Thursday, March 17, 2011

Update from Rwanda

On Monday, Team Rwanda was excited to meet CRS/Rwanda country representative, Jennifer Nazaire. We spent the day with Jennifer and Muthoni Nyoike, GE’s Middle East and Africa Compliance Leader. Muthoni shared GE’s strategy in Africa, and its current involvement in both business and corporate social responsibility programs in Rwanda. We then had the opportunity to travel to Nyamata Hospital to observe the medical equipment that GE donated.

As we returned to Kigali, we took a sobering visit to the Nyamata Church. The church is now a memorial for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. A museum representative explained in vivid detail the horrific events that took place in the church where nearly 10,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered after cramming into the small space in hopes of finding refuge. Monday evening, we sat together to reflect upon our visit to the memorial. It made the development that we have seen and the experiences that we shared in the villages even more amazing. We had a lot to discuss, and thought about what we could learn from Business on the Frontlines, and the implications the class had on our roles as future business leaders. One of the ideas that came through was that perhaps ‘good’ was less of a designation, but more of an aspiration – we can hope to be good, it’s something to strive for, but not something to expect.

On Tuesday, we split into two teams to meet with the Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) and Rwanda Agricultural Development Agency (RADA). Both teams had the opportunity to speak with the Director General of each agency. Mariana, Justin L., Israel and I learned about the RCA’s role to promote, register and regulate cooperatives. We also had the opportunity to hear about RCA’s savings and credit cooperative organizations, which were developed to help ease vulnerable people from low level savings to more organized financial institutions. Justin W., Rob, Ahmad and Adam learned about the challenges that RADA is addressing throughout the agricultural industry, such as population growth and land mass.

Tuesday afternoon we visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali. It was another heart-wrenching yet thought-provoking experience. The museum was even more of an education in the history of genocide around the world, and inspired a lot more thought on the topic. Seeing the photos of children killed during the terrifying days, and looking at the last mementos of lost family members really hit home. The thought that these were some of the only memories people had of their family put the team into a somber mood. Feelings brightened later as we went out to the best Indian restaurant in Kigali, Khana Khazana. We gorged ourselves on delicious naan and curries, while Justin W. struggled to avoid any spiciness approaching his tongue, and Mariana and Justin L. celebrated the extreme spiciness of some of the dishes.

After concluding our field visits with government agencies yesterday, we spent this morning exploring the various artisan shops in Kigali. It only took the guys about five minutes, while Mariana and I marveled for quite a bit longer. But, in the afternoon we got down to business. We look forward to presenting to our partners at CRS/Rwanda tomorrow and reuniting with our family and friends in a few days!

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