The Rwamagana project

Jan 31 2015

Waking with the sun, I lay in bed until the hot water was delivered in jerry cans. Although the rooms at the Scripture Union guest house, where are staying have showers, they are only plumbed for cold water.

Washed and dressed Mary and I headed down to the hall for breakfast: omelette, sweet rolls, small bananas and cups of tea. This hall is used for meetings, church services and teaching during bible camps as well as serving breakfast to the many guests who pass through during the year.

As we were eating, Rika, a Finnish girl studying in Brussels for a Masters in Cultural Anthropology, arrived and related her experiences at the Immigrations Office yesterday. She needed to extend her visa before returning to the Congolese refuge camp near Kigembe, in the south west of the country, where she has been talking to the residents about their experiences.

Today we were going to Rwamagana and had arranged to meet our helper Steven at the bus station at Remera on the outskirts of Kigali. This is where buses to the east of the country leave. We arrived earlier than expected as the bus from near Scripture Union had been very prompt. I text Steven to let him know that we had arrived and that we would meet him at the bus stand for Rwamagana.

Remera bus station is a very busy place; teenagers with suitcases, buckets and mattresses heading for high school in the provinces, mothers with small children on a day out to visit family, men going to work with briefcases or laptops and other adults trying to scrape a living by selling refreshments and trinkets to all these travellers.

We had a long wait, Steven had obviously been delayed. When I finally contacted him I discovered there had been a misunderstanding. He was waiting for us at the bus stand in Rwamagana. When he received my text he had driven from Kigali to Rwamagana a journey of 45 minutes, to meet us there. I hadn't realised that he had intended picking us up by car in Remara in order to travel together. We hopped on the next bus which was about to leave and eventually met up an hour later.

Both Mission Rwanda and Loanhead Parish Church are supporting projects in Rwamagana. First we visited a nursery school run by the Evangelical Restoration Church where the people of Loanhead had bought uniforms for 124 children. They all looked very smart and greeted us with smiles and waves. We were able to see the blackboards the painting of which Loanhead had also paid for. This year a further 120 children have joined the nursery and the school administrator was looking for money to purchase uniforms for them as well.

We then went to the local market where a number of widows supported by Mission Rwanda have stalls. Bronwen met these ladies not long after the income generation project started and was pleased with the progress that had been made. One woman had originally bought a marquee which see rented out for weddings and other large family gatherings. Now she has a stall in the market as well. When we asked her about the differences in her life over the last eighteen months she patted her stomach to show she had put on weight. She certainly did look well.

Two of the other widows had decided to deal in second hand shoes. We were unable to meet them on this visit as they had gone to a market elsewhere with their wares. Another two women had put their money together and when I was there last had rented a shop to burn dvds. Today they have a well stocked boutique selling a variety of drinks and other products. One of them was at a meeting while the other one informed me that she had also managed to buy some pigs.

The women have started putting away a small part of their profits in order to help other widows in the town. Hopefully when we return later in the year we will find some new businesses.