Monday, 29 February 2016

Do you remember those moulds?

Update on the process of making sand filters for producing clean water.

Those moulds are stacked one on top of the other.

Now there is a hole running all the way through.

Silas and Mary are ensuring that the measurements are correct and the same width throughout.

The structure is covered with cement and then kept moist for several days. It should not dry out too quickly. 

Again, the long rains have caused some difficulties and more building materials have been washed away. However, we continue, undaunted.

By the way, banana leaves have a multitude of uses here, you would not believe!

Thanks for reading. Tricia x

Saturday, 27 February 2016

We're at the mid point of our ten year project.

This is how the village project appears to me at the moment....

After five years of building links and foundations, we are halfway through the ten year plan and Gasundwe is ready to fly!  People are being empowered to take on responsibility for their own futures and it will happen.
We are at the stage of thinking seriously about income generation projects and linking with partners who can help with training, materials and start up grants.

Of course, we are still needing the regular monthly giving so that we can continue the education and feeding programme until the point at which the local people themselves will be able to sustain it. 
So much has happened in the last five years. Let's work together and make the next five as productive. 

If you are able to, please consider becoming a monthly donor or share any information you may have on possible partners for this next stage of our development.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

And so it starts....

Our partner from Uganda, called Yona has arrived in Gasundwe and so the first training session for learning the skills of making Sand Filter Water Sanitation Pots has begun... 

Francois is getting the mud ready. 

Pieces of banana stalk are put in the centre of the moulds. There are a series of moulds of different sizes.

The wet mud is left out to dry overnight. 
I will let you know further developments......

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Making Teaching Materials

Everybody was busy in the village yesterday.

Gasundwe is always a hive of activity but yesterday there was no school because of local elections so we all helped out in making and using new teaching materials.

Even little Peace did his share:


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Entrepreneurship or Income generation to you.

Well! In addition to the building making rapid progress other brilliant things are happening as well. Today we had a visit from Musafiri who is the Field Officer for ACSD - African Community for Sustainable Development. This group works in Nyamasheke District and they help people living in the rural areas to learn new skills and eventually set up their own businesses. 

Many of our friends in Gasundwe are cultivators but their hard physical labour is not always profitable. So the possibility of learning a new trade and starting a business is very exciting and gives hope for a brighter future.
Once again this link came about because of my work with VSO. My colleague, Brigid, who was a volunteer in this district gave me the contact with ACSD and Alexis and I went to visit them last week. As you know things happen quickly in Rwanda. You can't let the grass grow under your feet. We need it for the cows! So today. Masifiri came to visit us and opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Thankyou Brigid.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Woah! What a storm....

The men and women have been working so hard on the building.

We have just come back from a meeting in our new (unfinished) classroom and what a good job we were inside. I have been in many storms here but this one was the most furious yet. 

It began with rain beating down on the tin roof and wind blowing though the window spaces. It got to the point where we couldn't hear the speaker so we sat quietly. Even the hammering from the workmen couldn't be heard over the rain and wind. It got worse and worse and rain was pouring off the massive roof. 

'Now, God is throwing heavy rocks at us, hailstones as big as golf balls and hard as rocks plummeting down from the heavens and bouncing on the roof. The noise was deafening, hurting my ears. The storm continues its furious outpouring for about twenty minutes. 

Then.... Suddenly, it stops and I can hear everyone chattering in closely huddled little groups. The sky cloud that fell down on us is clearing and it is getting light. I can see the other side of the inlet again.'

After the meeting we came out to see what damage had been done.

This wall was almost finished before the storm but during the storm all that cement had been washed down, running off the wall and into the earth. They had to start all over again.

The water collection tank had been dislodged from its foundations, such was the power of the storm. The only thing that stopped it rolling down the hill was the scaffolding pole that you can see sticking out.
So many challenges!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Always happy

Here's a photo of Patrick who is always happy and enjoys making others happy.

Yesterday he was given the job of getting the mangoes down from the tree. At first he used a long stick with a hook on the end but that didn't suit him. They weren't falling down quickly enough so he climbed the tree and just shook all those mangoes down. It was raining mangoes at Mama's house!
He started playing the fool and his friends (not me, I am far too polite) started calling him a chimpanzee.

I hope the photo is good enough for you to see him.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Lovely Tante

Here is Tante dashing away with the smoothing iron! 

