Tuesday 25 February 2014

Week 7 - Theo's Post 

What exciting, amazing, challenging and encouraging weeks, I can’t believe that we have spent seven weeks in KABEZA –KIGALI as an ICS Kigali team. Here, we have AEE as our partner and participate in their community based development projects - mainly we focus on education, health, hygiene and sanitation and integrating into the life and work of local communities. From that we work with two catch up schools (Kanombe and Gahanga), Self-Help Groups and Farming cooperatives.

Below are the highlights of week seven - it was a week of many activities:

Monday started with the meeting with AEE-Kigali staff to highlight what we have done in week six, after that it was a team meeting to plan an agenda for the week. In the afternoon, we were teaching English and I.T to the AEE-Kigali staff. I often work with Innocent the Accountant of AEE-Kigali to help him with accounting stuff.

Kimihurura Farming Cooperative 

Tuesday, we went to work with Kimihurura Farming cooperative, where we were preparing the vegetable gardens by hoeing and removing the old green vegetables to prepare for the new farming season, where they want to grow a crop of beans. I enjoy contributing to these activities, helping the members to grow the vegetables which are needed for them to get an income from those vegetables. Some of them are HIV positive, so this income is extra useful - they can consume these vegetables also.

Wednesday, it was also a field work day, where we worked with the Gikomero banana plantation cooperative. We worked together with the cooperative members to grow new banana crops; the cooperative took the decision to plant the modern banana crops which are more productive than traditional banana crops. It was hard work but it was good to work together with the Gikomero community as we were making a lot of conversation. They were surprised how ‘’muzungu’’ or someone from Europe can be a hard worker, to the extent to use hoes, digging and related stuff. Even if it was a volunteering activity, for me it was like a workshop to learn how they grow modern banana plantation as I am from the Eastern province where it is grown most in the whole country.

Banana Plantation at Gikomero

Thursday morning, we took time to prepare the lessons for Gahanga catch up school, where we went to teach different courses in afternoon. Here Sadie and I taught Religion, and the children enjoyed learning the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale.

Friday, we didn’t go outside to the field, we stayed at the guest house. The activities were to teach English and I.T lessons for the AEE-Kigali staff and to gather the information which is needed to update the AEE- Kigali Website and blog. For me, as accounting is my professional study, I was occupied with the arrangement of the audit report from 2000 to 2012 of the AEE Headquaters.

One family, different country

Team Selfie
If I say different countries means that there are many things between these countries which are different like culture, historical background, political, economic, geographical features and many more. So, after I got to know that I was selected to participate in the ICS placement of January-March 2014, I had a commitment and willingness to work as national volunteer and also to work together with the U.K volunteers to fight against poverty in my lovely nation.

You can’t believe someone who was born and raised in Rwamagana District in Eastern Province, who didn’t even jump the borders of Rwanda to the neighbouring countries like Uganda; Tanzania; Burundi and D.R.C, is now the one who speaks English everyday with English native speakers, the one who works together, and sharing different experiences with my U.K team mates. After different volunteering activities with the communities we have night devotions, games night, movies and a lot of jokes. It is so exciting and is great for me and my team mates.

So, I met with the people who are flexible, social and friendly. The people who can read your emotions by asking “are you ok?”. The people who want to know someone’s opinions by asking “what do you think?”. I met with the people who are more polite and recognise everything by saying “thanks” or “sorry.” So, out of my mum and my two brothers who are my flesh and blood and my lovely family, I got a second family which is Kigali team Jan-March 2014, so, here there is my declaration “ I will never forget my team mates ‘’.

Murakoze cyane (thank you very much).


Tuesday 18 February 2014

The power of trading fairly......

I own a pair of TOMS.  For those who aren’t aware of this company, they have a mission to change the way we buy shoes.  If you buy a pair, they will give a pair...of shoes to someone in a developing country! So I can buy a pair of amazingly designed shoes knowing that someone who doesn’t have shoes will receive a pair too.  I love this concept.  I want to be a world changer, however big or small that might be.  In buying TOMS shoes that I like, I can do that.  If only being ethical and buying fair-trade was always so effective and fun.

