From JW via AK's blogger account...
Today our team split into two groups. The first group, comprised of Justin L., Ahmad, and Rob, traveled to the Koakaka farmers Cooperative and the University of Rwanda in the Nyamagabe and Huye provinces (southwest Rwanda). The remaining team members, Amy, Mariana, Israel, and I, traveled to visit a SILC group gathering in the Kibungo province (southeast Rwanda). Justin L. Ahmad, and Professor Easley will be staying overnight in Huye, and we are looking forward to hearing about their experience tomorrow (3/10) at the CRS-Rwanda office in Kigali; however, this blog will detail group two’s experience at the SILC gathering in Kibungo.
This morning group two was picked up by our driver for the day (Robert) and met our CRS assigned liaison (Anthalie) just before 8am. From there we travelled nearly 2.5 hours southeast through one of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. The entire countryside was green with vegetation. We saw fields full of banana, pineapple, coffee, cassava, maize and other crops. Mountains and hills surrounded the road which was filled by endless clusters of pedestrians on foot, motorcycles, and bicycles. One unique observation our team noted during the drive was that the rural areas are densely populated; this country is literally bursting with activity.
Upon arriving in Kibungo we met the priest of the local parish and then traveled 15-20 miles on rocky dirt roads to the SILC gathering. During the drive we heard the children on the road yelling, “Muzungu! Muzungu!”, which means white person (according to the locals I’m a Muzungu). Eventually, we pulled up to a huge gathering of over 300 people underneath a group of banana trees in a small area next to the church. The people crowded around us, pulled up a bench, and asked each of us to stand on it and introduce ourselves. They enjoyed our humble attempts to say “thank you” in their native language. Next, our team sat with one of the 17 SILCs comprised of over 30 people in attendance and watched them meticulously account for their savings and loans. The success of the SILC program in these farmer groups was undeniable, members used funds to buy a cow, purchase goats, open a salon, and provide a mobile phone charging station in the village. Before we left, Israel played with a large group of children, Justin W. staged a massive race, Mariana and Amy were tailed by young and old alike, and we all were humbled by the chance to experience the culture in this wonderful community.
At the end of the day we each were served goat brochettes and fried banana with Coca-Cola and Sprite (yes Coca-Cola bottling company is everywhere!) and we were sent back on our way to Kigali.
Until next time…Amy, Mariana, Israel, and Justin W. (aka group 2)
P.S.– Group 1 we miss you guys!