July 4: The Fourth of July AND the 22nd Annual Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide
A very heavy, emotional day for all of Rwanda as they reflect on their past and look ahead to the bright future awaiting them… We spent the day traveling from Kayonza back to Kigali, preparing for our 7-hour drive down to Cyangugu that would take place the following day, and making a visit to the local health clinic. Katrina caught a mean case of food poisoning, but she was well taken care of by the Rwandan doctors and by Tuesday, she was back in action!
July 5: Travel to Cyangugu!
After a good night’s rest at Hotel Beausejour, we hopped back in the van and embarked on our long journey south. Thanks to Justin’s exceptional driving (in the pitch black… through the mountainous rainforests of Rwanda), we arrived safely at the beautiful Peace Guest House, our home for the next few days.
July 6: Abakundana (Twa/Pygmies) “People Who Love Each Other” Cooperative
Today, we had the incredibly unique opportunity to visit the Pygmy/Twa people in southwest Rwanda near the Congo border. Upon arrival – after a bumpy, dusty drive past a newly established Chinese concrete factory – we were greeted with explosive dancing, singing, and drumming (and hugging) by the Abakundana Cooperative whom we joined ecstatically.
As these co-op members have connected with World Dance to create a fully-functioning seamstress business, the women here wear some of the most beautifully crafted dresses in Rwanda (complete with measuring tapes worn as necklaces) and even gifted Debra with a vibrant, perfectly-fitted handmade blouse.
After a short ceremony with the co-op’s leader and another furious session of drumming and dancing in which I got to pound out some traditional rhythms with a young musician, we travelled down the road to visit some of their cows.
Running alongside the kids and the families, laughing, playing, piggybacking, and connecting in the most simple, profound way made me realize how unique our opportunity is here: as a non-profit we are not here dealing with bureaucracies, officials, and formalities; we are here with the people, connecting with them as people! The fact that we get to participate in a cow-naming ceremony outside one of the member’s homes and laugh together over naming a cow “Joe” after his Santa Barbara donor, is such a rewardingly human experience.
Afterwards, we visited one of the local schools to meet with some sponsored students, but, since they were unavailable, we joined in on one of the school dance classes happening outside. We danced to a popular contemporary south African tune called “God is the Winner” … suffice it to say, we had a blast.
Our last moments of the day were spent with Eric – a joyful, humble, hard-working student sponsored by World Dance supporter Kathy Bart – asking him questions about his life and his future. His reply was that simply having the opportunity to go to school and shape his future secured his happiness, was a powerful example of having deep gratitude for the important things in life.
All in all, today was another full, inspiring step in this journey.