As an ICS volunteer with Tearfund I am working in schools for homeless children and a variety of other projects that link to their future here in Rwanda.  This experience has affected how I look at life and how lucky I am to live in the UK (clich├ęd thinking I know!).  When I go back to my comfy home in the UK, I know I will remember the lessons I have learnt whilst working with these children and young people who face a daily struggle in life.  One morning during break time, playing with the children, a familiar label caught my eye.  The exact one that I happen to own.  The exact one that was on my pair of shoes that I proudly wearing that day.  This kid was wearing TOMS!  Different to mine but still TOMS.  The realization of that small and somewhat vain purchase back in the U.K. has resulted in this boy being given a pair of shoes.  Essentially this has a knock on effect for this boy, and others like him, leading to better prospects them.  As TOMS themselves state on their website (www.toms.co.uk) “These shoes protect children’s feet from cuts, infections, disease and when the children are healthy they can attend school fight minor illness and reach their full potential. Shoes are also required for school attendance in many countries. Providing school uniforms, to children that cannot afford them can increase school attendance by 62%. Education is the key to mobility and vital to breaking the poverty cycle.

Whilst being here in Rwanda I've had a humbling time working with cooperatives that produce products to sell locally.  A.E.E., our local partner, work using the Self-Help Approach.  Groups of men and women in the local communities join together, either working at making their way of living more sustainable e.g. producing crops they can sell, or increasing their knowledge of Saving and Loans systems.  We have been mainly working with groups of vulnerable women who are HIV positive in their self-generating income projects.  Some grow maize, bananas and other fruit and veg, others make clothes, jewellery and craft items from materials at hand e.g. banana fibres to make bracelets.  We have had the pleasure of meeting with some of these groups helping them make bracelets and with their farming.  This brings me to my next point…

Market shopping vs. Nakumatt.  

Jon, Kat, Tirion, Sadie and Angie all wearing their market purchases 
Buying these products from these cooperatives and from the markets, I know where the products have come from and I know the people who have made them, the ones who will also receive my money directly.  When my team and I go to the market and choose our favourite material and order new outfits, I know that know the individuals and we have built relationships with them.  Whereas Nakumatt, a Kenyan supermarket chain, who sell Kellogg’s and Nutella, knows that for the expat community it’s always nice to have a bit of home with you, it’s really just the same as me buying from a UK supermarket like Tesco, but just in a different location.  We face the same concern of not giving every provider the amount they deserve.  I can’t bring myself to buy bananas from this Nakumatt when I shake hands with a woman who slaves in the heat to pick bananas and will sell them to me and I know the money will go towards providing health insurance for her family.

But Rwanda faces the same issues as the UK with fair-trade and ethical buying; they may sell and buy locally and fairly but do the Rwandese buy fair-trade themselves?  Rwanda is a developing country and produces commodities like tea and coffee for the West, yet the only instant coffee they sell is nescafe, a product made by a company that has long been associated with being anything but fair-trade or ethical, to the degree that they don’t deserve a capital “N” in my blog!  In the U.K. we lobby and petition for change and it’s challenging when we see that those individuals who need that profit not supporting the system protecting them.  But I also meet the men and women who rely on, and receive, a fair price for their crops and I can see the power all that lobbying and campaigning can have.  The people we work with can see this too.  So, whatever your buying looks like, whether it’s buying nice shoes that will also provide shoes for children, or buying fairtrade bananas that provide health insurance for a family with malnutrition, stick with it!  The power you have is significant.  You might only be one person but you are always going to be one in an army of millions doing the same and together we are making a difference, one step at a time.


Thursday 6 February 2014

Ufite amafaranga?

Ufite amafaranga?

Jesus said: ‘Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things.  Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these.’ (Matthew 6:31-32)

There’s a familiar saying that money makes the world go around and this week our team has felt pretty de-motivated and frustrated by the obstacles and problems arising from budgeting issues with our project work.  Now I know that God hasn’t promised any of us an easy ride through life but during the past few weeks I have truly struggled to understand God’s promise of provision.  Daily, we are stepping out in faith to use what resources He has given us.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like we can offer a lot, and I wonder whether our prayers will be answered.  I am learning patience in many aspects of my life and waiting on God’s provision for the communities we’re working with requires plenty.  Even then, I anticipate that the answers and solutions will not necessarily come on our terms.  And so we trust in Him and just are.  The little we can do does matter to those with whom we work and so just being here, being with them, being interested in them, may not seem like a lot to us, but God can multiply our efforts when we trust Him.   

