Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

2nd February 2016

Jem Warner: First Report from Rwanda

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Rwanda is a country rich in culture and my time here so far has been incredible, with the bustle of Kigali, the tranquility of the countryside and the ubiquitous banana and avocado trees.

Although I was initially a little apprehensive about the local cuisine, it turns out goat is quite tasty, and so is banana beer.

Of course, Rwanda is a country with a recently dark past. The genocide of 1994 was on a huge scale, with an estimated one million people killed within 90 days.

Rwandans today make a huge effort to ensure people are educated about the genocide. They don’t sweep it under the carpet, they look their history in the eye and remember what actually happened and what can be done to ensure its not repeated.

I’m glad to say though, Rwanda nowadays is a country where everyone seems to have a smile on their face, and I have felt absolutely welcome.  I’ve been volunteering in Kayonza and Kabarondo is the Eastern Province of Rwanda through the Amakuru Trust, firstly with SACCA, a street children’s project.

The children I have been working with are those who have suffered badly, many abandoned, and then found themselves on the street and homeless.

SACCA intervenes when they become aware of  a childs neglect and provide accommodation, meals and education. I have been helping the children with their English, helping them to extend their vocabulary and general ability in reading and writing.

Some of the children have missed out on a lot of their schooling, and my challenge has been to tailor lessons to all abilities and ages, which range from four to 16.

Despite their past, the children have such brilliant attitudes towards their schooling and life in general and always seem to have a smile on their faces.

There is also a sense of solidarity between them and they treat each other as if they’re part of a family, which is so nice to see.

On February 1st, I and two other volunteers took the children to a local school to listen to people speak about the genocide.

This is ‘Heroes Day’ in Rwanda, when people remember the heroic stories of resistance during the 1994 genocide.They spoke about how a hero is defined, and we discussed these principles with the children afterwards.

I’m afraid my Kinyarwandan isn’t quite up to scratch yet, but thankfully someone was eager to whisper the translation in my ear.

Overall, my experience so far has been one of energy and fun. It has been a pleasure to teach the children, and I look forward to my next project in a primary school, as I head west to Rwamagana.

(A huge thanks must go to Hazel’s Footprints Trust, which so kindly helped me with my trip to Rwanda. I am truly very grateful.)

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