This year we took ten girls to Rwanda to support the work of the Equip Charity which is a UK based Christian charity working in Rwanda to promote opportunity and excellence primarily in education and health (https://www.facebook.com/equipuk/).
Mrs Bowden wrote this update towards the end of their visit:
The journey here was fine though long and we were very glad to be met by Mrs Johnson and Jean Claude, our host, at the airport. It was wonderful to step out into the African sunshine, and exciting to drive through Kigali to our home for the two weeks. Kigali is a bustling city, with an interesting mixture of Western buildings sitting alongside much more traditional African homes. High Ground Villa, where we are staying, is wonderful. All the rooms are beautifully furnished with en suites and hot water! We have our own kitchens and lounge areas and it is a cool and calm oasis, very welcome after our busy days out.
Sunday was a rest day, spent settling in and then we went to Soluna, a pizza restaurant with views overlooking the city. We had just got back home when it started to rain, quickly followed by a power cut. The team was amazing, settled quickly, and soon all were asleep.
On Monday we went to visit the Vocational School built and funded by Equip. It was very encouraging to see the enormous progress made since our last visit two years ago, and we saw students learning how to make bags and clothes, how to do hair and nails and also brick laying. We then joined one of the classes for an English lesson, where we tried to learn Kinyarwandan with limited success!
In the afternoon we visited a shopping mall in the city centre, sorting phones, changing money and buying essentials like water and coffee. We also managed to fit in an ice cream, and then returned home for a rest and take away pasta and pizza, a new invention since our last visit.
On Tuesday morning we returned to the Vocational School and this time our girls joined in with the textiles and beauty classes, learning how to use the manual sewing machines, and having various beauty and hair treatments. I was so proud of them as they tried hard to converse with the students, and lovely to see them laughing together. Several of them left with bags they had made and one of the girls was transformed with numerous hair braids!
In the afternoon we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial which was very informative but also difficult. It gave us all a better understanding of what the country had been through and we were both horrified by man’s inhumanity to man, but also amazed by the message of forgiveness and reconciliation that came through very clearly. From there we went to Bourbon, a restaurant with panoramic views of the city, where we ate, relaxed and one or two of the team even managed to access the wifi!
Wednesday was our rest day and we began with a visit to Kimironko market where the girls bought souvenirs and tried their skills at bartering. We went from there to Mille Colline, the hotel where Hotel Rwanda was based. We had a delicious buffet lunch and then went on to the Umabana Hotel to swim and sunbathe. It was great to see them all swimming and having fun together. We went home via Ndolis, our favourite supermarket, had supper and an early night – tired but happy girls!
Thursday morning saw us back at the Vocational School, where the girls again joined the textile and beauty classes, and then another English lesson. This time we had bought English/Kinyarwandan phrase books which we used to help with conversation.
Thursday afternoon was preparation time, finishing off the dramas and lessons begun back in England. We also practised the songs we would need for our visit to a local school the following day. In the evening we experimented with a new restaurant, Ryders, in a modern shopping mall, finishing the evening with delicious ice creams. It is very strange moving between the extreme poverty at the school and the western affluence of the city centre.
This morning saw our first visit to another school. This one is a government school a stone’s throw from the Vocational School. It is enormous with a total of over 2,600 students, ranging from nursery to the top of senior. Our team found themselves performing to the entire school out in the playground with the help of a microphone and Pastor James, who is the Principal of the Vocational School and who acted as our translator. Holly and Taia introduced the group and the various items. Our drama was David and Goliath, with Lily and Megan making a very impressive Goliath, Susie was the king, Amy the soldier and Taia played David, killing Goliath to rounds of applause. Megan then spoke about how God can help us to defeat the giants in our life and she prayed beautifully for the school. The whole team sang and we were very proud of them, and the school students were both appreciative and entertained.
The team then moved on and taught two primary classes, each of about 60 pupils. Fortunately they were very well behaved and loved making the fish or sheep masks, and our team were great, telling the stories and helping them with the craft activities. They rose to the challenge, getting alongside the children and a good time was had by all. That was then followed by a visit to three senior classes where our girls were asked to give a motivational speech about the value of education and working hard! Again they were great and despite being given no time to prepare did very well.
We are now home and have been preparing what we need to share in church on Sunday. This afternoon we will be visiting a lady who makes bags, and have then been invited by our host to sample Rwandan fish delicacies, supplemented by an Indian take away! Tomorrow is our visit to the game park, a very long day! We need to leave by 4.30am to get to the park before it is too hot. We will spend all day there and not return home until late, so don’t be disappointed if we don’t post any pictures before Sunday – hopefully including plenty of animals!
Imana ibhe umugisha (God bless you all!)
From Team Rwanda!