Sam and Katy…a week of firsts…

Sitting in the garden of Munezero House on a cloudy Friday morning, I have finally found time to write another blog post. It has been a very busy couple of weeks for everyone at Rwanda Aid!

Particular highlights included welcoming Ellie, Jo, Tim and Lisa from the UK and having Sally with us for nearly three weeks. It’s amazing how a Chaplin armed with Cadbury’s chocolate, wine gums and messages of support and encouragement can re-energise the team!

Our projects have had a busy few weeks too, with a couple of “firsts” taking up much of our time…producing Kamembe’s first briquette and the first (hopefully annual) Rwanda Aid Enterprise Awards.

Kamembe’s first briquette

For those wondering what Sam’s various trips to carpenters, hardware stores and rubbish dumps have all been leading to, here it is….!

The contraption pictured uses a carjack to put 2-tons of force through soaked sawdust. Water drains through the doughnut hole. The three sardine tins taped at the top were a last minute product development (probably not to be included in the final version!). The slight cracking of the sawdust briquettes shows that a binder is required. So now we have a house full of soaking paper pulp, which our newly acquired hand blender is intended for (so much for me excitedly thinking our diet of rice and beans was about to feature soup!).

That is briquette experiment 1; briquette experiment 2 will use household waste. This needs to be soaked, then ground, and conveniently Munezero House had a meat grinder in its shed. It is altogether much messier business….

If our house-girl didn’t already think we were a bit strange, she certainly does after seeing Sam mincing decomposing rubbish on our front porch!

Apparently the holes of the grinder are a bit too narrow (fatter slugs required). Fortunately, Sam met some innovative, capable welders at the Enterprise Awards who might be able to help…

The Enterprise Awards

The Enterprise Awards took place in Rusizi District on 30 October and in Nyamasheke District the day after. It was an opportunity to celebrate the success and progress of the 24 enterprises supported by Rwanda Aid. They all brought along samples of their products, ranging from tables and chairs, metal stoves, crafts, shoes and even a cooker (in operation!) from one group running a restaurant!

Jonas MC’d the event like a true professional (a career as a game show host is perhaps not off the cards…). Each group had given a short presentation about their products the they split into groups to discuss common challenges and ideas for improving their business. Some interesting common themes came to light, for example, the challenge of acquiring materials, a desire to use more technology and the possible opportunity for knowledge sharing through “study visits”.

It was a great opportunity for the enterprises to feel part of something bigger than just themselves. Not only are other groups facing similar challenges, but the event created the sense that these diverse enterprises form an eclectic “family” linked by their support from Rwanda Aid. In a nutshell, the message of the day was “you’re doing great; don’t give up; aim high; we got your backs!”

For the Ngwino Urebe shoemakers and Hangururimo Photographers in Rusizi, and the Abukundana Milling Machine and Koyako Carpenters in Nyamasheke, the day was even more fruitful. The shoemakers and milling machine groups won the overall prize for their district, with the photographers and carpenters receiving second prize for having made the most progress. They won approximately £300 and £100 respectively. In a couple of months the groups will be asked how they have used the money to develop their business.

The Rusizi event was hosted at Baho Neza Mwana and all the boys who live there seemed excited by the day’s activities. This was helped by the fact that they got a particularly large lunch that day, chips ‘n’all!


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