Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Teacher training in Kigali

April 17th

Off early to the District Office to pick up teaching materials, and then on a bus to Kigali. Britney has persuaded me to come and do some training for the teachers at her school in the city. (Britney is an American girl who started off working for Momma in Gitarama, but then left and has ended up working in a little school owned and started by Meg, who is one of the original Rwandan VSOs who has settled down in the country and made it her home).

We have a tense few minutes while I’m trying to find exactly where the school is; it sits close to the city centre in a part of Kigali I usually pass through without stopping. Britney comes down to meet me and escorts me through a maze of alleyways which I would hardly dare to venture into by daytime, and certainly not at night. As we climb up the hill Britney is besieged by children who attend the school; obviously she is popular with all the children.

At the school I’m introduced to the teachers, and get started on the training session. Outside the classroom there are a dozen or so women working on sewing machines; they are being trained to earn a proper living. Many of these women are former prostitutes, and the regular income they can earn from the needle skills will hopefully keep them off the streets (not to mention keep them AIDS-free) for the rest of their lives.

One big bonus of doing this training is that we negotiate a special discounted rate for cutting and sewing rice sacks if I need any doing in the future. Since I must have around 400 left in the office, that could amount to a tidy saving over the year.

At the end of the morning I say my farewells. I hot foot it up to Remera and the VSO office, and pay off my emergency loan to VSO (see the blog entry for April 3rd). I catch up on emails, and in the afternoon there is a meeting of the Capacity Building working party. We have a long discussion about our role, and eventually decide we’re going to disband (the group hasn’t met in many months). There are new working groups for those volunteers in education and disability, and I seem to be on all of them, so I’m getting worried about the number of days I could potentially have to trek in to Kigali. Claude wouldn’t be happy. (In fact he texts me this morning while I’m on the bus, asking me to come in to the office with my laptop, and I have to put him off until Monday).

Bad news in one email – the Dutch Randstad company isn’t able in the present circumstances to send any more money for our Shyogwe School building project, and we’re left with four partially completed rooms. Sometime next week I’ll have to break the bad news to St├ęphanie; in the meantime there’s a block of 2200 Euros which seems to have got lost in the ether in transit between VSO Holland and VSO Rwanda, or between Kigali and Shyogwe Diocese. That might even need yet another trip to Kigali to try to resolve.

Worse news is to come. I’m able to fight my way through the rush hour traffic back to the city centre, and catch a bus home to Gitarama. Soraya turns up on the same bus, so we can chat as we travel. She tells me that Shelina, a lovely Pakistani-Canadian volunteer who was with us in the summer, has had a horrific car accident while doing a short-term stint as a volunteer in Sierra Leone. The poor girl has had to be helicoptered to hospital, and then flown home for facial reconstruction surgery. Judging by the tone of her emails to Soraya she’s making light of the extent of her injuries, and certainly her mental faculties and sense of dry humour are all there. But poor girl – it’s a terrible thing to happen to anyone, and certainly to someone as hard working and as intelligent as Shelina. I shall send her an email.

Nathan comes over once more for a meal, and we make a big feast mainly out of left overs from yesterday. Quesadillas, fresh salad and Spanish omelette with fried rice make a filling meal, washed down with a Primus. Just as we’re finishing Kerry, Moira and Bridget come over to collect Kerry’s parcels, and we chat with the girls for a while. It’s nice that our flat is becoming a drop-in point for all the Gitarama volunteers.

By nine o’clock I’m definitely winding down, so I write a couple of quick blog entries and decide it’s time for bed.

Best thing about today – feeling that I’ve done a proper day’s work.

Worst thing – getting up at half past five is a real wrench after all the lazy starts in Uganda.

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