Last night I finished washing some clothes for the week ahead. Luckily it isn't raining so they should dry rather quickly.
Breakfast had this eggplant/tomato looking fruit. I texted it to a friend in Buffalo as I was hesitant as to what it was. His response: "it is a tamarillo. It is good for your blood. Don't be picky, eat it" so I did and it had this tangy bitter taste that was surprisingly pleasant.
In the morning we went to the Les Enfants de Dieu transitional housing to work with the children. It was located in more of what felt a rural area of Kigali. The boys immediately ran up and grabbed our hands, and we all went into their main hall to sit and be paired into groups for storytelling games. It was so wonderful to see these boys in action and really watch them expressing themselves in such a positive way. I was paired with Monique, and when we got to a game where we turned our bodies into machines, the boys were creating moving bicycles, donkeys, horses, and from one group a barber shop! It was interesting to see the items chosen and in such frequency, as it sheds light as to their lives prior to the transitional housing.
After the exercises were over, the director Charles took us for a tour across the grounds. I took special interest in hearing how they utilize empowerment with the children, and how much they use positive reinforcement to normalize activities we take for granted such as brushing our teeth, reading, and waking up at night to use the bathroom.
In our group was the psychologist (Louise) for the agency, and it was so great to begin a connection with her, as they utilize trauma informed interventions in all of their work. We exchanged cards and Whatsapp numbers to keep in contact and share information.
We departed and went to a place called MindLeaps, and showed the students who were waiting for lunch an exercise (we made an ice cream machine that was filled with children's smiles and laughter). They then asked us some questions and showed off some dance moves before their lunch was ready and we departed.
\nLunch was at the very upscale Hôtel des Mille Collines, better known by us Americans as "Hotel Rwanda." It was surreal for me to watch children and adults play in the pool, and the air of normalcy. In the lot there is a plaque and flame in remembrance of the genocide, and the role the hotel played.
At last we had an afternoon of 'down time.' I called up a friend's family member and she came over with her friend and also her two sons. When I met her all I could do was cry at first because I just couldn't believe it. We spent quite a while hugging before going to a cafe to sit and have some pop. I updated her on her family and showed her a present I got for her mom.
These children are spitting images of their relatives in the states and I did not want to let them go. They were so sweet and calm. At around 530 they left, as their home takes a while by bus and the kids had school in the morning. Hopefully soon she will be in the US! (Fingers crossed!)
Dinner was at a restaurant called 'Zen' and then we returned to the hotel. Tomorrow we pack up everything and depart first for Nyamata to visit a church memorial of the genocide, and then on to Muhanga to finish out the week.
I am honored to have been given this opportunity to go to Rwanda and look forward to growing from this experience, both professionally and personally. The Great Lakes region in Africa is of great interest to me, especially as a resident of the Great Lakes region in the United States. I currently work as a refugee resettlement case worker at a local agency in Buffalo. Conflict resolution and community building are two topics that are crucial in my work, and I am eager to both share my stories on those subjects and learn from the stories of others. Ultimately, through our collective stories, I hope to witness and engage in the solidarity that has developed in Rwanda since the mid-nineties. My hope is to bring that knowledge back to my work in Buffalo. The lessons learned can then be put into action by aiding in the development of programs that will have a positive effect on the families and communities that I serve.