As the sun is beating down relentlessly and Kigali’s pavements radiate heat upwards I feel a tug at my hand and hear the familiar Kinyarwandan, “Muzungu!  Ufite amafaranga? Give me money!”  I groan inwardly and look at the child next to me, hand outstretched.  “Oya, ni mugende, ntamafaranga dufite.”  No, go away, I don’t have money.  I feel cruel and mean, tight-fisted and Scrooge-like.  I know that most people don’t mean to be offensive - they think being a muzungu would be a very good thing and don’t understand why it would bother anybody to have their favoured status shouted out.  But it can feel as though we’re being reduced to a stereotype and seen only as someone who is so wealthy and set so far apart from Rwandans that it’s okay to demand material goods upon first sight.  It remains very disconcerting, yet we are reminded time and again, especially by AEE; give a man a fish you’ll feed him for a day but give him a rod and you’ll feed him for life.  I, like my fellow team members, am here in Kigali to fight injustice and poverty through working alongside AEE in the local community, as their mission statement is: “To evangelise the cities of Africa, through word and deed, in partnership with churches”.

AEE aim to equip the community to help themselves out of poverty, but in order to be able to do this AEE also rely on funding and support, mainly from international donors in the US, Germany and Australia.  However, what happens when one of these donors unexpectedly and arbitrarily decides they will no longer support a specific project?  Suddenly there’s no salary for teachers and no school fees paid on behalf of those vulnerable and orphaned children.  Consequently?  No means to provide a much needed school to an impoverished community.  Billy Graham said “We can be certain that God will give us the strength and resources we need to live through any situation in life that He ordains. The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.”  However, offering prayer seems a futile response to the pleas and requests for help from the school Principal.  I know handouts don’t work.  I know as volunteers we are not here to offer money.  The ICS website even states “You don’t need cash, skills or qualifications to take part in ICS – just the ambition to make a difference.”  I wish I could offer a sustainable solution to ensure the future of the school.  “Give me money!” is so much more than a cheeky attempt of an 8 year old to engage with the “muzungu”, it’s the true cry of many people in poverty, because despite guiding principles to insist it’s to the contrary, money does seem to make the world go around. 

Driving along a bumpy, dusty dirt track we leave the concrete city behind us and enter the rural Kigali of rolling hills and maize plantations.  A man pushes his bicycle up the steep slope, laden with bunches of green bananas, whilst another cycles by with jerry cans, hanging from the handlebars like saddlebags, on his way to collect water.  A few women are carrying baskets on their heads, filled with ripe red tomatoes, freshly dug carrots, juicy mangoes and passion fruits.  Children stop and stare at this 4x4 full of muzungus, cowering behind their mothers, slightly afraid.  Others shout “How are you?” or wave and call out “bye! bye! bye!” whilst running alongside us laughing, their faces full of joy.  We drive through small villages and I glimpse houses with mud walls and sheets of tin roofing.  It feels like we’re seeing the true Rwanda, a city that sprawls out from its high-rise towers and wealthy neighbourhoods to these remote communities.  After passing a trickling stream of water, where some women are washing clothes and young boys fill jerry cans with water, we finally arrive at the Mageragera sector and see thirty or more men and women sat under the shade of a tree, waiting for us.  Alexis and Wherny are training them to set-up a self-help group focused on social funding through joining together to form a Savings and Loans Group.  We’re introduced and Alexis explains that we are here to help them. “They are here to use their hands,” he insists, “they have skills and can teach you English or carry bricks or hoe your fields.”  A murmur amongst these community members as they survey us smiling, and clearly amused but grateful, a representative stands up to ask us for money and materials to help them rebuild someone’s home that was damaged by fire.  I sigh. Alexis re-iterates his point and our purpose.  It is arranged that we will return to help them re-build this house, although we may have to wait until the community can source all the materials they need to begin.  We wave goodbye, clamber back into the 4x4 and Faustin speeds away leaving a cloud of red dust swirling behind us like a curtain shielding the community from view.   

If we assume we know how God will provide for our needs, we can easily develop attitudes of presumption, impatience, and ungratefulness.  If the majesty, grace, and power of God are not being exhibited in us, God holds us responsible. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you . . . may have an abundance . . .” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  As volunteers then, we learn to lavish the grace of God on others, generously giving of ourselves.  Then, perhaps, AEE’s vision will be realised:

“We want to see a country where God is honoured and people live together in peace and satisfaction of their daily need.”  



