I’ve got to say that this country is an amazing place. Stunning scenery, amazing people and some glorious smiles.
At training weekends previous volunteers talk about “Their story” and if i’m honest I haven’t had that moment with one person. For me my story is different, more about the connection with the country and its people. The lightbulb moment for me came at the Kigali Genocide museum, seeing all the graves and names of people who had died was just incomprehensible. The quote for me came from Don who is looking to do a photographic history book of Rwanda. Don says that the world sees Rwanda as a country torn apart by genocide but that there is far more to Rwanda. Don’t judge a book by its cover, the cover of Rwanda’s book may be genocide but the story is one of rich beauty. How right he is, you can see this in the landscape and the smiles of people.
The highlight of the trip for me has been my trips to King David school. These guys are men not boys and you have to adapt the ABC message to these guys. You can’t sell the abstinence message to these guys when you are fighting human urges and in all fairness something that I would struggle to do if in their shoes. I felt a great deal of pride and enthusiasm talking to them about the need for regular testing and protection. Also just talking to them about general safe sex practice and the need to test for sexually transmitted infections as well as checking your HIV status. These guys were well educated and they knew how HIV is transmitted and how long it takes to appear in test results. This was different when we went down south. Coaching with the guys from Coast who are a similar age range to those at King David, they didn’t know. Asking about HIV how long it takes to show in body some answered 2 hours, not 3 months. I was also astonished by the fear that many had about the rapid HIV test, believing it to be a big needle not the little prick test. I was also astonished when one guy I got talking to about it said that he had just donated blood and that it would be 6 months before they get the results. 6 MONTHS that just wrong! I also got talking to this lad about tattoos and I was showing off mine. They asked if I was worried about cancer as they are clearly educated that getting a tattoo is basically a death sentence by getting cancer. Explaining that that isn’t completely true and that in the western world tattoo parlours are strictly bound by hygiene guidelines and sterile equipment you are pretty safe from infection transmission but here in Rwanda if they are to get a tattoo be very careful where you go and to make sure the artist and his equipment is safe and clean.
Working with the little kids is so joyfully infectious it is amazing. They are the power source that keeps us going for the grueling two weeks. The energy and joy they get from something as simple as a tennis ball makes you realize how spoilt we in the west really are. The Rwanda Orphans Project is a great case for that, I can’t put into words how amazing that place is. When they explained to us how the kids actually self police themselves and its all democratic how the kids choose how the money is spent on food, I was just astounded how they manage it. There isn’t a hope in hell of doing that in somewhere similar in the west.
Today was our final day and we couldn’t say goodbye without one last visit to the Rwandan Orphan project. I will not lie, as the van pulled away I was fighting back the tears.
I will never be able to explain how this trip has changed me simply because I don’t know, all I know is that it has changed me. A large portion of my life I have battled depression and recently those demons have been quite prominent. This trip has given me a whole new perspective on life.
My body is ready to leave but my heart and soul are want to stay forever.
This has been Rwanda and Rwanda is my story!