Mud houses and goats at Kibungo

Jun 28 2014

The day was always going to be strenuous. Just getting across Kigali to Nyabugogo for the bus to Kibungo meant an hour's walk, albeit in the cool early morning. Once at Kibungo, getting around the hillsides of the area around Pastor Joseph's church is hard work, even without the daytime heat of the Rwandan sun.

So, with an early start, we arrive at Kibungo after two hours on the bus and meet Pastor Joseph in his office at Eglise Vivant. It is traditional here to greet visitors with a bottle of water, but he also has a large flask of Keynian tea ready - tea boiled in milk - and some chappatis. It was December when we last met Joseph so he is keen to catch up on our news.

Joseph introduces Viateur, a twenty-something worker at Eglise Vivant, who is going to be the guide and interpreter for the day. He will take us around some of the widows who received goats from the Sunday School children at Loanhead church at the end of 2013.

It says something about the lives of the people we have come to visit that their houses aren't near main roads so much as near rough tracks. The ground is hard dirt with loose rocks. The hillsides are steep. A scramble down a path off the main track brings us to a widow with two young children. She meet us on the track above her small house which sits in a piece of land not much bigger than the house itself. The building is simple with mud walls which are intact and a wooden front door. Inside, the floor is dirt, swept smooth, and the two internal doorways are have sheets hanging from nails instead of doors. The woman and her children all have HIV.

Inside the main room we sit on a low bench while the mama runs up the hill to bring her goat. It is led on a rope and is clearly pregnant. It should give birth in the next few weeks. Viateur explains that the woman is very grateful for her goat. It will give her a valuable source of income.

We bid our farewells and viateur points up the hill to a track above us through the trees. We scramble up the loose ground and follow several more tracks to our next port of call. A scramble down the hill and we come to another mud house. This one has sogum seeds and soja beans drying in the sun which we have to step over to get to the door. At the side of the house, a rough windbreak made of sticks marks the fire used to cook the family's meals. The widow has three young children with her and a fourth at secondary school.

The goat given to this woman has already given birth to twin kids. She will have it mated again in December. Viateur translates that a local dog took one of the kids. The woman went to the authorities and the dog's owner has compensated her with another one. She is animated as she tells us how grateful she is for the goats which allow her to keep her eldest son at school.

We are not able to visit all of the families who received goats from Loanhead but we have seen enough in the day to know that the gifts have gone where they are needed. These families have little in life and any source of income helps them to eat. Back at Pastor Joseph's office we arrange for another batch of goats to be bought for local families. On the bus back to Kigali and sitting among Rwandans who can afford to travel, it is a sobering reflection that the RWF2,000 price of the ticket (about £1.80) is the wage for a day's manual work. The women we have seen today don't have jobs and little prospect of finding one.