for raising cows and selling the

The Cooperative

milk the other for chickens. Marie is translating the business plan  so Rick can read it for the chicken business. We hope to start with a small amount so the first project can be a success.  If we help these women, we help the families. 

The Genocide: Never Again

I joined the Villanove U students on their trip to the Memorial. This period in Rwandan History is not easy to understand. It’s not up to me to judge why or how this could happen. But, being a part of the restoration even in a small way is the right thing to do. There are memorials everywhere, as the Genocide wasn’t an isolated event. It was a nationwide massacre. Many of the killings took place in houses of worship as this is where people fled for safety. The merciless haters didn’t care. So, here in Nyamata, the village where the Orphanage is, the church stands as it was 16 years ago.

The clothing of its victims on the pews, blood still on the altar where slayings occured and a few machetes and weapons left behind. No photos are allowed, which is just as well. It isn’t a tourist stop, but a memorial, a sacred place to honor the lives of those cut short by insanity of hate. There are stories too gruesome to repeat here, and there are stories of bravery and self sacrifice, even martyrdom.  

There is a whole culture of forgiveness being built in Rwanda. It’s redefining their national identity as they recover from the genocide. It appears that after such an atrocity, there is no punishment suitable for the crimes. The hope to heal their nation is based in forgiveness. There have been plenty of trials and justice meted out, mind you. But, when that’s all said and done, without forgiveness hatred still has a root. The nation recognizes that without forgiveness, healing can’t begin.

Our last day together was July 20 and we were able to all get together for lunch. It was a great time to relax and enjoy each other over a meal. 

What stands out most in my mind after traveling these many miles to among other things carry buckets of cement and level fence posts, is the joy that comes from doing this work. It’s not just me, look at the faces of the volunteers.

 Is there anything better?

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