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Archive for August, 2008

The night was a bit restless given that they were listening to evangelical Christian television in Kinyarwandan all night at top volume in the main room of the hotel, which carries through the courtyard right into the room. Up at 5.30 to shower – cold water, but washed my hair anyway. The air is quite cold at that time of the morning, so it’s not so much refreshing as it is just plain cold. But it’s easy to fall back into that routine, seriously like being back in El Salvador. No one else was up for our proposed 6.15 meeting, so I kind of wandered around in and out of my room to see what was going to happen. Breakfast was extremely late – guess they were somehow unprepared to feed all of us. We finally started eating around 7.45 – tea and egg bread (yum) and were late getting to the training center, which is a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Photo: first breakfast in Kiramuruzi hotel. Baptiste (translator), Musafiri (PAJER), Amina (Never Again), Jacques (Maison de Jeunes) and Chaka (artist).

The kids were there when we arrived, and we got started after finding everything we needed. We mainly did an introduction and helped create a good environment for participation, and to help the kids feel comfortable and have clear idea of what would happen in the next 3 weeks – introductions, name games, objectives for the project and the 3 weeks, short introduction of the partners and their specialties (video, art, theatre), and we made our constitution of how we would act, rules to follow for the week. Everything was facilitated by the different partners, with Crystel and Isaac and me supporting them, and Joseph and Baptiste translating for me. PAJER is the main facililitator, and the other 3 partners focus on their technical areas.

The kids are all between ages 12 and 18 and they are all out-of-school youth due to economic and other issues. They had a lot of questions about what they would learn, would it help them to earn a living, and where would the materials and equipment be kept in the end.

The first day went pretty well. We met to debrief and made suggestions to improve tomorrow:

–be more on time (i.e. make sure the hotel gets breakfast to us on time!).

–We noted that the children are very free and open and not afraid to participate. Many of them took the microphone and led singing and dynamics with the whole group and in general they are not shy about speaking in public and saying their opinions. That means that we are ahead of the game.

–There were lots of ‘street kids’ coming in – should we let them participate or not? We agreed that if they were few it would be OK to incorporate them, but they needed to get permission and we need to know that they will participate the whole 3 weeks.
–Be sure to review our sessions ahead of time to avoid interrupting them to get materials, etc.
–Do more integration activities tomorrow to integrate boys/girls and kids from different sectors/communities.
–Reminder to not become ‘problem centered’ – to start from resource and strengths standpoint.
At dinner debated for about 2 hours on what should be the topic for the youth debate…. We decided it would be “Parents should talk to their children about sex.” We then mixed into groups to take sides so that we could do a mock debate tomorrow to show the kids what a debate looks like.

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I checked out of the Ninzi Hill hotel around 9 and we spent the day at the office finishing up the first few days of the agenda, checking over equipment, installing software, etc. We left for Gatsibo around 3.30, stopping on the way to get some lunch…. talk about starch!! I guess that’s what I’ll be in for for the next few weeks: plantains, manioc, pasta, potatoes, rice were the main course. I added some peas for variety and so my plate wouldn’t be all white food! Photo: road to Kiramuruzi, near President Kagame’s residence.

The drive was beautiful – reminded me of the hilly areas of El Salvador or Honduras – really green (even though it’s the dry season) with red dirt. We went past Lake Muhazi, and the president of Rwanda’s private residence where he keeps cattle and spends most of his time apparently. We’ll be staying there on the weekend as a little break since the hotel is nicer and the lake is beautiful.

The ‘not nice’ hotel is in Kiramuruzi, and it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. It is a pretty typical rural type hotel. I have a small room with a private bathroom off a large courtyard (most of the others have to share the bathrooms…). There are probably 15 rooms, so it’s quite small. There’s a mosquito net, small table, and then in the bathroom there’s a shower floor (no running water) and a toilet (no running water), and a yellow 5-gallon oil container type thing with water in it for bathing and flushing. So not much different than El Salvador except that the water is in the yellow container and not the stone sink. Photo: sunset over the roof of our hotel in Kiramuruzi.

