Exploring new ground

Mud houses

Today we are in Rugende on the eastern outskirts of Kigali to investigate what might be the location for our next project. The Good News Church is an austere concrete building set into the dry hillside. There is not much here but a dirt track heading up the Spartan hillside although there is a fine view of the valley looking east towards Rwamagama.

At the Good News Church a group of a dozen women have been organising themselves for a little over two years. In each year they have chosen a project to help and encourage each other. Each week, each woman contributes RWF250. That is around 20p. With that, in the first year, they were able to buy a gitenge, the coloured cloth Rwandan women wrap around themselves for each of the group that didn't have one. The second year, mattresses were bought. One lady, who confessed to being 65 years old, told of her delight at lying on it for the first time. Some of these women had been sleeping on the ground, something not uncommon in Rwanda.

After meeting the women in the church, we took to the dirt track and headed up the hill. Recent rains have cut deep gouges and what little traffic there is weaves carefully between the ruts. Along the way, a small house is being rebuilt. It used to belong to one of the church women who must be in her seventies sold it to pay for her daughter's medical treatment. The daughter died last year and the Pastor has a suspicion that the old women was paid only a fraction of what the house might have been worth.

Further up the hill is the house of one of the younger women. We are invited in and there is barely room for three of us to stand in the living room which is no more than five feet square. Brightly coloured calendars and a poster with happy youngsters adorn one wall. There is not much else that is bright about the room. Outside, children play in the dirt among mud houses with rough, ill-fitting doors and their rendering falling away.

Rugende is a place where people survive rather than live. It is certainly a place where we might do useful work.