Clean shirts and dirty water

Clean shirts and dirty water
20-12-2009

We are learning daily the dangers of taking for granted the difference between what we left and what people here live with. After four months in Rwanda we are becoming increasingly aware of how little we appreciate the life which individuals face here and the vast gulf in wealth which separates most Rwandans from Europe. This week has been spent with several widows groups. We are trying to develop income generation which is the local term for micro-business and a way of providing something above the breadline for the individual.

Money (or amafaranga in Kinyarwanda) was being discussed on Thursday. I was taught a lesson in humility when I asked how the members of one of the groups live each day. Their immaculately clean personal appearance is deceptive as I discovered when it transpired that a typical daily income is perhaps 2,000 francs (about £2.50). Even this takes all the time an individual has to scrape together, doing whatever work can be found. Bronwen had a pair of shoes mended at the exorbitant cost of 50p. Judging from what I have seen, I doubt the pavement cobbler will see many more than five customers a day. The smart appearance of the widows group was explained by them washing their clothes each night. We take many things for granted. I should appreciate a clean shirt a lot more than I do.

The problems being faced by the widows groups are reflected in the lives of the Mammas who come to help at Bronwen’s morning Bible Club. There are four ladies who are there each day. One, Mamma David has four children and recently spent some time with them in the care of a local orphanage. The orphanage had agreed to look after Mamma David and her children for a month. It seems that now she has left the orphanage with her youngest, David. The other three are still there. We have learnt as well that she has fallen behind with her rent and is facing eviction on Christmas Eve. Her monthly rent is only £13.

Some of the Nyamirambo street-children

On a brighter note, our street children project is gathering momentum. There are about twenty local children which turn up each day for their lunch. We can happily report that boys will be boys, and that Rwandan boys are just like any others. This week, one delightful child decided to climb to the top of the tree outside the hall. From this not insignificant hight he proceeded to ‘Christen’ (I am struggling to be polite) the children below him. An old Edinburgh cry, “garde l’eau” came to mind. Wonderful.