Sam and Katy – Facing challenges head on!

Despite a few challenges, including lack of hot water, torrential downpours and discovering the Rwandan zeal for stamping paperwork, Sam and Katy are getting on really well. Here they tell us how they’ve been getting on over the past week!

‘Time is racing by and we’re three full working weeks down.

Last weekend we took the bus to Huye. After a slightly hairy journey, we headed for the ethnographic museum. This provided a very interesting account of Rwanda’s history and rich culture, spanning much wider than the events of 1994, which we have found can sometimes dominate historical accounts, though there’s so much more to know.

Huye itself feels like a buzzing university town. Clearly catering for the student population were several lovely cafes, bars and restaurants and we shamelessly ate our way through most of them; highlights included an ice cream in a trendy little café and a generously-portioned Chinese for dinner!

Feeling sufficiently refuelled (and clean after our first hot shower in Rwanda!) we returned to Kamembe ready for another busy week at Munezero House.

Sam has had the carpenters make more parts for his briquette-making machine.  His detailed engineering drawings weren’t quite as easily translated as he’d hoped, but after some minor adjustments on collection the thing is coming together. The next task is to identify existing enterprises that could be trained up to take the project forward.

I have spent much of the week out on the moto with Jonas. We have delivered letters to district and sector offices inviting them to the awards ceremonies at the end of the month and also visited several of the enterprises to collect their monthly accounts. This included the shoemakers, where each pair they make is proudly stamped with “made in Rwanda”; Keza Restaurant, who rushed to show us their recently acquired certificate of co-operative registration; and the carpenters, where beautiful pieces of furniture were emerging from mounds of saw dust.

The more work we do here, the more we are faced with some of the challenges of “just getting stuff done”. But these frustrations are impossible to hold onto for long, as it always seems that the next moment you are presented with acts of kindness that really are unmatched by any other country we’ve been to. For example, on route by motorbike to a district office with a stamped letter so they can stamp the one we give them and then also stamp another for our records etc. etc. (quickly learning Rwanda loves stamps!), it starts pouring with rain. We’re in the middle of nowhere and Jonas pulls over outside a small house saying that this is where we’ll take shelter until the rain passes. I am instantly confused thinking “but Jonas, that’s someone’s house?!”, before being quickly, and without question, welcomed into a little room by a very(!) elderly woman. Inside was a whole array of people with the same idea – a few school children, a young woman with her newborn, a businessman, and a chap who took refuge from pushing his plantain-loaded bicycle up the hill. Not only did the lady welcome this eclectic bunch of strangers into her home, she also went to the trouble of making sure we all had seats. The only complainant at this intrusion seemed to be the cow (who took me somewhat by surprise!), who’s space we were evidently invading. The rain stopped, we said thank you, and carried on our way. It made me wonder what stops people acting in a similarly open, unsuspicious and kind way back at home…

Things like that certainly make it easier to tolerate the stamp rigmarole and next time you’re getting soaked in SW2 you’ll know where to come!’

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