Thursday, 28 January 2016

Back in Kigali to re-group!

  I have arrived back in Kigali after a promising start in the village and a journey by boat, moto and bus.

Gabriel and I left Gasundwe on Friday morning last week, we took Davide's boat to Mugonero and got the bus along the new tarmac road to Kibuye. 

That new road has already made such a difference to the travel times from the village. In the past this journey by road, on the back of a moto would have taken 2 and 1/2 hours, and even longer by bus, but now it takes about 50 minutes. This improved infrastructure opens up so many possibilities for the local population; trade with the towns and villages along the whole route from Kamembe to Kibuye, opportunities for developing tourist attractions, little gift shops etc. But you need to be an entrepreneur and have a little bit of capital. Here in
 Rwanda there is a great drive for people to create their own jobs and I can see that there will be many small businesses here soon. There already are some but I expect in a couple of years time there will be many more. One of the most popular subjects for study in the schools and universities is Entrepreneurship. The young people are so keen to learn and they work very hard. They deserve success.

Arriving at Kibuye we were greeted by Gabriel's wife, Christine and then I left them to go down to the lakeshore to get the 'big boat' to Gisenyi. I have wanted to travel on this boat for some time so it was a treat for me. Alexis and his family live in Gisenyi and I looked forward to seeing them and staying with them for a few days. This big boat is a great asset to locals wanting to travel for work or family reasons. I have been told that it was given to the people by the president and they are very proud of it. They also love their president very much because he is making so many improvements to their lives and the lives of their children. 

It was a beautiful journey and totally unmarred by the torrential rain. Elsewhere in this blog I have described a journey on the lake in one of the usual wooden boats - a totally different experience. This is a big metal boat with windows and comfortable seating, snacks available and a toilet. 

I arrived in Gisenyi during the heavy rain, and in Rwanda unless you have a car, or are on a bus, nothing moves. So Alexis was stuck at home and couldn't come to meet me for a while. That doesn't bother me, it just gives me more chance to chat to the locals and have them laugh at my kinyarwanda. I spent most of the time talking to a young boy aged about 12. He was carrying a clean plastic bucket with a lid and inside there were lots of amandazi, which is a heavy type of doughnut beloved by Rwandans. He wanted me to buy one but I'm not keen so I declined. The business part over he asked lots of questions and I tried my best to answer. 

Alexis arrived as the rain stopped and we got on a small matatu bus crammed with people and produce. Alexis has very long legs and is almost doubled up when he is sitting in one of these vehicles! That's a problem I don't have.

I was very warmly greeted by the family and treated like an honoured guest. 

The church service on Sunday was something to experience. Wonderful!! 

Their home is right on the border with DRC. The town on the other side of the border is known as Goma. You may have herd of it. If you have, it will be in connection with either volcanic activity, earthquakes or conflict. Well, I can tell you that for the vast majority of the time these things are irrelevant. The main aim of life is living, feeding and clothing your family and supporting your neighbours. People come and go across the border every day. They are friends and and neighbours to each other. At the church there were Rwandans and Congolese of all descriptions worshipping together. They have many problems but they also have great faith. In UK we have many things but we are short on faith. That's because we think we can control everything in our lives, and we can control many things, therefore we think we have no need of faith. What a loss!

A couple of days later I said farewell fo my friends and caught the bus to Musanze which is famous for volcanoes and gorillas. The volcanoes are truly a magnificent sight on a clear day. I stayed in Musanze for a couple more days and then returned to Kigali by coaster bus, a journey on tarmac of about 2and 1/2 hours.

Lovely shower and rest at Tom and Ritah's house now.
Lots of love

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A lunch party and a boat trip

Today was another busy day in the village. 

You may think it is a sleepy village because it is hot and humid, but everyday for me here is different. 

This morning Eric came to visit the house. If you have been reading this blog from the beginning you might remember Eric. He is the little boy who was born with talipes in one foot. This means that his right foot was turned completely over and the only way to walk was with the top of his foot on the floor. I knew that if he had been born in the UK that foot would have been 'repaired' when he was a baby. My own godson was born with talipes in both feet. So, for Eric it was impossible to get health care as his family are basic farmers and do not have access to money for health care. I arranged for him to be seen by a doctor from a Belgium NGO. Eric had to leave his home in Gasundwe village and go to live with a family in Kamembe. To cut a long story short, two years later he returned home to the village walking and playing football. 

Now he is able to go to the local Primary School and also help his family with cultivating the land, which is how they make a living. Today he came to the house and helped us to make some teaching resources and learn some new counting songs like 10 Green Bottles, and 1,2,3,4,5 once I caught a fish alive.

