What a welcome!

We have had a really heart-warming welcome back home with so many people greeting us and asking about the trip! For our part, we felt very uplifted by the support and prayers of people back home.

This was emphasised on Sunday at Church in Cley, where Rev Jo Fawcett invited us to the front to welcome us all. For Heather Harrison, this was her first trip to Rwanda, and she spoke briefly on our behalf giving a very moving reflection on our experiences in Rwanda which was much appreciated by everyone.

Here is another picture of the whole group, with some of the local people involved, at the ‘handing over’ of the house to Ticiana.

Our group at the handing over ceremony. Notice the hills in the background - a wonderful setting!

Our group at the handing over ceremony. Notice the hills in the background – a wonderful setting!

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We’re back

Here we are back in  North Norfolk after a very good journey home. The walk across the Tarmac of Norwich airport quickly reminded us of the temperature difference between here and Rwanda!

Here are the pictures I would have sent yesterday. We thought about the name we would give the house and ‘Glaven Home’ was the preferred option!

On the way home, we were on the same plane as Bishop Nathan who oversees the diocese we have been working in. He told us that we must come again – ‘you must make an annual plan’ he told us!

Handing over medical supplies at the Health Clonic

Handing over medical supplies at the Health Clonic

Our group with others at the handing over ceremony. Taciana is the tall lady on the right in gold and yellow

Our group with others involved at the handing over ceremony. Taciana is the tall lady towards  the right in gold and yellow –  just discernible

Glaven Home as it looked for the handing over.

Glaven Home as it looked for the handing over – taken from the back – after 8 days’ work

Eric and the house name  he painted

Eric and the house name he painted

Handing over the house

Another late blog. I am writing this in Kigali! We had a very good drive here –  the beautiful weather enabled us to appreciate fully the beauty of this country. After supper here, we shall head for the airport.

The main event on Wednesday was at the house which we have been ‘sponsoring’ and, in our limited way, helping to build. As you will see from the photo, it is far advanced. I am sorry that uploading pictures is taking an age, so you may have to do without them this time! The builders have worked so, so hard. To achieve what they have in 10 days is close to a miracle.

Lots of people were there.: the leader of Avega Agahozo (the Association of Widows of Rwanda); the leader of the local village community; the local press; representatives of the Anglican Diocese; ourselves; the builders; and, of course, Taciana the recipient of the house and her two children.

Rwanda is noted for its speech making, and there were a number of them on this occasion, but each one carried such meaning and emotion, that we were deeply moved by everything that was said. Perhaps the most moving of all, was the speech by the local village representative. Taciana has been constantly moving about looking for a home for the whole of the 20 years since the genocide. Her present ‘home’ is in someone’s kitchen in the town. But this house is far away from that, and in quite a remote village. She knows no-one here, but she was made to feel so welcome, and, even more so as the census is about to be taken and she will be included in it!

The ceremony ended with a prayer of blessing and the handing over of the keys of ‘Glaven Home’. A really really moving moment. Taciana has her home. There is still some work to do and mud needs time to dry out, but there it is – a home she can truly call hers. It has been a privilege to work alongside Rwandans to make this possible. Because of Avega, we shall be able to regular updates on how Taciana is getting on.

We managed to find a suitable piece of wood and some paint to write Glaven Home on!

The main afternoon activity was at St Matthews School, which was clearly the best session the ladies had done. They came back on a ‘high’! Before that, we made a brief visit to the Diocesan Health Centre to deliver medical supplies which had been kindly donated by a friend who used to live in Blakeney.

Pictures to follow. Now leaving for the airport .

Nkombo Island – looking for the positives

I am a day behind again with my blogs! Too much going on! This is Tuesday’s blog.

Most of our fundraising back home was directed to buying water filters for Nkombo Island so it was good to be able to go there and find out more about the local people we would be helping.

After a most pleasant 40  minute boat journey on lake Kivu, we arrived at a landing spot leading us to a

Children enjoying their drink

Children enjoying their drink

steep path to the centre of the village. Walking 800 metres up a steep incline, in the heat and at an altitude of 5000 ft, believe me, was quite demanding! We were accompanied by Bertha an Anglican pastor who has been a kind of mentor to us here.  The government administrator walked with us to the church where 600 children were seated waiting to welcome us. These were undernourished children who were part of the Nutrition programme run by the Anglican Church.  It was very hot. They were hungry. So we decided to limit the formal welcome and went with them directly to the feeding centre. How patient these little children are!

Presenting family filters to the local pastor

Presenting family filters to the local pastor. 

It seemed an age before they got their mug of nutritious porridge. We learned that they had been selected by a rigorous process for the island has simply hundreds and hundreds of poor children – but we thought that most of the children would be me,fit from this programme.

Overpopulation – about 18000 – and lack of acceptance of family planning (and to some extent polygamy) add to the general levels of poverty. Many women have to go to the mainland to earn money for the family, leaving the children to look after each other for hours on end. Although close to the mainland, the island is isolated. They even have their own language! The lake water is polluted from effluent and flotsam from DRC, so there is a real need for water filters, and we were glad we had focused our efforts here. The local authority and the Anglican Church have planned well together to ensure that filters are distributed well.