I settled in and Joseph came out with some playing cards, so we spent the evening playing cards with him, 2 of the video guys (Olivier and Bernard) and Amina until we went to bed around 10. I taught them my family’s favorite game: oh hell, which is now “american cards”.

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Genocide Memorial

Had a nice evening out on the town with Chrystel, her friend Denise, her boyfriend ‘Boo Boo’ and his friend ‘Giga’. We mainly just had a nice dinner and drinks, but got home pretty late.

Joseph and Tony came to get me at 9 to see down town Kigali and then go to the Genocide Memorial. Kigali is so clean, I think that’s what is nice, you hardly see any trash anywhere like you do in a lot of other places. They also have this ban on plastic bags which is really cool and I’m sure that helps a lot.

The memorial was really sad. It really made me think a lot, as I have been since getting here and as I used to a lot in El Salvador about human nature and how those things can actually happen. How far people can go and what people, myself included, would potentially be capable of in certain circumstances, both in terms of perpetrating and in terms of surviving something like that. I hope I never find out.

The other thing that was so clear looking at the other exhibits there about other genocides was how much complicity other countries have in all these horrible wars and genocides. How ignorant colonizers were, how arrogant. I know this already but it really hits home when you see Cambodia, Nigeria and Rwanda in the same memorial.

Tomorrow we go to the office early to get ready, partners come at 10 to finish the schedule, and we are off to Gatsibo District at 2. We’ll arrive around 4 to settle into the ‘not nice’ hotel and get ready for tomorrow. I’m excited — and need to get packing!

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Today’s a holiday in Rwanda so I slept in late and have some time to catch up on other work. Slept well last night but encountered my first nighly mosquito…. annoying how they buzz in your ear. And I stopped taking the malaria pills…. but I figure one mosquito won’t hurt. I’ll see what Gatsibo is like though….

Last night we stopped by the bank to cash the check to cover our expense for the next 3 weeks and waited in line, I kid you not, for 2 whole hours. There must have been 100 people in line ahead of us, the place was wall to wall. I realized how nice debit cards and ATMs are…. we take them for granted, but imagine if you had to manage your life in cash, pay all bills in cash, and wait in line for an hour or so every time to do it. Wow. I feel so lucky with my online banking.

We’re going to hit the town tonight (I finally changed some money too!) and then tomorrow Joseph, his girlfriend and other friend Tony are going to take me around Kigali. We’ll see the downtown and also visit the Genocide Memorial. I wonder how that will feel. The Kigali that I’m seeing is so calm and orderly, so nice, that I can’t imagine that less than 15 years ago there was bloody mass genocide happening right here. It think the memorial will be pretty overpowering.

Well, related to work, I got some great great news from different colleagues today — our Netherlands office is interested in funding the Social Change through Social Media workshop in Kenya in December; the German office wants to put the virtual visits on their website and may have possibilities of funding future work in that area; and the Japanese office is making a Japanese virtual visit this month and will post all our other VVs plus the Japanese one on their website. Very exciting!

At 2 I have to be on a conference call related to Plan’s participation in the 3rd World Congress on Child Sexual Exploitation. Hoping my phone works well enough to make the connection. I’m participating on the Child and Adolescent Participation Commission (CAPC) with people from UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children in different countries. There is a lot of stuff to work out still regarding children’s participation in the conference and very little time since it’s happening at the end of November…. Within Plan there is a broad task force from all the different regions who are feeding into the process in different countries and regions, and the linking in to Plan’s global process via the lead coordinator for it in our Swedish office. Then I’m trying to be the link between the CAPC and the Plan task force. It’s a bit confusing at times with so much information and so many things happening at once and such a short time frame.

