7 June 2019
Today was a funtastic day! Got up early to work with the artisan women in their community. This day was called The Azizi Life Artisan Day. The women welcomed us with song and dance. It reminded me of the children at MindLeaps dancing at the end of our visit. The women celebrated our presence and were very thankful for our arrival and I thought that was very cool. We went inside the house and introduced ourselves to each other. The women all told us their name, age, how many kids they had, and if they were married. Afterwards we got fabric tied around our waist and scarfs tied to our heads to dress like how the locals of the area dress. We started peeling sweet potatoes, then got to see how they cook. They used charcoal to cook. Next some of us went to fetch the water which was a journey away from the house but along the walk we saw lots of cattles and goats. It was easy going down but coming back up was the hardest part. There were children down at the valley spring we went to and we were told children at around age 6 have a job to collect the water for the family. I thought that was very interesting, kids also have a job to provide for the family. Everyone in the family serves a purpose. After we brought the water to the house, we went to go turn the soil. We used a hoe to turn the soil in a near by garden. It was a lot of arm and back work and I became pretty exhausted but I kept going till I was done. We were told that the women turn that soil in their fields for six hours at a time and i knew that i couldn't do that for that long. Next we cut some vegetation down to feed one of the Women's cow and goat that was near by. I cut a lot of vegetation and after the women helped me make a crown out of a huge plant leaf to hold the vegetation I just cut down on my head. At that moment of carrying something on my head and it actually stayed I felt like one of the women. (As you can see in the picture) After feeding the cow and goat we went back to the house to have lunch. For lunch we had sweet potatoes with beans and avocados. After eating we asked the women questions about how old do you have to be to get married and they all said 21. Anyone younger than or an older person trying to marry someone who is not 21 goes to jail. We asked how old to have kids and they said that there's really no exact age your supposed to have children but you should have them in your twenties but there's a lot of teen pregnancy in Rwanda. They also told us that you don't need to be married to have children. You can have as many children with a man and not be married to him. After asking the women questions they took us outside and showed one group how to make bracelets and another how to make soccer balls. Both of which are made out of plants. I was in the ball making group and I struggled to get my ball to look like the others but one of the women helped me and finished the ball for me. Afterwards, it was time for us to part ways but before we left we had a dance competition and each groupd had to dance and Gabrielle (Professor from MSU) had to be the judge. At the end of the competition Gabrielle ruled that everyone was a winner because we all brought unique this to the dance circle but one thing for sure we had in common was how we danced together as a family. I gave all the women hugs and kisses and said my goodbyes. It was really nice being and working with those women and I hope one day I could go back and work with them again.
Later that day we went to the Urukundo Foundation center to meet Mama. Arlene Brown aka Mama came to Rwanda in 1996 at age 65 to offer her help in the refugee camps following the genocide. Mama is a God fearing woman who believes in the power of God and she loves kids. She established the Urukundo Foundation Center to serve the low income children's needs. This center is here to help children develop skills needed to aid them in being what God has called him or her to be says Mama. Mama loves to talk and the things she speaks on has such great detail that I could picture them in my head. I would love for her to write an autobiography of her life before Rwanda and being in Rwanda because she is filled with amazing stories and everyone should hear them or at least read about them. Love you Mama!!
My name is Janae' Leonard and I'm a senior Theatre major at Buffalo State. Since I was a little girl I always dreamed of traveling and seeing the world. The one place where I dreamed of going was to Africa. The motherland, the place where life started. I want to go to Rwanda to experience different cultures, hear stories, and learn how to not only love myself but how to give and show love to others in different ways. I want to show people in Rwanda that they matter and their stories matter. It took me a while to understand that I mattered and that my story matters and so I want to show what I learned and express it through love. I plan to go to Rwanda open minded and open hearted. I want to take in as much as I can and bring it back home with me where I can share everything I learned and felt through story, song, acting and other mediums.