Helping to feed the children - this is only a fraction of all those present

Helping to feed the children – this is only a fraction of all those present

At one level, a lot of what we heard and saw was quite depressing. There seemed to be a self- generating cycle of deprivation which was difficult to halt. But, actually, there is a very positive side to what we saw. The church has taken the initiative. In the last two years, a new church has been established; a Health Clinic set up; and there is evidence that the nutrition project, started by the Bishop’s wife, is making a big difference. All of this with the blessing and support of the local administration.

We ended our visit with a delicious lunch at the pastor’s house. Afterwards, we had a little ceremony to present them with some family filters.

We came back ‘home’ emotionally drained!

Every day is different

I was about to write my blog last evening when the skies lit up with lightning, and thunder claps crashed around and directly above us – we’ve never experienced a tropical storm like it! Almost frightening at times. Our electronic systems froze and that was that!

So here’s Monday’s blog a day late.

One of the families we visited

One of the families we visited

The morning was taken up with a visit to the house building project by the men and visits to some family homes by the ladies, organised by the Mothers Union.

The progress on the house was amazing but this does not surprise us any more! The men work so hard.

The home visits were very moving indeed. One of the houses had been built with support from one of our group and it was lovely to see the transformation which had taken place – from someone who never smiled to a house proud happy mother. The welcome received in each home

Loading water filter boxes and other things into vehicle for DRC

Loading water filter boxes and other things into vehicle for DRC

was most heart warming. In one house, there were 18 people in a room about 8ft by 8 ft – 8 of us plus extended family. But somehow, we were comfortable enough.

Later, we enjoyed lunch with 4 pastors from Congo DRC. We had invited them here to receive gifts of water filters, African Bible Commentaries, clothes, wool and knitting needles and many other things. Three of them were from Bukavu, just over the lake from here, but the other had travelled for a whole week to be able to meet me. He said that he particularly wanted to bring greetings from  a very old pastor in his area, who had worked with my father in the 1940’s. All these men had been influenced by my father’s ministry one way or another. They love to maintain contact, and we have tried to do on each of our visits here. We had a little presentation ceremony, when the pastors thanked us for everything and told us how valuable the filters are to them. One of them told us how illness had been reduced considerably since they had been using them. It made us really happy to hear that!

Having lunch with the pastors on the terrace of our villa

Having lunch with the pastors on the terrace of our villa

Then, we loaded the coach with all the goods to take down to the Rwanda/ DRC border. That was the easy part! When we got there, there was the usual bustle of activity but no vehicle to receive our goods! The pastors’ driver just didn’t arrive. Eventually, they went back over the border to hire a vehicle. Our coach was only 20 metres from this car when it came, but we were categorically not allowed to take our goods from bus to car. We had to use local porters who argued vociferously with us over the price!! It look a long time to agree a price. So, it was with a sense of relief but joy, that we waved them goodbye over the border.

Sunday in Kamembe

By 10 30 am today we had been to two services! We knew that we were going to an 8 am English speaking service at the cathedral, followed by a 10am service at a local church in the suburbs.  So it meant an early breakfast!

Claude preaching at the Cathedral

Claude preaching at the Cathedral

Local pastor with his family and 'senior pastor Claude' and his wife after the service

Local pastor with his family and ‘senior pastor Claude’ and his wife after the service

But when we arrived there, we discovered that the Government had decreed this day as ‘Heroes Day’, which meant that all activities, including church services, were to cease at 10 am so that people could attend a rally in the stadium. No-one knew about this until this morning! Once again, it looked as if our plans would have to change. But, in the event, the second church started their service early and we joined them at about 9 20 and the service lasted until 10 30, government decree notwithstanding! The two services were very different. Claude preached the same sermon at both churches, one translated, one not. The Cathedral service was more formal; the second one still followed Anglican liturgy but was more lively, much as we come to expect over here, with wonderful singing and lots of young people.

We were presented with two beautiful African baskets, as seen in the photo. They said that we could use them in our churches – for collections?

This afternoon we visited some hot water springs,  a real oasis used by many people enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. But to get there, we passed through one poor village after another -the worst examples of poverty we have seen in Rwanda. Quite disturbing.

Finally, we drove to a point where we could see three countries – Congo, Burundi and Rwanda. It was a really moving moment as we contemplated the very real but different issues affecting each of them. We had a moment of silence before praying for them.

Pictures from house building

Chopping grass with a machete for mixing with mud

Chopping grass with a machete for mixing with mud

These pictures will give you an idea of how far the building has progressed and the kinds of work we were engaged in. It was very hot outside but, inside the house, it was more comfortable. We really enjoyed getting practically involved like this.

Lifting large 'cakes' of mud and 'dumping' them on the wall - they were very heavy!

Lifting large ‘cakes’ of mud and ‘dumping’ them on the wall – they were very heavy!

The house after 5 days' work

The house after 5 days’ work