It's a hard physical life here in the rural areas of Rwanda but even so, hospitality is very important. This is my dear friend, Tante who has come to Gasundwe from her home in Gisenyi to help with cooking, washing, cleaning and all the other household tasks that are done for us by machines. She is so lovely and works so hard. I want to dedicate this blog post to her and to thank God for her love and friendship.
Tricia x

Thursday, 11 February 2016


After a few days rest in Kibuye I returned to the village whilst Margo and Chris continued their exploration of nursery education in Rwanda. We want the school at Gasundwe to be run on principles established by the Rwandan government in partnership with VSO. Our friend and fellow volunteer Roos has helped to develop the guidelines and resources for this initiative. Her work was based on the work of previous volunteers and over the years the skills, knowledge and resources have grown and resulted in the situation as it is now. 

One big principle is that the system should be sustainable and where possible use should be made of locally available materials. So, in general, the importing of teaching materials from our rich countries is not helpful except to be used as models for people here to make using their own resources. 

I came back to Gasundwe on Tuesday having been asked to call at the police station on my way here. This is merely for security reasons. The police have an obligation to ensure the safety of visitors to their area. I showed my passport and visa and explained what I was doing here, and also the dates when I would be in this sector. The officer was very friendly and happy for me to be here. From now on I don't need to visit, I just need to telephone him when I leave and when I arrive.

Whilst I was at the sector office I went to visit the Executive Secretary to update him on our plans. I have met him several times before and it is an important part of the project to have personal links with the officials. My favourite link is with John Hakizimana who is the Sector Education Officer for Gihombo sector. When I worked with SEO s as a VSO volunteer I found them to be of very high calibre both intellectually and personally. Because they were out in the field they could see the very real challenges faced by the people and most of them had a sincere desire to change things for the better. John has given support in the past and he wants to bring other officials to visit Gasundwe so that they can see the problems for themselves. I asked if he could ensure that the person responsible for health and sanitation could come and I stressed that the main problem in the village is water. Sickness rates are high and the threat of cholera is ever present. I hope they will come soon.

It was a difficult day for me yesterday in Gasundwe, the old 'demons' came back to haunt me. 'What are you doing here? You have achieved nothing in five years, see these children are still walking around in rags, still dirty, still hungry. You are kidding yourself....' Added to that I was physically exhausted and had backache. Sometimes I forget I am getting older and that soon I won't be able to be as physical as this life here demands. I must admit I am also worn down by the constant demand for money. When I take a boat ride it seems I am expected to pay for everyone. I don't know why. I will have to ask Alexis about this when he comes today with Mama. Anyway, I had an early night and feel better this morning.

I woke up with the dawn as usual and heard lots of chattering outside. I realised it was Thursday and therefore it would be members of the Savings and Loan cooperative. I went to meet them.

It was very encouraging, and then appeared a string of guys carrying sacks of cement up the hill in preparation for making the concrete floor in the Children's Centre. It was a wonderful sight to me.
They go down to the shore where the cement has been delivered by boat, they fill their sacks, hoist the heavy sack on their head and climb the hill. Once here they empty the sack onto the pile inside the building. There were twenty sacks of cement and 8 guys to carry. They all stay together and just now I can see them outside the shop eating their breakfast do amandazi and water. They have completed that task for the day. They went up and down that hill three times each. Well done lads!

There are photos elsewhere on this blog which show the concrete floor being laid in the church building that we use for nursery school at the moment. (Thanks, Phil!) I think it was in 2011 or 12. There is also a lovely photo of young Jack Lofthouse lying on a plank of timber looking absolutely exhausted after helping with that dirty and back breaking task!! 

So, discouragement yesterday is followed by encouragement today.

Thankyou for all your thoughts, best wishes and prayers. As you can see I personally need your prayers as well as prayers for the work that is going on here. I am reminded of my frailty as a mere mortal every day but when I am here I know more fully the closeness and dependence on God that this life demands. 

In our developed world we complain when troubles come and sometimes we blame God ( even though most of the time most people never give their relationship with God a second thought). It is totally different here in this situation. Troubles breed faith and faith gives strength to overcome. There is a short little letter in the New Testament written by a man called James. It is worth reading in a modern version such as 'The Messenger'. 

Lots of love

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Second visit to the village. Part 3

After spending the day in the hustle and bustle of the market buying food, a grass mat and two new mattresses for the beds and looking at costs for the sand filter water pots we wandered back along the tarmac road to the place where Davide's boat was waiting for us. 

