We are nearing the end of the project visits and today was the last full day in Rwanda.
I wanted to take Rand (the filmmaker who is with us) to the genocide memorial in Nyamata. It is a very difficult place to visit, but I believe it is our responsibility to know what happened here. The memorial is in a church where 10,000 people were killed in the one place they believed to be safe. The building has been left as it was, pock marked with bullet holes, a mangled metal door and literally full of wooden benches piled high with the clothing of the bodies who died there. There is a case with other reminders of the lives lost, their necklaces, identity cards, rosary beads. There is a small room that was dug into the floor that holds dozens of skulls and other bones. The guide showed us how you can tell which people were killed by machete, those with clubs and those with bullets. There is a coffin under glass that is one of the hardest parts of the memorial to bear. It holds the body of a woman that was gang raped in the church, then impaled on a stick through her vagina. This may be horrible to read, but that is what happened…In the yard in the back are mass graves in under ground rooms you can go into. It all feels very real in this place, not just a story on the news.
On a happier note, we stopped at my favorite basket cooperative and bought some beautiful things and then we headed to visit the Pig and Rabbit Cooperative in Murama.
The project started as just a pig cooperative, then we added chickens/eggs and a nutritional program for the whole neighborhood, as most children in this area were suffering from malnutrition. That was due partially to having drought and partially due to lack of information. The chickens were later wiped out by a disease that swept through the region killing many chickens. We later added rabbits to support the nutrition program, as it is protein that is lacking in the diet here. More recently, we have added a revolving fund.
Today we met with the 29 women (including 145 people in their households combined) involved in the fund, which was started only in February. They have had great success with it and the payback rate has been 99%, which is exceptional. We heard form 4 different women who told their stories of what they had used the loans for and how they had profited. The women as a group agreed that before the nutrition program and the fund, most every child here was suffering from malnutrition, as measured by the local health center from lack of protein and that now all children are passing the measurement tests with no problem. This alone makes this program a success for me, although there is more to it than that making it a success. We agreed to put additional funds into the revolving fund, in order to make more loans possible immediately and also to buy 5 sewing machines. The women were very pleased. It is such a pleasure to work with those who work hard and show such great results.
Lastly, we looked around the pig sty, which is home to some of the pigs, while others live at the individual homes of the farmers. We started this project 4 years ago with 22 pigs and it has now produced about 500. They are almost finished with the construction of a butchery (it will be done in about 2 days), which will enable the pig cooperative to make much more money than selling the piglets or grown pigs.
Tonight, we are going to Delphin’s house to spend time with his family and out to eat brochette!