Today marked our last day as a whole team together here in Rwanda, before we all begin our journeys home over the next couple of days.
This morning marked our earliest wake-up call of the trip so far – Saturday¹s are not a day for lay-ins here in Rwanda! Today was Umuganda Saturday, a day where the whole of the country puts aside their individual needs and wants (and a lay-in!) to come together as a community to clean their streets, mend roads, fix houses and most importantly spend time together. For a county that has experienced so much hurt in the last few decades, this really is an amazing way to bring a nation together and build relationships with each other, uniting communities and achieving so much… I wonder what Umuganda could look like if we did it back home in the UK!
As part of Umuganda, the roads are shut from 8am, hence the early start to the morning. We set-off from Kigali to Nyamata, where we visited one of the GNDPR projects, a group for women made widows from the genocide, where they are given the space to meet, talk and tend to a significant number of chickens, to bring financial stability and self-sufficiency to their homes.
We arrived early and after a brief tour of the chicken¹s homes, we were put to work with machetes and hoes, clearing a large green space of weeds and bushes, so that the space could be used for growing more crops to provide further stability for the widows. It certainly was a new experience swinging through shrubs with a machete, though I think it was safe to say that the we weren¹t quite as efficient as the farm workers!
After a couple of hours gardening, we had the opportunity to meet some of the widows from the project, along with the cell leader from the area. All of them welcomed us with so much love, briefly explaining their heartbreak, but also how the work of their project has allowed them to begin the process of healing and forgiveness, and given them a reason to see joy return to their lives. The widows project is called Don¹t Cry, a name not denying their pain, but acknowledging their ability to not let the past stop themselves, and their nation, from moving forward.
As we began to leave the farm, we gave the women some gifts for them to share within their community, including some bubbles! Bubbles may disappear in a heartbeat, but the joy brought to the face of an old lady who had never seen or blown them before, will last forever.
The image of bubbles is one that will really stick with me as I leave Rwanda. Moments can come and go like bubbles, sometimes they¹re really big and sometimes they¹re tiny. But the faces of the people around the bubbles, watching them, trying to catch every single little one and making the most of them whilst they are there, are faces of pure joy and freedom. Every person we have met here in Rwanda have experienced so many different moments throughout their life, but despite the heartbreaks and challenges they have faced, they are now filled with such amazing joy, trying to capture every last moment like it¹s a bubble flying past them! Maybe we need to feel those same feelings again and try to capture every single moment like it¹s a bubble in front of us.