Thursday, 12 December 2013

Gasundwe Village School

Help me to hold their hand into the future

Before I went to Rwanda, the only thing I knew about the country was that there had been a horrific event in 1994 when almost 1,000.000 people were killed and many more injured or displaced. This is what most people will recall if I talk about Rwanda, they do not know about the wonderful community of people who make up the Rwanda of today. People who have survived the unimaginable, who have found human resources that we can only dream of. This is a people and a country which was reduced to nothing. Everything was destroyed – lives, communities, schools, hospitals, water systems, administrative systems, records, desks, chairs, homes, crops etc, etc. The country was almost emptied of people, fleeing either violence or retribution.
The story of Rwanda’s continuing recovery and development is one of the most amazing of our time. However, this recovery has mainly taken place in the capital city of Kigali and in other towns around the country. The fact is that the majority of the population live in the rural areas, some of which are very isolated from lines of communication and therefore have very limited access to essential services such as water, health and education.

Just before I left England in January 2011, for my placement with VSO, my friend, Fidele, who lived in my home town in the UK but who originated from Rwanda discovered that some of his family were still alive and had returned to their village in a remote area of Rwanda. Basically, he jumped on a plane as soon as he could and went to find out if the rumours were true. They were! We can only imagine the joy experienced by the survivors in that family. When Fidele returned to England and discovered that I would be going to Rwanda for two years we were both very excited at the possibilities that could open up. Whilst I prepared to take up my two year placement as Education Leadership Advisor with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), Fidele planned a further trip so that his wife could meet his family and friends. That was the beginning of an exciting venture. I am creating a new blog to show the origins and development of the project and the story so far. Readers of my VSO blog will know about the exciting journeys and challenges I have faced during my involvement with the village.


We have focused our efforts on a small village named Gasundwe which is located on the shores of Lake Kivu (which is one of the largest lakes in East Africa) It is accessible via a 3 hour boat journey from the town of Kibuye or an extensive bus ride over rugged terrain and muddy tracks, both combined with a short rock-strewn hike. The larger project involves the provision of water, health care, education and sustainability. But my concern in this article is the continuance of the Nursery School.

We opened Gasundwe Village School in August 2011 in a basic church building with one room and an earth floor. We aim to promote education and provide health care and nutrition to all the pupils every school day.

Currently a full time teacher is employed who holds two classes of approximately 30 students each day (one in the morning, a second in the afternoon). The children are aged between 3 and 7 years old. Sometimes there are pupils who are older than this. They come to our school because they have never been to school before and we provide a good foundation. There are still families returning from the forest where they fled during genocide. These children have been born in the rain forest and their families were too frightened to return to their villages. The main syllabus is taken from government recommendations and requirements which include: Kinyarwanda, Maths and English in addition to this we also teach Personal, Social and Health Education and incorporate games and singing time into each lesson.

Gabriel (the teacher) is fully committed to his profession and loves working with the kids. He is a highly motivated, innovative and creative individual who strives to give the best possible start to each individual child. He is supported by Esperance (our welfare assistant) who is present in all classes to provide additional help when needed.

The energy and enthusiasm of both Gabriel and Esperance results in a top class education being provided - so much so that in our first year when students began the next step of their education the local teacher wanted to visit the school to learn from Gabriel and take away some practical knowledge and innovative teaching skills which are required for a developing Rwanda with an ever increasing focus on education in early years.

However, we need help in continuing this development and one way is to find sponsors for the school.

There are places for 60 children in our school. My monthly commitment amounts to £250, which pays for a meal for every child every school day, the Welfare assistant’s salary and the teacher’s salary. If I can find 25 people to commit £10 per month or 50 people to commit £5 per month I will be able to continue supporting the village in this way. Many of my friends and family have asked me about the village and have expressed an interest in helping. Please set up a standing order using the following information. A £5 or a £10 regular payment would be wonderful. I will send you a photo and information about the child you are sponsoring and help you to communicate with them and with the teacher, Gabriel.

For bank account details please send me a message or comment. 

Thankyou for reading so far… much love and appreciation.        
Tricia Atherton. (

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