Archive for the ‘Rwanda’ Category

I’m alternating hair washing days since the cold water is a little harsh in the mornings. It’s been interesting getting ready every morning with just a tiny compact size mirror. Wonder how I’m actually looking as I haven’t been able to see my entire face for the past week! Photo: my mirror and essential bottled water for teeth brushing.

Training was easy for me today as the kids were all in their groups and I could just float around to see what each group was doing. In fact I took a couple of hours as a break before lunch because I felt like I was kind of in the way. The kids stayed until 4, working on the script for the play, learning more about video shooting, angles, etc, and doing some prep work on map drawing. Photo: Bernard training the kids on angles and framing.

We loaded up all the equipment and took it back to the Hotel and then we packed up and were on our way to Muhazi, the very beautiful lake on the borders of which President Kagame has his ranch. The rooms were really quaint, and we had 2 lodges. Around 8 we walked down the pitch dark road to a restaurant on the edge of the lake. Photo: Amina and I at Jambo Beach, Muhazi Lake Restaurant.

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We were better with breakfast timing today but still a bit behind. The training was composed of the following:

Review of yesterday with a renewed focus on the project objectives, and with more clarity among partners that we are not looking for kids to name a list of problems, but to look at their community from many angles and express about it. The kids worked in small groups to tell what they understood from the day before. They really got the idea and we felt certain about moving forward. Photo: Kids doing a theater exercise with Amina.

We went into the adults mock debate which was also good. The kids were interested in the topic and they had a lot to say about it also when asked to comment on which side they agreed with. After the debate we had an introduction to arts techniques lecture, and then the video guys introduced the kids to the camera and allowed them to break into small groups to start practicing very initially with it. Then there was a drama activity where they made picture poses about something in the community. After lunch we had the rest of the art lesson, and showed them some more films as well as some of the maps done by children in Togo, DR, El Salvador, Uganda and some of the art and videos done by youth in other projects. Photo: Bernard filming the activities.

Things went smoother today with the logistics in and outside of the training but not 100%. I think by tomorrow the routine will be more clear for everyone and will begin to run better. Photo: Kids making a “photo” that represents something that happens in the community.

After the workshop, the partners met to go over the day. We all agreed it had gone well for the most part, that people were clearer about the objectives and the team was gelling better.

–Still need to improve time keeping – people need to be sure they have enough time to do the activity they want to do and others shouldn’t have to tell them their session is over.

–The art session was too much like a lesson: need less teaching and more doing to keep the kids engaged.

–We need to be sure to end on time and not give the kids home work because they already have house work to do

–We agreed that they seem ready to specialize into smaller groups now. This way we said they could have more focus and more relaxing time during the workshops so they don’t get tired.

On the walk back to the hotel Patrick from PAJER was telling me about an idea as follow up to create a kind of training center where these kids could come to form their association and also to continue training in arts and media so that the empowerment would also be economic.

At dinner we had another very long debate about how to divide the children in groups. There were lots of different ideas. In the end we decided that we would ask them to write down on a piece of paper their 1st and 2nd choices, and explain that they would focus on that area for the next 2 weeks. That we would do our best to put them in the group they want but couldn’t guarantee it due to numbers and available equipment.

Patrick led people through the agenda for tomorrow to ensure everyone was clear about their role and the time they needed.

We ended dinner around 10 and I went to bed but couldn’t sleep well with so many thoughts in my mind about the project and the next few weeks, as well as what will happen after the 3 week training finishes to ensure that the training/the YETAM project is the beginning of something, not the end.

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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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