Sam and Katy – drumming to their own beat

Sam and Katy are settling into the Rwandan way of life! They have visited our projects and are getting stuck into the tasks they are undertaking! They’ve also tried their hand at drumming, had an up close encounter with some chimps and thrown a house party…read on for their latest update!

‘Two weeks in and a lot has happened; it feels like we’ve been here much longer! Fully settled into our new home (our first marital home at that!), we’ve seen more of the projects Rwanda Aid supports, made progress with our own work, tracked chimpanzees and even held our first house party…

Moving into our own home has given us a little insight into some of the challenges of day to day life here. Whether it’s the constant battle with the smallest and most determined of ants, the mis-judgement of an extension lead’s capabilities (fridge + kettle = minor electrical fire), or the small sense of victory when the water is working in the morning for a shower (albeit a cold one). We have a very friendly guard­ — who I suspect we treat as more of a food critic than he really is, as we agonise over what he’ll think of the meal we provide every night — and a nice girl helping with the daily chores.

 
 

Last Sunday we went with Janyis to Baho neza Mwana Street Children Village, which was undoubtedly a highlight of our time here so far. Marcel introduced us to the 35 boys who live there, who were as friendly, polite and as engaged as any group of young boys you’d wish to meet. We had a tour of the facilities, including the plots of land they’re cultivating and the pigs they’re keeping, before being treated to a drumming performance. The eldest boy was clearly in charge and led an impressively organised session — things took an obvious turn when we got involved.

 

Last week we started to get stuck into our own tasks. Sam has been researching the best method and materials for making briquettes as an alternative to burning wood, which, if proven viable, will hopefully lead to the establishment of a new co-operative to take the project forward. He has visited some of the farm projects to see what kinds of waste materials are available; local mechanics and DIY merchants to see the availability of equipment; and the local domestic waste disposal plant, to see if it could be an alternative to agricultural waste — rather him than me having seen the flies that swarm our bin, though apparently it smelt “better than expected”. The first piece of equipment has been commissioned from the local carpenters so hopefully the assembly line will begin soon!

 

I have been working with Jonas to develop business plans for the Urebe shoe making group and the Rusizi Fruits Company; two of the most advanced enterprises that are seeking further funding. We wrote a questionnaire and used it to tease out some details when we visited them on Monday. It was fascinating to see how small scale businesses operate and understand some of their challenges. For example, the road leading to the fruit processing site is a steep, rough mud track, meaning all supplies arriving, and products being distributed, must be carried on heads for the last 400m — as we enter the rainy season I can only imagine how tricky this becomes. We’ve also been giving some thought to the format of the awards ceremonies that will be taking place at the end of October — putting time limits on speeches for the loquaciously-inclined Rwandans seems ambitious!

On top of all of this we had a fantastic Saturday tracking the chimpanzees in Cyandungo Forest — an unforgettable experience — and we held our first Rwandan house party with the team from Munezero. A success (we think!) given the quantities of food eaten, fantas drunk and the rapid turnaround from sitting, eating and chatting, to the appearance of a hi-fi and a small nightclub forming in our living room, which featured an odd mix of French pop, re-mixed Christmas songs and equally eclectic dance moves!

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