The workshop with the partners yesterday went really well, but we still have a lot to do. It was supposed to be 3 days but due to the holiday was only 2, so there’s a missing 8 hours in there. We got to the point of mapping out who’s doing what, but only very generally. There were different ideas of what to do about that, but most people feel that it’s really important to have a precise schedule for at least the first week. Chrystel is busy today and tomorrow getting all the last supplies to take with us (stationery, first aid kit, computers, art supplies, etc.) so we agreed that I would take the draft agenda and try to put in into a grid with times/responsible people to share back with the partners. They all agreed to come in at 10 on Sunday, before we take off to Gatsibo, to finalize it. We also have to check through the equipment, make sure batteries are charged, see if anything is missing that we need, and make sure the computer software is all loaded and running.

On the home front…. Clare has decided to get her hair cut and she might do it while I’m gone (Gasp!!!). She’s donating it to locks of love to make wigs for cancer survivors. I hope she at least sends me a picture of the new style so I’ll know what to expect. She’s developing her sense of style and stuff since she’s almost 12.

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I couldn’t sleep last night because of jetlag so was really tired today. But the workshop that we did and the partners were so so so good that it kept me energetic.

We started at 9 and went until 4.30. We had several people including Bernard, Jacques and Olivier – young guys who work with video through Maison de Jeunes; Musafiri and Patrick from PAJER which is a youth parliament organization; Nandita and Amina from Never Again which is a theater group; Chaka a painter; Genevieve and Edison from the Plan program unit office, Joseph and Jean Baptiste from the University of Rwanda as translators, and Isaac, Chrystel and me.

There was tons of discussion about the project, ways of working with youth, facilitating vs. ‘training’, etc. It was really clear that we are all on the same page in terms of how to work with youth and what the project can blossom into. I’m so excited. Already the partners kept saying how we think this but we should see what the youth themselves want/think. They are talking about how to keep the project alive and sustain it and support it if the youth decide to create a youth association in the district.

They are really happy that Plan is not a ‘city’ organization, and that we are going to the community to work there not bringing kids into the city. They were really complimentary about the project design and the fact that Plan/Nokia have general goals but are not obligating and pressuring the community to implement in a certain way — that the partners and communities are able to find the best way for the project to work in their realities. Although when we talked about our ‘hopes and fears’ almost everyone had some concerns about being away from family, work, school and friends for 3 whole weeks, they were all extremely committed to follow up with the youth and to be really present during the 3 weeks training.

Now with a common vision, tomorrow we will work on who does what, when and how for the 3 weeks. We’ll focus on more solid plans (though we will be flexible as the workshop goes on) for the first week and debrief each evening, and then after the first week we will re-group to take another look at the plans for the 2nd week, and the same thing for the 3rd week.
So tomorrow we’ll put up flip charts on the wall, one for each week, and the partners will come with ideas for activities. We’ll fill things in and make sense of it all. Well, that’s the plan, at least.

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Ah, nothing like coming home from a long day of work and having a cold beer while updating your blog!

I got into Rwanda completely on schedule with no hitches. All my luggage arrived, no issues with customs, and no late flights. Something to celebrate for sure. But I had a
little bit of a cold and was feeling a bit narcoleptic the whole trip – kept randomly dozing off…. In the cab on the way to the airport, waiting for my plane, in the plane during the day, all night, etc. And when I finally got to Rwanda (after DC, Rome, Addis Ababa stops) I was STILL exhausted. So I had a nap, some dinner, checked emails, washed out some clothes in the sink (with all the equipment in my luggage, I didn’t have much room for clothing!) and went to bed.

Woke up at 5 with only one mosquito bite, and opened the curtains to the dawn, nice and cool, Rwanda style. The weather here couldn’t be more perfect. You’re fine in
jeans or shorts, sleeves or none. Nice breeze. Small hills/mountains all around.

I have decided to nix the malaria pills because they make me nauseous. I’ll see if I need them when I get to Gatsibo, but for now it’s not worth feeling sick all evening.

Hotel Ninzi is small with excellent breakfasts (whole grain bread, fruit, cheese, strong coffee, meat for the carnivores) and big rooms. One of the guys who had been eating at a nearby table last night invited me to sit at his table. I did, and it was fine until he asked if I was married (I lied), said his dream was to marry an American woman, and kept pressing me to tell him my room number. So I clammed up at that. He said I must be new to Rwanda because I was ‘scared’. OK, whatever. I’m not giving you my room number.

