Thursday, August 1, 2013

An evolving community

In a previous post I detailed how the village we are supporting with access to health care and education in Rwanda was relocated to a new locality in better housing conditions, and how it is presently perceived to be on a right path of prosperity. Looking back where this community comes from, a lot has been achieved and the Rwandan local government should take credit for this even though there remain many unresolved difficulties faced by this community. 

Through a community action, communities of Kigali city came together to help indigent people of Bwiza acquire new housings. As a result, each family and every single parent of the village who previously lived in pitiable dwelling received a better brick walled with typical shiny tin roofed house. At the end of this action, 50 families benefited from this scheme.

Community gathering in former village of Bwiza (left photo)- Chief's house in the background.

Same village in their new village (Right photo)- see their new homes in the background 
Marie, a single mother of three was among those who benefited a house. The acquiring of a house meant that it was time for her to live independent of her extended family of 8 which all shared a house of 3 dark tiny cubicles. At the age of 23 with 3 children, and not having any predictable source of income it was time for Marie to actively play the mother role and taking care of her children in her own home. Marie has to make sure that feeds her three children; which is always complicated to achieve and subject to a lot of uncertainties. 

Like any other person of her village, we are supporting her and her children to acquire their annual subscription to health insurance, and one of her son and other children of the village are able to attend school because we are helping them. We are doing this with hope that our small interventions will help the community unlock their potentials to develop themselves.
Three months ago, when we were following up the progress of students in the program which we jointly initiated with the village, we learnt that Marie’s son (Hakizimana) was not attending school. Village volunteers informed us that Marie and her children were nowhere to be seen in the village except for the few speculations of their whereabouts. Seemingly, Marie and her children, left their gifted home following a theft of 5 kg of beans and a pagne (which I will explain its importance in their life shortly). The theft happened in the night when they were asleep. Like I mentioned before, this community is constrained economy and so 5kg of beans is hardly to come by for many in Marie's village and the reason it is taken to be a valuable commodity. To get all these, Marie might have worked very hard and by hard, I mean hard sweaty job! In an event that followed this theft, Marie run out of options to feed herself and the children, and without any guarantee that she may get some work to do. She found herself being forced to free her home to a friend a distance away from the village.
Marie is looking at her new fabric which we helped her buy
Marie's pagne which she wears when she is going out of their community was all taken! Partly, this meant that her interaction with the larger communities around them was to some degree affected. I am saying this because, when you visit around the markets or other social places in Rwanda, you notice the majority of people are dressed-up and looking sharp! This external neatness however has nothing in common with their financial capabilities, in most cases it is a contrast. In some other villages and maybe in some towns and cities, people are still borrowing clothing if they are going somewhere outside their community. People do not want to be judged as poor from the way they present themselves even though in their minds they might be questioning themselves how they will survive that day. 
Marie with her children on their day they came back in the village
Despite of Marie's community being relocated in a new locality with better housing, life remains a struggle for each member of the village, who still show little collective initiatives to solve their problems. The few projects which they are collaboratively working on, have not paid dividends fast enough to give them confidence. The fact that Marie left the village even without approaching her own family members for help is an indication that everyone is for him/her self. Well there is a saying “every man for himself and God for us all” , I began to think it was applicable in this circumstance.
We (I mean our non profit) believe that the community we work with can find ways getting around their problems, and there is a huge potential as we are continually learning how the poorest make the choices they do to live their life. That said, we did not let Marie disappearance slip out of our hands. Recalling the events In 2010, there was a teenager girl who disappeared from the village while we were in a process of enumerating all school going pupils who had dropped out of school for either lack of materials or fees. The disappeared girl showed up a year later pregnant.

Fearing of the worst, but not knowing what could happen to Marie with her three lovely children, we used all the contacts we could get in the village to trace Marie’s' whereabouts. When we got a lead location, we facilitated transportation for an individual from her village to go where she had taken “refuge” and talk to her if she could consider coming back into her village. We succeeded in this aspect and we helped her and her children come back.
Because Marie is mute and deaf, she is commonly known as the “mute” in her village, we believe she is more at risk among her already vulnerable community for she cannot communicate well with the rest in her village. We have helped her re-gain what was stolen in her house, helped her buying padlocks to reinforce security on her doors. Now that we managed to bring Marie and her family back into their own house in their village, we cannot claim to have solved underlying problems, it was rather a short term alternative of the situation and we take it as a moral obligation. Having said that, we are trying to keep our energies and resources by focusing on the two projects in the village.


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