Oh, Rwanda. This country holds a special place in my heart and it was an exciting moment when I found that I could volunteer with Developing World Connections in this beautiful place! So happy. <3
I spent two weeks in the community of Gashora continuing work building The COVAGA Community Center, a project that at the time was supported by Building Bridges with Rwanda. The center will ultimately serve as a gathering place for the community with a library, a restaurant, and a weaving center where women make and sell their crafts. You can read more about COVAGA here (it’s so nice to see the faces of these women again!).
Our two weeks in Rwanda brought many special stories that will all be shared in due course. The delightful smiles of the children, the honest conversations about genocide, the beautiful wildlife, the hopeful eyes to the future…they combine to create a special atmosphere.
I was scheduled to build in Kenya in March of 2013, but unfortunately that trip was cancelled due to uncertainty around the upcoming Presidential elections. You may recall that in 2008, there were riots following the December 2007 elections, which led to a humanitarian crisis. Habitat for Humanity made the difficult decision to cancel our scheduled trip based on an analysis of safety. Thankfully, those concerns turned out to be for naught as the elections were relatively peaceful. Nevertheless, it left me without a trip!
Around this same time, the folks at Habitat for Humanity Kenya were reevaluating their program and were planning to put hosting of international volunteer programs on hold in order to focus their efforts in other ways. When I learned that it might be some time before teams would be returning to Kenya, I quickly found one of the remaining teams and joined what turned out to be the last team of the year!
This time we worked in a different area of town relative to my first two trips, so the experience was new for us all. We met Dinah John, an elderly woman who cared for her orphaned grandchildren when there were not attending boarding school. Over the course of a week, we laughed, cried, danced and sang with our new community. Simon and Stanley, with the help of occasional translation and usual jokes from Eric, taught us to mix mortar, lay bricks and plumb corners of the house. We chatted and played with the kids and ate delicious meals (ugali! chapati! mandazi!) prepared by the women of the community.
Yes, that’s right! On the way home from my first Global Village build, I immediately wanted to do it again. 🙂 I wanted to return to Kenya in order to form deeper relationships with the people there. As luck would have it, I ended up in the very same community!
Returning to Eldama Ravine was amazing. When I walked into the hotel, the friends I made just a few months ago shared huge smiles and warm hugs, welcoming me “back home”. We chatted about what had changed and what had stayed the same. We ate the same food, drank the same boxed wine, played pool to the sounds of Toto just like before… Yet this was definitely a new experience. A new group of volunteers who would become friends, a new family, and plenty of new insights.
This was also a special build because it was my first Thanksgiving volunteer trip! Although I missed being home, my new friends made this an experience to remember, and one to be shared on these pages soon. 🙂
Exploring and learning while enjoying life and doing my part. Here, there and everywhere…