At the Plan Rwanda office I met the whole team, very young and dynamic, and handed over the equipment. Then we went over the list of partners we’d be working with – a youth organization, an audio-visual organization, an artist and a theatre group. All sound amazingly right for the project so it’s looking really good.

We went over the vision for the 3 week training, and then had lunch at Chez Robert (excellent salads and vegetarian entrees, as well as a huge selection of other stuff at the lunch buffet). I am pretty amazed at how charming and lovely Kigali is. I’m
probably only seeing one part, but so far it seems like paradise given the weather, the real food for lunch, the strong coffee, good beer, and wireless internet at my hotel….

Speaking of lodging, one thing we had to decide on was lodging for the 3 weeks training in Gatsibo District. Apparently there is a nice hotel further away from the communities where we’re working, but it doesn’t have enough rooms for everyone, so the options were to book rooms for me and a few others there, and everyone else stayed at a less nice place (I heard “not good” and “pretty bad” actually to describe it), or for us all to just stay at the ‘not nice’ place. Which is what we decided we’d
do. I think after living in the Barrio in El Salvador, it won’t be a big deal if the electricity is on and off as well as the water, which will not be hot. Maybe I will regret it later, but I think it will be fine. I think it will be fun anyway. Hope I’m right. Chrystel said she’d book the nice place on Sat/Sun nights so we can wash clothes, access internet and have some entertainment, which sounds great to me.

In the afternoon, Isaac, the new Youth Empowerment coordinator (Chrystel is the Child Rights and Advocacy Coordinator, but Isaac wasn’t hired when we had the Dakar training so Chrystel participated but now Isaac is the main point person) and I
worked out a schedule for the partners’ training. We only have tomorrow and Thursday with them because Friday is a holiday.

We planned the training like this:
Morning 1st Day: getting to know each other and the organizations, setting ‘ways of being’ with each other as a team, team building

Afternoon 1st Day: project overview, project outputs and outcomes, general outline of the 3 week training, thinking about the first week – how to use different arts, media, etc. as tools for youth to look at themselves through different lenses (self portraits, dreams, wishes, where do they fit in the community’s/society’s expectations of them? and how do they feel about society’s expectations/stereotypes of them?) and to look at the community through different lenses (what is living in the community like for a boy vs a girl? An older person vs a baby? What is the spiritual life? The
physical life? The cultural life? The community in time: what happens in the early morning? The late morning? The afternoon? The evening? What are they proud of in the community? Worried about? What are their hopes for the community? Their dreams? Their challenges and what are they doing about them? Etc)

We will close by asking the partners to think about different activities and methodologies that they have used in the past or can imagine using to help youth look at themselves from different angles and the community also from different perspectives. When possible, we will encourage the partners to co-facilitate, like if youth are doing an exercise about what their dreams are (delving into their real feelings and hopes) we can combine it with using the video cameras to record it (practice with video cameras). Or we can film a theater piece to practice using the cameras. Or the artist can work with a group of youth to create an image of the community for the community map, and look at some other aspects during the map creation. The idea is to really mix up the art forms along with the ‘work’ of pulling out the ideas and concepts on what to film/draw/paint/etc. to represent the community in the final ‘product’. We will look at the outcomes we hope to see in the youth, and
then at the different media as the tools to get there.

We will try to do the technical training for the equipment in small doses along with the other more broad exercises in the first week so that we don’t have to stop the process for a day to do dry and boring ‘training’ on the equipment, and so that the youth can see which area they want to focus on in the 2nd and 3rd week (video, photography, visual art, theatre, music). Hopefully in the process we will come closer and deeper to knowing what would help the youth have better presents and futures and this can be worked into Plan’s program planning.

Morning 2nd day: we will come back to yesterday’s discussion and see what the partners come up with for possible activities to build trust, environment of participation, and methodologies for looking at things from various angles.