Friday 31 January 2014

Getting Stuck In

This week we have got immersed into our projects.

On Monday we spent the day organising our schedule and starting to plan the lessons we were going to be teaching at the schools. On Monday evening after a long day planning, we went to a local restaurant and took part in a quiz, and came second!!!
On Tuesday we set off in the 4x4 down the bumpy dirt tracks to our first school which was Gohanga, where we taught English and Social Studies.  Overall a great day teaching. The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing the lessons for the following day.

Wednesday: This was going to be one of our longest days spent teaching, so off we went to Kanombe, we taught 4 lessons; Sports, Social Studies, English and Music. After the morning we were all well and truly tired, but that wasn’t  the end of our day, after we had consumed our lunch and had a quick power nap it was time for our second school Gohanga. We taught the same 4 lessons and after the long afternoon we were left exhausted but our spirits were filled up when we tried to leave the school and the kids refused to let some of us go, the happiness coming from their faces will be an image we will find hard to forget.

Thursday:  We had a change from teaching at the schools and we had the opportunity to help out at the Kimihurura farming co-operative, we helped prepare the land, planted crops and watered them. Sweat dripping down our backs, hands covered in dirt, physically exhausted and it wasn’t even midday yet.

Friday: Friday consisted of teaching the staff at AEE English and ICT skills, and any other support they need. So far Ed has been creating an English test, so that we can work out the areas they are having difficulties with, so we can organise some lessons suited to what they are struggling with.

Evenings: Evenings are fairly relaxed they consist of card games/ watching films/chatting/ drinking tea and copious amounts of banter thrown around.

From all of us at Kigali we bid you farewell till our next update.

Friday 24 January 2014

Week 2: Having a Gander in Rwanda

   Week 2 : Team Kigali 

                                                                                                          Team photo at Lake Muhazi 

Well, the past week has certainly been very busy!! We spent our second week in country touring the various project sites that A.E.E., our in country partner, is affiliated with. While we have visited a number of self-help and support groups, schools and farming cooperatives, we have decided to focus our energies and skills where we feel they will be most appreciated, as we cannot commit to being everywhere.

Consequently, we have chosen to help out at 2 catch up schools in the coming weeks, called Gahanga and Kanombe, the Kimihurura farming cooperative, and the self-help group in Mageragere. Alongside this, we will be working with the A.E.E. staff in helping them compile reports, improving their English and ICT skills, and general administration work.

Now that we have moved from Moucecore Guesthouse to our home in Kabeza for the next 8 weeks, we are starting to get a better idea of what our daily routine with be for the next 2 months. It’s an early start with A.E.E. staff devotions beginning at 7am Monday to Friday, and breakfast straight afterwards at 8am. Monday and Friday mornings consist of admin work and working with A.E.E staff; the majority of the rest week is spent in the field, getting stuck in with the community. However, if we’re going to a school in the afternoon, we usually spend most of the morning preparing our lessons and ensuring our teaching time is not wasted.

Weekends are mostly free, apart from the fourth Saturday of every month, which is called Umuganda – this is basically a community clean-up day, where none of the shops open, and everyone is expected to participate in some act of community service.

Overall, we as a team are getting very excited about the prospects of the coming weeks!  There is plenty for us to do, so we can’t wait to dive in!

Tuzasubira ubutaha!


Tuesday 14 January 2014

Team Kigali 

From Left to Right 
Theo, Sadie, Ed, Jon, Angie, Kat, Catherine and Tirion 

Muraho! It has been a busy and exciting week so far for all, arriving safely in Rwanda from the UK. We have met our team leader Tirion and our two in-country volunteers Theo and Catherine who will be joining us for the 10 weeks.  

During week one, our in-country Orientation week, we have been trying to learn ‘Kinyarwandan’ with help from Theo and Catherine with many laughs along the way as well as going on team visits and training sessions has all helped everyone settle into our new environment.
Leaving our extended ICS family was sad but finally arriving at our new home for the next 8 weeks here in Kabeza in Kigali is very exciting. We are staying in the Havugimana Israel Guest Centre named after the first team leader who set up AEE (African Evangelical Enterprise), our Tearfund partner here in Rwanda.  Havugimana Israel, along with two other AEE team members, was killed in the 1994 genocide.