After that, Esperance made us a lovely lunch with a Kivu Lake fish each, a very tasty treat! I only ate the fleshy part of the fish because I am a squeamish muzungu but all the others ate every part of those fish. I could hear the crunch as they it off the head. Nothing is wasted here in Rwanda!

After lunch we traipsed down to the lakeshore because we had arranged to meet Davide with his boat. The expedition comprised of Davide, Gabriel, Theogene and his little niece, Esperance and her little boy named Peace and me. 

Gasundwe village is situated almost at the end of one of the many, many inlets on lake Kivu and from our vantage point at the top of the hill on the peninsula we can see for miles. But just across the water is another peninsula, which looks like an island but it is not. We have heard rumours for about two years now that a rich man from Kigali is going to build a hotel on that piece of land and now we have proof. There is indeed a building being erected there. I jokingly said to Davide that we must make friends with this rich man! He took me at my word and organised for us to go and have a look around this building site. 

The lake was beautifully calm and still. I don't know whether you have read 'The Voyage of the 
Dawntreader' by C.S.Lewis but there is a point in that story when they reach the World's End and the water is still, calm and sweet. It is a very special  event in the story because it is at this 
point that Reepicheep decides to go and live in Aslan's country. When Lake Kivu is like it was today it always reminds me of that moment. 

As we neared our destination we could see many people working on the building and they waved to us with cheerful smiles. We also noticed that the rich man had built his own road so that he and his guests could access the area by car. So, we arrived at the opposite shore and 
made our way over the gangplank to the land. We were greeted by a friendly security guard 
who showed us the way to the main construction site. 

The manager/foreman gave us a guided tour and it is going to be a beautiful hotel in an amazing location with unsurpassable views. Rwanda is a beautiful country and visitors will really appreciate the peace and calm, but it does contrast markedly with the hardship 
experienced by the locals. This is what occupies my mind as I live here. And, truly, I have no 
problem with the acquisition of wealth, the important thing for me is how you use that wealth. 

If you hang onto it for personal greed, all that happens is that you get very fat!!(only joking!) 

The teaching of Jesus is clear on the use of money. If you don't know what it is get yourself a modern version of the bible - maybe The Message - and read it for yourself. Don't take my word for it. you may remember the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthews Gospel chapter 19, verse 21. The point of that story is not that Jesus is saying you must not be wealthy but that you must not treasure your wealth more than you treasure your relationship with God. Anyway, sermon over! Back to the story.

After we had a good nosey around and were informed of how much a room would cost per night (2000$, but I think they must've meant 200$, surely?) whichever, totally out of our price range! We got back on the boat and started to make our way out of the bay but just as we were leaving Davide saw the owner's car coming along his new road. Davide said we must turn around and that I must go and greet this man. So we did! We turned around and three of us left the boat and went to talk to the owner. He seemed to be genuinely interested in our project and asked for my contact details. I will try my best to follow up this contact. It would be a wonderful asset to the village and to the surrounding area.

We re-embarked and set off once again for home. This time singing praises to God. Esperance has a truly beautiful voice and I love to hear that music wafting over the water. It seems to be the voice of angels.

So, the sun sets on another amazing day here in Rwanda. 
Thank you for reading. Much love, Tricia 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

There is a shop in Gasundwe village!!

The village is developing.... Our friend Alphonse has built and opened a shop in the village. 
He stocks basic requirements like rice (umuceri), sugar (isukari), tomato paste, oil, potatoes, bottled water. He also sells shoes (flip flop sandals) and a small amount of second hand clothing. 
Until now, the closest shop is in Mugonero which is a boat ride away. On Wednesday there is also a market in Mugonero. The villagers take their produce to sell and then they use the money fo buy other food that they don't grow themselves. Fortunately for me it is the season for mangoes and there are many many mangoes on the trees, also avocados are available all year round. Two of my favourite foods.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Back to reality here in Rwanda

My posts so far have been slightly whimsical but my meeting with Gabriel, our teacher, has brought me back down to earth with a bump.

I am so sad to hear that another child has died because of lack of clean water in the area. The village has been in quarantine for several weeks because there were so many people suffering with sickness and diarrhoea. The government put a health team there for some time. I'm not clear on the details, but once again it is clear that the issues are still very basic, even to the need for clean water. I will try to find out more details when I go to the village tomorrow. The village is out of quarantine but I hope to meet a health official.