Afternoon 2nd day: we will make a big flip chart for each week, define what we should have achieved by which point (by day 4 week 1 we should have some ideas for videos, by day 3 week 2 we should have shot some video footage, etc.) and together with the partners we will fill in the activities for the week.

I’m excited to meet the partners tomorrow and to put things together. The youth who will participate in the training number around 30, and they are ages 12-18 and
out-of-school youth. Most have up to a 6th grade education but were not able to continue due to financial reasons. They are from 2 different communities in Gatsibo district.

OK more later….

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on my way to Rwanda

So it’s my last day in the States for awhile. I’m in a hotel near the airport in DC finishing up last minute things before I’m out till Aug 31 supporting the training in Gatsibo, Rwanda. Had a nice few days with my parents and kids in between work — flew into Indianapolis on Tues night and spent a few days there and in my home town Ft Wayne. The kids will stay there until the last week of August when they go back home to start school. I hate being gone for their first week of school, but with the crazy schedule there wasn’t much choice this time. There has been so much to do this past week that I was really stressed. It will be good to be able to focus on one thing for the next few weeks.

Julie wrote up a long report on how things have been going in Senegal that Chrystel (Rwanda coordinator) and I will use to shape the training in Rwanda. There are lots of experiences with Senegal as well as with the trainings I’ve been involved in to keep learning and improving with each time we do it. So I’m getting excited as well as anxious as I always do before starting something really important. It always takes a few days for everyone to settle into the routine, which is stressful.

Hopefully I’ll have some pictures and short videos to post in the next week or so. I get into Rwanda on Monday after flying from DC to Rome to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Kigali, so long flights and lots of stop overs. Think I’ll be exhausted but have to go straight into the office for a meeting. Then Tues Chrystel and I will get ready for the partners training that takes place on Wed-Fri. Sunday we go to Gatsibo for the training with the community and youth which will start on Monday. I also have a few meetings/conference calls on other things I have to do this coming week, but after that I will be free from phone/internet for a couple of weeks which will be nice!

More later….

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off to Rwanda!

I’m off again! This time to Rwanda with a mini stop in Indiana to see my folks and drop the kids there on the way.

Training is underway in Senegal already, and Julie has been posting brief updates so that the rest of the team in the other countries can learn from what is happening there. Over the past few weeks mainly I’ve been catching up on things that were on hold while I was in Dakar, like….

Getting all the equipment for the next two countries, and finalizing training dates. We now have all the equipment for Rwanda and Mali. I’ll take it with me to Rwanda to hand off to Julie. I’ll be there for a total of 3 weeks and Julie will overlap with me for the last week and stay a little longer for a debrief. It will be good to both be there for a part of the training together. I think Julie’s going to be there for the Mali training and I’ll focus on other things during that time.

I’m also working hard to find some additional funding for the Social Change through Social Media workshop that we want to have in Kenya in December. We have a really good outline of what we want to accomplish, now we are just waiting to hear back from a couple of offices to see if they can help fund it so we can actually do it.

We’re getting in proposals for the company that will do the web design for the YETAM project also. We have 3 so far and now we need to hand the proposals over to a committee that will decide which one to actually contract depending on things like the best design, best price, etc. Figuring out the web part has been a challenge because we want to integrate what we are doing into a broader web strategy, but there are a few different websites in existence already, so we’ve been trying to find a solution where we are doing what we want to do with the YETAM site, but also building something that can integrate well with all the other sites out there at the different Plan offices. I think we have it now though, so I’m excited.

We’ve also almost finished the Dominican Republic virtual visit — I’ll post the link when it’s ready. Now just finishing El Salvador and we can make the curriculum DVD that goes with it and send it out to schools and teachers!

Today it’s catching up on last minute stuff and packing. Flights out to Indiana at 7, and then working from there until I leave on Saturday night for DC, and Sunday out to Kigali…. Hopefully I’ll have some web access there but I’m not counting on it.

Till next time….

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