This morning we took the picturesque drive from Kigali to the Ugandan border and into Batwa country. It was a wonderful day, because the results of our programs with the Batwa are truly tangible. Arriving at the first village is always exciting. We have driven far, the last hour or more on an extremely bumpy and winding, steep mountain road through gorgeous farms, lake vistas, mud housed villages and finally the car stops. We are immediately surrounded by people of all ages, shaking our hands, hugging us and singing. The Batwa can SING!!
The first demonstration was by the drama group who is part of upcoming Batwa Tourism Program. (Go to our website to read more about that.) They acted out a man (played by a woman) who is chided by his wife for not washing his hands before eating and then he becomes sick. It was sincerely really well acted and hilarious, too. The lessons in the play are part of our Health and Sanitation program.
The second demonstration was from the Nutrition Program. There is a focus on food diversity and eating plenty of protein and vegetables. Malnutrition is an issue, because while food is abundant in the area, protein is not (they cannot afford to eat meat) and the typical diet consisted of mostly starches. I was thrilled to see the variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes being grown in the Batwa villages now.
After the food demo, they brought out the tape measure used to measure the arms of children to determine if they are malnourished. Out of 4 measured kids, only one was not in the green zone, which is an enormous improvement. They also had a scale to weigh pregnant women to make sure they are putting on enough weight.
Then we took another loooong bumpy ride to the next village and hiked waaaaay up a steep hill for about a half mile. The last time I was in this particular village, it was pouring rain and it took two walking sticks and mud up to my knees to get me down again! I was relieved that there was no rain today, to say the least. We met an old man who was preparing mud for the walls of the house he was finishing with the support of Pilot Light. We have built 150 houses for the Batwa, supply the roof, poles and doors and ask them to do the rest. Everything we do, we do in partnership with our beneficiaries. They have to feel invested.
Along with the houses, they have been shown how to build a drying rack for their dishes and a hand washing station outside of their latrines. The hand wash is made from a plastic jug with holes in the top, a bar of soap on a string and a stick.
We finished the visit with a discussion on the progress, of which there is much, of the village microloan groups we have set up. None of these new good practices in nutrition, health, sanitation and living conditions are worth anything if there is no sustainability
On the long way back down the mountain to the main road it was dusk and the colors were breathtaking, every hue of green imaginable and purple and gold light.