Today we met 7 women who had benefited from the Life in Abundance (LiA) Economic Empowerment programme. Potential beneficiaries must join a group of 20 people who are accountable to each other. Each member contributes to a central fund before LiA provides ‘seed money’. This total fund is shared out as loans and the whole sum is to be repaid by the group after 6 months. We were most impressed at how this initial capital was used to set up small businesses. At the open market, we saw three ‘stalls’, selling fruit, vegetables fish and cooking oil. Each person had repaid her loan and all 3 businesses were doing really well. One stall was already empty – everything had gone!
Later, we met 4 people who had been equally successful working from home. Rearing baby pigs and selling them fully grown was one excellent example of making good use of the initial loan. Everyone was proud that they were now able to feed their family – the very first priority. Here was LiA at its very best.
We visited a nursery school and feeding programme based at a church, followed by a tasty lunch at the pastor’s house.
We visited the homes we had built four years ago and two years ago.
Taciana was all smiles, looking healthy, happy and content. She is growing corn, bananas and has chickens. She is self-sufficient. On Sundays she worships at the Cathedral. This involves walking for 3 hours; one hour downhill and two hours back home uphill. What faith! What commitment!
Denise could not stop talking about how much she appreciated her home and what it meant for her family. She has a cow, 3 sheep, a pig – all obtained by buying and selling animals. All achieved over the two years. A real business woman. She served us all with cooked corn. She told us we had also helped her to have cataracts removed from both eyes. This involved many round trips to Kigali. ‘I can see now!’ she said.
Having a house built for them has been life-changing for both women.
This has been a wonderful day! So much to talk about that I shall write it in two parts.
The morning coach drive to the nutrition clinic took us through beautiful mountain scenery, which opened out showing Lake Kivu from a high vantage point. Just lovely. An hour and a half later, we alighted to hear sounds of singing. This came from a large multi-coloured group of children and adults singing, clapping and jumping up and down. What a welcome! We soon discovered how the values of Life in Abundance had been put into practice so effectively. This clinic serves about 100 malnourished children. Part of their meal, rice, was provided for them but they brought their own vegetables, plates and spoons. Thus they were practically involved in the project.
The feeding programme was backed up by training on how to create a mixed diet. Families would often eat just one food, say avoado, until the supply ran out, then, another, say beans until they ran out. No thought of a mixed diet.
The benefits are already being felt. Already many have moved up to a higher, better category. The aim is to move all of them out of the ‘malnourished’ category.
Our programme is taking us to every aspect of life down here, exploring how Life in Abundance (LiA) is involved in trying to fulfil its aims in empowering people to lead independent and fruitful lives.
This morning we visited a project on Nkombo island, one of the poorest parts of Rwanda. The pastor there, whilst visiting people’s homes, discovered many people with disabilities, who were totally marginalised. They told us that other villagers described them as ‘broken pots’ and of no use. He has taken the initiative to try and give them confidence to do something to improve their lot. They now meet together regularly, have begun some simple mini-enterprises, and are beginning to feel valued. One of them repaired shoes (see photo). We met about 50 of them, heard some of their stories and bought some of the goods they had made. We visited the homes of two disabled women. One of them had had 11 children but 7 of them had died. Her house had bare walls except the words ‘Praise the Lord’ on one wall (see picture). We had a delicious lunch at the pastor’s house and presented him and his wife with various gifts for the children of that community.
In the afternoon, we visited a Mother’s Union project in Kamembe. Young people are being trained to use sewing machines so that, after training, they can set up their own business. Our friends from Lewes brought them £2000, which they had raised through their local MU. This will enable them to purchase more sewing machines. The joy and surprise on the leaders’ faces is reflected in one of the pictures below.
What a wonderful day we had yesterday! Each of the 3 groups entered wholeheartedly into the task of writing a Bible story and acting it out. They had all read the scripture passage overnight, ready for this. All but one that is. On the first day, we noticed that one of them did not own a Bible. You can’t imagine her joy and delight when she was presented with one, given to her by the Cathedral. She held it up high with delight, and every spare moment she had, she spent reading it!
The groups prepared and presented the 3 stories – Samuel’s call, Moses in the bulrushes and Solomon’s wisdom two wome’s dispute over a baby. A huge amount of imagination, enterprise and energy went into them, plus a lot of personal interpretation! But the stories came across powerfully well. We loved them!
Very exceptionally, all 20 participants came on both days. It is common for people to come one day and not the next, or leave early during the day. These were totally committed.
The day ended with prayer and the lively, but very moving song, beautifully harmonised. Each person was presented with a ‘starter pack’ in a shopping bag, containing materials they could use to make their garments.
It’s all about empowerment. Life in Abundance monitor all their projects, and they will follow up how these wonderful young people will use what they have learned.
This is the first day of two in which we are training Sunday School teachers. Our aim is to equip them to use a smimilar approach as we use in ‘Open the Book’ to help children know and understand stories from the Bible. It involves acting out the stories. We wrote the materials ourselves and provided some very simple ‘props’, such as headdresses and tabards. After we had modelled two stories for them, they very quickly got the idea. There are 20 of them, divided into 3 groups. Each group took on the task of acting a story themselves with great enthusiasm and treated us to some accurate but entertaining ‘productions’! A great first day. Tomorrow, they write their own story and act it out.
What a day we had celebrating the opening of the new Kamembe Cathedarl! The Africans know how to celebrate and it was a joy to share this special time with them. It was so colourful – 3 archbishops and 20 bishops, in their regalia, the women in quite stunningly beautiful dresses, and everyone else in ther ‘Sunday best’. The local community leaders were there as representatives of other churches. There were 3 choirs including one from Bukavu, over the water in Congo. There was spontaneous dancing to accompany one song! It would be impossible to convey the spirit, joy and meaning of the service ina few words. We felt privileged to be there. Bishop Quigg,from Virginia, gave a vibrant and challenging sermon. It was all so uplifting and encouraging.
Pictures can’t tell the whole story as you really need to hear the sound which go with them but here are a few.