Thursday 4 July 2013

July 4th Liberation Day in Rwanda

Thursday 4th July Liberation Day Rwanda

On this day in 1994 Kigali, the Rwandan capital was liberated, from those that oversaw the genocide. A special day in so many ways…..

Due to the liberation day celebrations we did not teach this morning instead we have been guided around the back streets and alleys and disused areas of Kigali by the headteacher of the Catch Up Centre. In three small visits we have met the ignored and the shunned of Kigali society. Those who the catch up centre seeks to help. I think without exception this morning has left an indelible impact on us all. The massive disparity within Rwandan society has been made clear and has magnified our own excesses and thoughtlessness.
Those who we met were presently sleeping rough in small groups. These groups were orphans who grouped together for safety. The threat of beatings from the police is a very real danger and the ignorance at best of their neighbours lead them to criminality to survive. Most try to earn some money through working in the markets lifting moving and shifting goods from one place to another for a small wage, but this is by no means dependable, hence the need to steal. These people dream of becoming drivers, carpenters and bricklayers they are looking for the skills to help them change their situation but lack the ability to do so.  In these conversations the importance of the Catch Up centre becomes very clear and the speedy completion of the new classrooms all the more vital so the benefits can be spread to a wider group.
The joy that can be provided by a couple of tennis balls to a group of boys or the hospital attention that can be given by us in a visit is a very small exception and only serves to highlight the need. We have been humbled today and will work to address some of the challenges these young people face on a day to day basis. Chris

Today I have been battling with my thoughts. Up until now my time here has been a pleasure but also a little sad when learning about the history of the area. This morning however, I witnessed the stark reality of living here. The second group visit witnessed a boy lying in the dirt dying of Typhoid and it brought back my own memories of loss. Dying is generally an undignified thing no matter where you are from but to die lying in dirt with no medical help is a whole different reality; I cant help but imagine how lonely and desperate this boy must be feeling. My group had the privalege of meeting a group of children who were living on the streets; some as young as 5. They told us that they would go to the local market and help people lift things and be rewarded with food. Then I saw their squalid sleeping conditions; an almost crate like structure covered with tarpauline that they would all sleep under. When asked why they were living on the streets they said that they were either orphans or their home lives were so severe that they chose to live on the streets – imagine how severe it must be in order for a child to choose to live on the streets! I felt so angry that children have to live in these conditions whether they know any different or not. We were talking on the bus about how we take for granted the fact that we can have a glass of water whenever we want whereas people here may not even get a glass a day; how many times have we left the tap running when brushing our teeth or when we wash up our plates. The bus ride back to the apartments was very quiet and it dawned on me that this whole experience would have a big impact on us all; the way that we think and our outlook on life will in most cases never be the same again. Anneka

It has been a very emotional morning for us all.  Up until now we have had only had a glimpse of what life is like for some children seeing them turn up in the same clothes to school, hearing stories of them doing water runs before they even begin the two hour walk to school, watching them have their porridge; which is probably their only meal of the day and still offering it to us.  Today reality really hit home, seeing the conditions that the children on the street deal with on a day to day basis.  My group had the privilege of meeting 15 boys who grouped together to keep each other safe, the youngest was just 13.  They live on a field right next to the airport.  They have no shelter so when it rains they try and take cover underneath roofs of shops and houses.  When we asked them what they do for food they replied “We hang around the stores and steal when we can”.  These boys have dreams and ambitions just like us; one wanted to be a doctor, another a mechanic, but they do not have the opportunity to fulfil these dreams.  It frustrates me when I think about all the opportunities that are wasted back home.  When asked what was the hardest things they had to face they said, health, food and shelter.  This was made all too real when we saw a boy underneath a very old and dirty blanket.  When we asked what was wrong he said that he had Typhoid.  It is so easy back home to moan about the smallest of illnesses and get treated for them.  This boy had no one to look out for him or get him treatment until we arrived.  Thankfully the work that the Catch up Centre do enabled him to get the treatment he needed. 
Today has really made me appreciate what I have waiting for me when I get home; the love and support of my friends and family.  The image I have of those children and their poor living conditions will always be a reminder to me just how lucky I really am.  Jen 

The emotional day continued when we sat down after dinner to hear two very specail stories, First our amazing translator Nancy told her genocide story aged 3 with her younger sister aged 1 and older brother aged 7. When genocide broke out they rushed, along with thousands of others to the UN "safety" zone in the south. after hiding for the three weeks the UN left. The murderers arrived and made all move to areas easier for killing. the family got split up and it was only months later that Nancy's brother was discovered murdered. The rest of the family survived and she is so grateful she was so young so that she remembers nothing of what happend. Then our host Pius told his story of escape from death, seeing so many bodies, loosing both his sisters and then dealing with being a pastor no able to forgive. It was only when he started working in the prisons as a chaplain, and met one of the men who tried to kill him that he started to realise the only way forward for him and his nation was repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. What a night and the team sat riveted for over an hour listening, (without power point, backing tracks or videos!) to two amazing stories so linked to this special day in the Rwandan calander. A day we will never forget. Paul S
Listening to the street kids stories and dreams

the youngest street kid we meet Jean Claud aged 5

There home on the street

These guys live by the airport fence

these live in a ditch

What a team

Team Giraffe

Team Gorilla
Team Meerkat

The Littlehampton Academy crew
St Augustines Academy

Our translators and driver
the real team tiger!


joolsbk said...

What you have written of your experiences so far is so moving. Thank you for sharing what you have been feeling as well as learning. This is so important for you to be able to share with others now and on your return. May you all be blessed in what you are doing.

Unknown said...

So so sad, my heart goes out to these amazing people and also to you all, what you have seen and witnessed is heart breaking, it's bad enough reading it, words can not express how we feel and were not even there, it must be so hard for you all no loved ones with you, but we are with you in spirit and are always by your side, lets hope that these beautiful children lives will improve and take great joy in the fact that you have given them all a week they will never forget , stay strong your an amazing team, love you so much Zac and so proud,mum, dad, jade, Aiden, sonny and ocean xxxxxxx

Unknown said...

What an emotional day! Well done all of you.

Thank you for sharing your experiences through the blog.

Take care James, looking forward to seeing you when you get home and hearing all about it.

Keep smiling

Kath & Tony