(Day 2) Elizabeth:
What an incredible day. Beginning with the most amazing coffee I have ever experienced at breakfast—working on a way to bring a supply of beans home with me! We arrived at the bank in time for the devotions, a lovely service which takes place every Monday and Friday to begin and end the week. The music and singing was so beautiful and the service created a great feeling of peace and community.
Then, we arrived at an agricultural cooperative who are working with their first Opportunity loan. Meeting with the Trust Group leaders and hearing their ambitions and plans really underlined for me the importance of empowering these clients to become self-sufficient. They not only work the land they lease from the local government, but to improve efficiency they employ people to help with weeding and even to scare birds away from the crops! The group has employed a agronomist who is testing 100 different varieties of rice on the land to determine which is best for their land conditions. It is this forward-thinking that is so powerful to me. Seeing these beautiful people who have so little materially but such ambitious plans for the future for themselves and their families, all made possible by the opportunity to borrow a relatively small amount, is very motivational.
(Veronique and I are talking to a farmer)
The fields were separated by a road, along which a group of children were walking home from school. There were cars, motorbikes and trucks speeding by with these little children walking along the shoulder of the road. The over-protective mother in me really had to take a deep breath. The children were stunning and so clever. I asked to see their schoolbooks and they were rightly proud to share them with me. They all learn English and their lesson books were beautifully neat. As they skipped off I realized the future of this country is so bright and positive, even after the tragic recent past.
(Four of our travelers in transit in Amsterdam, en route to Kigali.)
We’re here! Our plane touched done in Kigali Airport just after dark so our first impressions of Rwanda have been by night. Initial observations—it’s so clean!! And the traffic is incredibly orderly. After my time in Asia I was expecting a similar level of craziness but apart from a slight running of a stop sign all lanes were acknowledged and no speeding was undertaken! The lovely Adele from Opportunity’s US office met us at the airport, along with Molly who is our fellow Insight Tripper from Chicago. I have a great feeling about this week, can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Anti-malarial treatment has started! Drinking gin and tonic at the bar of Hotel Serena where we are staying. It is around the corner from Hotel des Mille Collines which inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, based on the story of its manager. Charming staff; mix of French- and English-speaking; heavy tropical smells but not the usual heat and stickiness as Kigali lies at 1400m. Lovely, truly.
After a VERY early start we had a great flight and arrived in Kigali. Felt amazing taking my first steps on African soil! Lovely people—have learnt murakose, which means “thank you.” Seem to be using it a lot! Comfortable room—after a bit of furniture reorganization with Veronique it’s great. Really looking forward to an amazing day tomorrow. Watch this space!
Finally we are here! I’ve been looking forward to this day! An early start. Shared the flight with a Danish UN soldier who was on his way to southern Sudan & spoke warmly about Rwanda, confirming all that I’ve heard about the smiling population and low crime rate. His stories of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan left me grateful for my destination. We are missing two girls in the group but by morning we should have all seven women all raring to go! A day meeting clients in the field as well as meeting the staff at the head office of Opportunity Rwanda. Another G&T and time for bed.
Just arrived at the hotel to join the group after a lovely day in Kigali with dear Belgian friends: church, market, gathering of expats on a hill with lots of interesting aid or NGO projects, and fascinating discussion over dinner with Rwandan friends. I felt spoilt and very grateful. There is lots to say, lots to understand, and getting an insight with Opportunity International staff and clients will no doubt be a true experience.
This post was published on Opportunity-UK’s travel blog at opportunityinrwanda.wordpress.com.