We had quite a surprise because the boat was already full of people and their new possessions. We couldn't imagine how we would all fit on the boat and indeed there was a kerfuffle when the security man said that some people must get off the boat to allow the people who had hired the boat to get on. What a 'carry on' there was, with people refusing to leave and me refusing to get on until they did. Without me they couldn't leave because I was paying for the hire of the boat. Eventually I said I would take all those people who were going to Gasundwe and everyone else must get off. Some folk disembarked and the others made space for us. We set off, but 'No' we had left someone behind and had to turn round. That mama got on and we set off again. We hadn't gone far when the engine cut out and we drifted for a while. This gave me the opportunity to survey the people and things that had been lumbered aboard. There were six people sitting quietly at the back of the boat whom I didn't recognise at all but I assumed they were from Gasundwe. On the floor of the boat there were several heavy metal windows and also long pieces of heavy timber. This man was building a house.

We started and stopped several times and at one point the engine was changed, and the spare was used. Oil was spurting out and mixing with petrol so Davide had his finger in that hole to stop that happening. It took a long time to get back to the lakeshore at Gasundwe. Many people and things got off the boat. However, the six quiet people at the back, their windows and timber remained.

It was obvious they did not live in Gasundwe and had told me a lie. I was unhappy about that because I very rarely experience dishonesty amongst Rwandans in Gasundwe. I indicated to them that I was not paying for the boat and that they owed Davide 5000francs. One man replied that they were very poor. My response was that if they could afford to buy metal windows and good timber they could afford to pay Davide for transport of those items.

We started the hike up the hill and I asked my friend if I had done the right thing. He said 'Yes, because they were trying to trick you.' I stopped fretting about it and enjoyed the homecoming. That night we had a wonderful feast.

It was great having Margo and Chris in the village because they are so friendly and sociable. Everyone wanted to be part of the action and to learn as much as they could from the abazungu, but I'm sure that Margo nd Chris learned so much from the locals about life in rural Rwanda, as well as history lessons and discussions about the possible future of the village. They stayed until Friday and then got the long, relaxing boat journey back to Kibuye with Jean Baptiste. 

I, meanwhile, had to take a moto journey of three hours to keep an appointment in Kibogora. I managed to get to Home St Jean before the boat and was drinking a cold beer when they arrived. 

That's the way to do it!
Lots of love
Tricia x

Monday, 8 February 2016

Second visit to the village. Part 2

'Wednesday is market day in Mugonero and it is an experience not to be missed. 

It was another one of those outings where everyone wants to join in and make the event into a party. We had our shopping list of things to buy and another list of things I needed to find out, so we headed down to the lake once again, saying 'hi' to everyone we passed.

At the lakeshore the fishermen were mending their nets and passed the time with humour and banter. Several of them come from DRC and speak a different language, called Mashi or Moshi (something like that). The most extrovert and outspoken of the men appeared to be called 'Machini' and was always saying 'Freshi, Freshi' He was a very popular character and very skilled at mending. The needle was made out of two pieces of reed tied together with twine. 

The short boat ride to Mugonero was quiet and uneventful, unlike the return journey.

We walked along the new Tarmac road until we came to the town itself. We knew we would be meeting two more friends who had travelled from Gisenyi on the big boat.. We made our way to the Resto and  there they were - Alexis and Tante. Twelve of us sat down in the shade to enjoy Fanta whilst     we discussed what  we needed to do next. The two finance officers met for the first time after months of e mailing across the miles.

It's difficult to describe Mugonero on market day. It is the social event of the week and the whole town throngs with people on one errand or another. There is always noise, colour and bustle. Friends meeting up, on a mission to sell their produce or catch up with the latest news. The crackly sound system blares out music and announcements. A floor show is provided by one of the mobile phone service networks, Airtel, who are promoting a reduction on some of their phones. 

Whilst half of our party went to buy provisions from the food market the rest of us split up into three groups. My task was to find out the cost of materials for making 'sand filter pots' which is a system of filtering dirty water to make it into clean water suitable for drinking.

This link and new project came about through a real 'God moment'. You know, one of those moments when coincidences happen and  you get a tingly spine knowing that this is not just a coincidence! I hope you know these moments sometimes and also appreciate them , like me.