Our first weekly meeting was held today with Phanuel, co-ordinator for the AEE Kigali field office.  Together with the other staff for AEE Kigali we started planning the projects that we hope to be involved with.   So it is here at the Guest House and AEE H.Q. that we will be based for the coming 9 weeks.

Meet The Team 


Introducing one of our National Volunteers, Rwandan born Theo is 23 years old and has recently graduated with a degree in accounting. He was keen to volunteer with ICS Tearfund in order to work alongside British volunteers; both to help relieve poverty in his home country, and to have a chance to improve his English skills. Theo is also an aspiring musician – he is hoping to learn the guitar in the next 10 weeks and to surprise his brother with it when the placement ends! His pet peeves are lies and slander.


Hailing from the south coast of England, Sadie has just finished her A-levels and is hoping to study International Relations at University in September – and what better way of preparing than a 3 month tour of Rwanda! Currently funding her year out by working in a pharmacy, her job left her wanting to explore different cultures, get out of her comfort zone and help volunteer overseas. As such, she applied for ICS with the aim learn more about development across the world; the perfect practical preparation for her course in September.  Her pet peeves include people being unclean/messy. 


Team win's resident guitarist, Ed was born in Surrey just outside from London, although he has made his home in Chester for the last 15 years. After an unsuccessful application to various universities last year, a year out seemed the obvious next step. Ed worked as a gardener and in retail at Fat Face, before making the trek to Rwanda. Having secured a place at Durham University second time around, ICS struck him as an excellent placement, due to its ideal length and practical structure. Ed also knew Tearfund’s reputation as a brilliant Christian charity, and one he knew the two were linked, he was sold. Pet peeves include mosquito bites and people being too uptight.


Jon made the wise move to take a year out of his University studies of Occupational Therapy, to ensure that his degree would lead him to the career he wanted to commit his energies to. As part of his year out, he worked in a care home to get a broader sense of what his work would entail, but also wanted to volunteer abroad to make a difference there as well.  ICS seemed like the perfect solution; allowing him to be on placement for long enough to make a significant difference, whilst leaving enough of the year when he comes back to address the issue of returning to university or pursuing another career. His pet peeves are people who constantly complain.


Graduating from the proud University of Portsmouth, Angie represents all the best that the south coast has to offer – wit, charm, charisma and finesse. After finishing University, Angie sought a new challenge, and so started working as an administrator for a local Nursery. However, after being seized by a desire that could only be described as wanderlust, she became desperate to escape the confines of Post-grad life. While looking around for an overseas experience, ICS caught her eye as she was keen to volunteer abroad and immerse herself in a completely different culture. 3 months later, and she loving every second of Rwanda. Her pet peeves include people using her personal sponge. Seriously. Don’t.


Youth-worker by day – Animal (retail assistant) by night; Kat Lewis forms the spiritual core of Team Win. Kat is passionate about all things Theological and Biblical, and if volunteering as a Youth Worker with South West Youth Work taught her anything, it’s that God always sees the bigger picture. Wanting to have an experience of something totally different and outside her comfort zone, ICS struck her as the perfect opportunity to help people by using her existing skills, whilst still developing new ones. Hoping to study Theology at KCL next year, Kat has said her pet peeves involve rudeness and others being impolite.


Our second National Volunteer, Catherine is originally from Uganda but moved to Rwanda when she was 9. She is currently studying a degree in Public Health, involving the role of the local environment and personal hygiene among other factors. Catherine is hoping to help community development and improve child care in the projects we visit with her knowledge from her University Studies. She is hoping to become more confident from her interactions with the U.K. volunteers, coming from a completely different culture and background. Another keen musician, Catherine loves to sing as well. Her pet peeves are people against God.


A champion of all things educational, Tirion Awel is our Team Leader. Tirion was a secondary school teacher in Swansea, teaching Drama, English and Welsh, before coming out to Rwanda 3 months ago. Having already led a previous team of ICS volunteers, Team Win feels in especially capable hands. She was attracted to ICS by both the need for a career break and a desire to experience other careers in a more Christian setting. Her pet peeves involve bad manners, and people insisting that Welsh is a dead language.