Dec 28, 2007 RWANDA:

Mission Impossible? No, but almost!

Heading 3 degrees south of the equator to build a library for the
Rwandeese children at a new High School in Kabuga seems like an easy
task. Join a few of your friends from Canada and combine it with a
shipping container of books, shelves and computers and presto you
have a library...not the case.

Here is some background information to set the stage for our
journey. Our friend, Frank Pollari (Thunder Bay, Canada) contacted
us mid October to come and help him construct a library at the new
High School in Kabuga, Rwanda, under the Nu-Vision Ministry
alliance. What we were told was that a container of books, shelves
and school supplies were at the site and just needed to be
organized, cataloged and shelved to make a library. Our 3 weeks in
Rwanda were suppose to be relaxing and educational. We learnt about
the pregenocide period, the horrific genocide itself, the
reconciliation period, the rebuilding period, the poverty, the aids
epedemic, the overpopulation, the pride, and the love for God.

The Rwanda culture has been primarily a tribal African culture. It
is made up of three tribes, the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Twa. All
three tribes lived in the beautiful lush hills and they were
primarily substance farmers. They all lived in Harmony and spoke
one language. Speaking one language and living side by side working
together is key to their entire history. It was during the
colonization period that division of power started to occur. The
Europeans treated certain tribes differently and there by created
the start of long hatred which exploded in April 1994. One million
people were murdered in 100 days by their neighbors, friends,
spouses, children, parents and even their clergy. This genocide left
the country in a total state of disbelief. Who could kill their own
children because their mother was from the hated tribe? What
minister would have his congregation gather in the safety of the
church and then bring in the death squads?

Jacky and I had a very difficult time trying to understand what
really happened. But now we were in a country that was trying to
bring itself to reconcile its past and become a country for the
future. The Rwandesse use the end of the genocide to mark the time
when the country started from a time of total mistrust, hatred, fear
and despair to a county with hope.

The country pregenocide was primarily substance farm living. Houses
were made of mud, roads were dirt paths at best, electricity was a
luxury. But one thing everyone had was a radio. The radio air
waves were the medium by which the genocide propaganda machine did
its job. Schools were to the 6th grade for the vast majority. Water
for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing clothes was either hauled
in or collected off the roofs. The economy was driven by low coffee
prices and international foreign aid. Rwanda was one of the poorest
countries in Africa.

How have things changed? We all know that most cultural change
occurs very slowly. We also know that infrastructural changes for a
country occur at that same slow rate especially if foreign aid
represents over 50% of their budgets. We saw roads that had not seen
a maintainer since 1985. The ruts were deep and plentiful (4 wheel
drive a must). We saw water constantly being hauled in 5 gallon
cans on bicycles. We saw water being collected off of the roof into
large cisterns. We saw makeshift wiring of every conceivable form
used to bring electricity into the homes and businesses. We saw a
public transit system based on taxis... motorcycle taxis, bicycle
taxis and Toyota Hiace vans as buses. (Each bus would be crammed
with 20 people in it before it would leave the bus stop. We took
the bus to our library worksite one day and at 6'1" tall, I did not
belong in the back far corner of the bus.) The airport has one
runway which you land and take off and you walk to and from the
terminal to get on the plane. (It was the same airport that the
president's plane was shot out of the air.)

Enough of the basic background. We got the library built!! The
books were computer indexed, dewey decimeled and shelved but only
after the shelves were built. Building the shelves required
1. going to the lumber store, 2. going to the lumber warehouse,
3. hiring a truck to haul the lumber to an area where the lumber is
cut, 4. actually cutting the lumber to the appropriate dimensions,
and 5. hiring a truck to haul the cut lumber to the school. Finally,
the assembling and finishing process could start. Jacky and I
worked as a team in building over 60 shelving units.

When we were done building we had time to learn about the long
historic culture. The restaurants and bars are not real fancy.
Lights are very dim because electricity is very expensive. Our
hosts' home had electric bills around $400 a month. The meals at
the restaurants included lots of rice, potatoes and some gravy
sauce. Fish was also popular. It was talopia fish from Lake
Victoria. The majority of Rwandans eat potatoes or rice at every
meal and lets not forget the bananas - plantain. Fruit was always
part of the meals (papya, pineapple and plantains). We only drank
bottled water because of chances for intestinal problems.

Our guest house was about a block away from our hosts' home. We
would see people walking all the time, day or night. Many evenings
after 9 pm we would meet the night patrol. This made us feel very
safe even with the lack of street lights. We needed to use our bike
lights walking at night because of ditches and rocks that were in
the road.

Jacky helped Frank and Lacey deliver 48 goats to a rural village.
The goats were their source of milk and meat. The village was
extremely poor and it was a village of mothers and their fatherless
kids. Jacky said she kept getting pinched and touched by the ladies
and children. (For some of them this was the first time they had
ever seen a blonde caucasion.) The goats were purchased with
donations from generous Thunder Bay Canadians.

We visited an orphanage and a maternity hospital. We brought and
delivered 500# of rice to the orphanage. We also brought and
distributed rice, corn meal, sugar and soap to all the mothers in
the maternity hospital. In Rwanda your family is required to feed
and bathe you while you are in the hospital.

We had a very special opportunity at the maternity hospital. Two
new born babies were abondoned in the hospital by their mothers.
Frank and Holly were given the opportunity to name the abondoned
girls. We are hopeful that Tatiana and Sarah will have a great
chance at life.

Rwanda will represent a very special part of our trip. We developed
life long friendships and had the opportunity to serve others with
our special skills. Also, the people of Rwanda helped us reflect on
how well life has treated us and that we need to thank God for all
our special gifts.

Happy Holidays everyone!
Ward and Jacky