I wrote on my blog that children were suffering again because of the dirty water. There had been an outbreak of cholera in the next door village and I was desperate to find some way of providing clean water. My daughter read the blog and showed it to someone in her church at home, because she knew he had something to do with water sanitation in Uganda. The very next day, Geoff phoned me from England and said he wanted to help and that he had an answer to our difficulties.

After a few messages back and forth it was arranged that an expert from the town in Uganda would come to visit us in Gasundwe and teach some local men to make these filter pots from local materials. It is a very exciting and hopeful development. Yona( our new Ugandan friend) can't come until after the Ugandan elections on February 18th but he will stay for three weeks. So keep a look out for future developments on this issue. website.  

Another exciting link has been formed through a friend who worked for VSO in Nyamasheke District. She gave me the contact details of ACSD (African Community for Sustainabale Development). The Canadian director just happened to be in Rwanda at the moment so Alexis and I went to see him on Friday. We were very excited about what they are doing in the rural areas. All their initiatives are based on traditional culture and their main aim is to relieve poverty amongst widows in the area. They have developed a safer and cheaper way of cooking but using locally available materials. They have developed bio composting toilets, model kitchen gardens where the waste from the toilet is used properly as fertiliser. They also have a scheme where they rent a piece of land for one year and 10 widows cultivate that land and with the profits they can pay the rent themselves the following year. We are hoping to form a partnership with them. Once again, we want them to come and stay in Gasundwe for a while to teach their skills and ideas.

I am beginning to get a clearer vision of the Children's Centre, not only as a building dedicated to improving education for young children and their families but also as a 'model' for a healthier lifestyle. The stove, the bio composting toilets, the water sanitation and the kitchen garden ideas all coming together alongside skills training in these areas.

So much in Rwanda happens by 'chance' and you really do have to take hold of the opportunities as they fall in your lap. Or, in my belief, as God the Holy Spirit leads you. Listen to that still small voice and step out in faith. It's not rocket science!
Lots of love for now

Sunday, 7 February 2016

So much news! But one step at a time. Buhoro buhoro.

So many things have happened in the village this week it is difficult to decide where to start! But I hope you have also been reading Margo and Chris' blog because they have been posting every day. Click on the link and it should take you there.

Here is a photo of Peace. He is the little boy of Esperance and until recently he still cried every time he saw me but now we are best friends and when I say 'Hi, Peace' he smiles back at me. His two older brothers, Reponse and Zedan are in the village now because school term has started. During the holidays they were in Gisenyi with their father. This is not an unusual arrangement in Rwanda. Their big sister, Sandrine also came back to Gasundwe but within a few days she had packed her bag to go back to her Secondary School for three months. Again, this is the usual practice because secondary schools are so far apart that it is not possible to travel every day.

The challenge is that ALL the schools go back on the same day so the buses are crowded with students and their school bags, mattresses, plastic buckets and anything else they can carry which may help them for their new term. This is something I knew about but had forgotten, so when I tried to book bus tickets in the usual way, by phone, it was impossible and I had to go down to Nyabugogo and pay for the tickets before they would give us a seat. I paid for five tickets because we had lots of luggage. Three people were travelling and two big suitcases. Usually this system works for me. However, this time even though we had tickets fully paid we were unable to get a seat on the bus because there is a new regulation that students returning to school must be given priority. It is a good regulation but the consequences for us was that after two hours waiting in the madness that is the bus park with the heat of the sun beating down we decided to negotiate a taxi cab to take us to Kibuye. It all worked out in the end, it always does!

After spending the night at Home St Jean, the next day we had a lovely boat ride on Lake Kivu, arriving at the village in the early afternoon. Once again, as we pulled into the shore there were friends there to greet us and to help carry our bags up the hill. 

Two more of our trustees of Village Rwanda UK were visiting the village for the first time and I wondered how they would respond. It's always slightly worrying because that first walk up a fairly steep hill can be exhausting but it's all made so pleasant by the warm welcomes from all the neighbours as we pass by their houses. And then to arrive at last at Mama's house is such a relief!

There was food and water waiting for us and lovely clean beds made up, complete with mosquito nets for us to rest whenever we wanted. 

Usually there are three bedrooms that can be pressed into service for guests, however, one bedroom is currently out of use because it is crammed with six cupboards full of resources that we were able to purchase from an orphanage that was closing down. So another bed had been erected in the room which already has bunk beds in it, making it a little squashed but Margo and Chris were very happy with the arrangement. I was fortunate enough to have my usual room, but Gabriel and several other guests had to fix themselves up wherever they could find a space!