Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Anecdotes

Anecdote #1:

My wonderful co-worker Josieanne shared a beautiful story with me today at lunch that I wanted to pass along.

Josieanne, like so many, was orphaned by the genocide here in Rwanda.  Shortly after it ended she met an old man who was able to keep her parents legacy alive but sharing this story with her...
He asked her name.  She told him her given name, the name her father bestowed upon her at birth as is customary for the father to name the child.  The old man told her her name meant "best wife, good mother."  He asked her siblings names.  The eldest's name "to be beautiful" and the middle "to always be clear."  He explained that a father names his children to honor the mother, to express to his wife how he feels. The old man told Josieanne that her father wanted her mother to know how much he cared for her.  He saw her as a beautiful and clear woman who made the best wife. Seventeen years later, Josieanne carries the legacy of her mother and the love of her father.

Anecdote #2: 
Sharing is caring....Today I gave the boys lollipops (courtesy of my mom).  Eric was going on a home visit in the afternoon so he saved his lollipop and gave it to his baby sister, who then shared it with her friend :)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Give a man a fish...

About a month ago a young mother walked through the gate at work with her five day old baby girl.  My co-workers knew her well, months before she had stood at our gate in tears.  Her husband left her when she was 7 months pregnant, without resources and with their two other children.  Josieanne and Charles consoled her and did what they could to help her; paying her rent and health insurance to make sure that her baby would be healthy. 

On this day she was returning to show us her new girl and was looking for more support.  Her rent was due and with a new baby, working was not an options.  I offered to take care of her $2 rent for the month because a mother of three needs to have a roof over her head.  Over the last few weeks I have returned to visit her and her children, bringing clothes and offering my hand as a friend.  But this has presented an all too familiar dilemma, how do you give a hand up without giving a hand out? I am troubled by this as I face poverty daily in Rwanda. 

The proverb, "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime," rings in my head quite regularly.  I have a strict personal policy of not giving beggars money or handing over cash to individuals because I see this as merely temporary bandaid, tomorrow they will need more.  I believe this perpetuates poverty and creates great dependency.  But I am afraid I have created this dependency with the woman I was only trying to befriend and support.  She now expects things and after my most recent visit is  even willing to ask.  I want to pay for her eldest child to begin school because I see this as a solution to poverty but how do I pay for school fees with the understanding that she needs to work to afford them on her own? 

I am struggling with this conundrum.  The one thing I do know is that collectively we need to work on solutions not temporary quick fixes. But how exactly do we do this when there is so much need?

Monday, October 24, 2011

8 people, a baby and a compact car...Uganda

I have just returned home from a wonderful trip to Uganda.  I originally planned this trip in order to extend my 90 day Rwandan visa.  We traveled from Kigali to Lake Bunyonyi in the south of the country where we stayed on an island for the weekend.  

Although the border in theory is only about an hour and a half outside of Kigali, our journey ended up taking about 8 hours, 5 different vehicles and 4 modes of transportation.  We began in mini-bus that took around 2 hours to fill and leave.  We then walked across the border, picked up a small shared taxi in which we jammed 8 adults and a baby.  After arriving in the town of Kabale, we transferred to motorbike which took us up a long bumpy road though stone quarries and hills.  And finally we paddled in dug-out canoe to our island.  It was well worth the trek and hey, TIA [this is Africa]!

Cow by the lake

lake shore market

Catching crayfish, I later ate them and they were delicious!

the market, everyone arrives by boat

the dug-out canoe to the island

canoe school bus

our geodome where we stayed

national bird of Uganda, the grey crowned crane

dug-out canoes

The town of Kabale

Uganda is a lovely country with beautiful and kind people! I would love to return one day to spend more time.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 2 in the field

Danelle is an orphan.  His grandmother raised him.  He has been at the center since March and after visiting his home I cannot really understand why he left; maybe a curious young boy in search of adventure in the big city.

We waited outside Danelle's home surrounded by goats and banana trees and curious neighbors while someone from the village went to fetch his grandmother from a neighbor's home.  A little old lady hunched from years of working the land hurried up the road towards us.  She took one look at Danelle and tears welled in her eyes. 

She told us she had worried about him every second of the last months.  She had sent people to look for him and went to his school to try to find him.  She even called prisons to see if they had picked him up.  Finally she assumed he was gone forever, maybe even dead.  But now, she was just so happy to see her grandson!

She took us inside her little mud house and told Danelle to gather his things.  She had saved it all for him hoping one day he might return.  She told us she dreamed of him most nights.  At this point leaning against the door frame, tears began to roll down her weathered cheeks.  She had her grandson back, she knew he was ok, and for that moment all was good in the world.

As we prepared to leave, after promises were made for more visits, she scrambled through her purse looking for a pen she could give him for his studies.  I am pretty sure she would have given him the world if she could of.  It's an amazing thing to see- the power of love. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gorilla Trekking

Trekking the famous mountain gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park.  Thanks mom for footing the bill!!