The good news is that apparently the road from Kibuye to Kamembe is now tarmaced so it will make the journey much easier and quicker. We will still get a boat but that journey also will be shorter. I'm off down to the pharmacy to see if I can buy some water purifying tablets, and rehydration salts.

If anyone has any guidance on easy ways of providing clean water in communities like this please share, either by comments or e mail me on

Thankyou, dear friends

Things I had forgotten about Rwanda

Things that I had forgotten about Rwanda but now that I'm back, I remember:

How red is the earth
How heavy is the rain
How quickly the soaked land dries out
How wide and welcoming are the smiles

How busy is the traffic in Kigali
How hot and sweaty it is in Kigali
How wonderful is a cold shower in Kigali
How wide is the gap between rich and poor in Kigali

How interesting is life on the road
How crowded the buses
How good to be by a window and be able to open it
How deep and wide is the River Nyaborongo

How beautiful is lake Kivu
How changing is the view of the layers of misty hills
How perky and cheeky is the pied wagtail
How lovely is is to back in a place with so many happy memories.

So, why am I missing home?
Lots of love everyone
Tricia xxx

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Sharing the joy!

Happy New Year 2016 to family, friends and friends yet to be!

I have spent a pleasant and inspiring few hours reading through this blog which I started in December 2010 because I was preparing for a new adventure in my life. I had signed up for a two year placement with VSO(Voluntary Service Overseas)and had been placed in Rwanda as Education Leadership Advisor in the district of Muhanga. And what an adventure it turned out to be! How could I have predicted what would happen and to what it would lead? 

Tricia, ready for work.
This is me in February 2011 showing off my new work outfit specially tailored for me by the dressmaker in Gitarama. I only wore this type of clothing when I was office based. It was totally unsuitable for the bulk of my work which involved riding on the back of a motor bike, scrambling along earthen roads which were either wet and muddy or hard baked by the sun. Falling off into the mud was preferable to falling off the motor bike onto hard baked earth. But what exhilerating journeys and experiences to look back on and to read about.

In the early days everything was so new and there was so much to learn every day, no, every moment of everyday. I remember much of the time I hadn't got a clue what was going on, but I learnt to relax and just let life happen. Eventually it would usually become clear - but not always! Sometimes I never understood what had happened and why, but I  grew to love this country and it's wonderful people. 

My first trip to the village of Gasundwe in Nyamasheke District was one of the most exciting events of my life and I still feel privileged to have been given that opportunity. You can read about it again by going to the blog entry dated 20/02/11.

The boat we traveled on

The storm on the Lake Kivu

The villagers welcome us and praise God for keeping us safe.

The first time they saw me I was an unusual sight.

I have been back to the village many many times since then and so much has happened for them and for me, and this blog tells the story of those adventures. It has been lovely to read it again. Of course it also includes my experiences working for VSO and the experience of living in Rwanda for two and half years.

But back to the village - At this point, five years on we can celebrate and be thankful for many blessings:

Every school day for five years the youngest children in the village have had a protein meal, and for four years we have sent children to the local Primary schools.

Sometimes we get beans and rice. Thats a real treat.

Those children have been taught at our Nursery School by a talented, dedicated now highly skilled teacher using interactive learning methods. We now have two teachers and a cook working full time .

This year we have concentrated our efforts in the design and building of a Children's Centre which will incorporate our Nursery school and also provide space for an adult workshop and a Health Worker.

It became very clear on my last visit in 2015 that there is a great need for basic health and sanitation facilities and education. Consequently, we are now raising money to provide new toilet facilities. The plans are in place for a set of African Dry toilets, we just need more cash (hint, hint!)

Our dream toilets!

Please help us by donating either a small amount every month or a one off donation.

I was thrilled last year when some friends agreed to help me form a registered charity and thanks to lots of hard work we achieved charitable status in June 2015. Two of the trustees, Lynne and Darryl came to the village last summer for the first time and gave great impetus to the building project.

Village Rwanda UK,
Registered charity number: 1162004

I am packing my suitcase once again to return to Rwanda this week, I will stay for two months. Two other trustees, Chris and Margo, will come to visit the village for the first time and they each have specific tasks that they need to do. My particular task now is to look towards income generation and listen to advice and proposals from the locals. I keep my ear open and I try to network with others in Rwanda who may be able to give us skills training. 

The aim has always been for the village and the school to be self sustaining by the year 2020. Yikes! That's only four years away!!! Better get cracking.

'Thanks for helping my family' 

To donate please go to the website:

Please keep checking in for updates in the next few weeks.