How the other half live

17-12-2011

One of the reasons for spending some time in Kigali was to catch up with the project and old friends. So yesterday, we made our way across town to visit Steven in the new restaurant.

The kitchen is still being built and what used to be a door into the back room of the restaurant needs to be partially reopened to act as a serving hatch. Aside from that, trade is building slowly from the army of government office workers along the road and labourers from the various building sites in the area. Daily life begins early in Africa and breakfast is the busiest time with tea or milk being served with chapatis.

Behind the counter is young Gato. He is 17 and found his way to the big city from his home village like many other youngsters looking for a better life. Steven has taken him on to help run the restaurant. Unfortunately Gato received news this week that his father had died, so rather than have him travel alone, Steven accompanied him for the funeral.

Home for Gato is in the north of Rwanda near the Ugandan border. An hour's bus ride from Kigali goes as far as the local town, Rwemasha. From there the village is four hours walk along a dirt track. As Steven described the place, it sounds even more remote than Kiwangala in Uganda which has served as our base for the past three months. There is no electricity. The stream that provides water for washing and cooking is shared with the local cattle. Some people have land where they can perhaps grow crops, but seldom enough to feed a family of any size. People survive rather than thrive.

It turns out that Gato's father was hit by a bicycle, presumably moving at some speed. After two days he was coughing blood and put on another bicycle to be taken the 16 miles or so to Rwemasha. He died the next day at the clinic. We don't know all the circumstances but it does sound like other cases we have heard of where some basic facilities that are taken for granted at home might have made all the difference.

Steven stayed with Gato's family for two nights after the funeral then came back to Kigali. Gato has two younger sisters and a brother which their mother now has to support. He says he will return to the restaurant next week and we are hoping he does because from Steven's report there is more for him in Kigali than back at home. With the local market four hours away and no prospects for work, we can at least offer him a job to go to and something to eat each day.