We spent the past week in Mpanga which is in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. A little background, PROCOM is the NGO (non-governmental organization) that our program (GoED) is under. They own some land out in the East and they are working on a corn growing project that will provide Rwanda with seed that is best suited to grow in the land and will produce more food for the country. Basically they are doing an incredible and much needed project and are working their butts off to do it. So anyways, we stayed at “The Farm” which is PROCOM’s little area out there. They are in the process of building some facilities so we stayed in a half built mud house, which was a great shelter from the rain!
We went out into the nearby villages and did research. We conducted a health and hygiene section of a household survey. I also asked many of my own questions and just talked with the people. The households that I visited varied in wealth. It is surprising, but there is actually such a thing as “wealthy” in these destitute villages. Wealth is based on land and animals. So one man that I visited with owned a cow, 8 goats and some chickens. He had enough money to save a little bit to buy more animals in the future, but he still lived off of two meals a day. His sons were street children because he did not have enough money to pay for their school fees. It is unfortunate because Rwanda has achieved free primary education; the schooling in itself is free, but families still have to pay for the food and the cooks and this is not possible for many of these families. I also visited with families who live off of one meal of cassava or maize per day. Families who can not afford the universal health care that costs about $5 per year. I was face to face with those “starving children in Africa” that you are given a guilt trip about every time you don’t finish all the food on your plate. Looking at the faces of starving and malnourished children is a lot different than just hearing about it. It somehow manages to shrink your stomach and eliminate your appetite. It completely changes the way you look at the world and your life. It was difficult to go back to our camp and eat a hearty lunch of beef, beans, rice, bananas, and pineapple without feeling horribly guilty about it. This was probably one of the most challenging weeks of my life. It was difficult to process what I was seeing and be able to wrap my mind around it. It doesn’t seem real compared to the way we live in the states, even when I was experiencing it firsthand. It also was frustrating because I couldn’t think of a simple solution for these issues. It’s not as easy as just planting a few crops or sending some money for food. As you can imagine, it was an overwhelming and emotional couple of days, but it’s not all bad. These people still have an incredible joy and hope that I can’t understand. God is moving in these communities despite the lack of food. Also, well building projects have done a great job at making water accessible to each village! Instead of having to walk for 8 hours to get water like some villages, they just go to the local well. Although it is not clean drinking water, it is water and that is a big step. There is still a lot to be done, but it is encouraging to see that there have been some accomplishments and they are working hard at improving their communities.
We hung out at the farm and compiled all of our information. We worked on creating a poster and on Friday we presented our information at the local school. We gave our presentations to various community leaders. I also got pulled into one of the classrooms and was asked a ton of questions about myself and life in the U.S. It got me so excited to be teaching next month and as a career also. They asked me if I would come back and teach in Rwanda and my answer was heck yeah I freaking hope so! But in simplified English I said, “I hope so.” Hopefully the community leaders took our information into consideration and will make some changes within the communities. We spent a lot of time with our translators this week and goodness do those guys have a thing for white girls. They don’t care who you are, they just love you. My face is currently the background on my translators phone. Oh boy.
Practicum positions were decided this week and I will be in…Drumroll…..Hoima, Uganda! I am so excited. I will be with three other girls and we will all be doing different things. We will be staying with a missionary family that one of the girls stayed with last summer. I’m not exactly sure what I will be doing, but I am so excited! We leave for Uganda on Monday so these last two days in Rwanda will be busy with last minute things around Kiagli!