Grace Rwanda on the ground in Rwanda in 2010

Grace Rwanda on the ground in Rwanda in 2010

June 26, 2010  |  Articles

Board members receive warm welcome at Rwinkwavu School

The schoolchildren are singing, dancing and drum­ming with all their hearts. Hundreds of villagers, their energy palpable, encircle their three visitors in jubilant celebra­tion, even encouraging the “Muzungus” (Westerners) to join them in dance. Gratitude for their new school cannot be contained.

More than 600 students were part of the celebration — with music, dancing and speeches — at the March 26 official announcement of Grace Rwanda’s partnership with the Rwinkwavu School. “Each speaker was so grateful for what Grace Rwanda has done,” says Franco Bordignon, Grace Rwanda’s vice chair. “I didn’t think we had done that much, but that’s not the way they saw it.”

The school that Grace Rwanda is helping to build has 1300 students, half studying in the morning and half in the afternoon. All the children walk to school; there are no buses or parents dropping them off. Franco met one boy whose trip to and from school is 15 km; he starts walking to school at 5 a.m.

Franco traveled to Rwanda with Elizabeth Mujawamaliya Johnson, co-founder of Grace Rwanda and a Rwandan genocide survivor, and her husband Paul, the president of the organiza­tion. The welcome celebration, given in their honour, was just one of the highlights from their three weeks in Rwanda. The event was broadcast later that day on Rwandan national news.

During the trip, the board members saw the eight-classroom addition that Grace Rwanda had funded. Although the rooms still lack some finishing touches, the students were able to start taking classes indoors before the start of the rainy season.

On an April 3 community service day, villagers provided volunteer labour to complete the sidewalks around the new addition. Grace Rwanda funds were used to purchase the sand and gravel and to pay the ce­ment masons, but the rest of the labour to build the addition was provided by student and parent volunteers. Young students teamed up to carry buckets of water and sand, motivated by the prospect of new classrooms.

Another purpose of Grace Rwanda’s journey to Rwanda was to meet with Rwinkwavu civic leaders, the school principal and teachers. Together, they discussed the community’s needs and ways Grace Rwanda could continue to assist. A kitchen will be one of the next Grace Rwanda partnership projects. The school’s circa 1940’s kitchen was recently demolished due to safety concerns, with a small temporary one currently taking its place. For most of the children, their only meal is the one the school provides.

The visiting board members also met with Rwandan government and industry leaders. They spoke to representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Meetings with the Rwandan Development Board and a coffee co-operative representing 1000 farmers may lead to direct Rwandan imports, which will assist Grace Rwanda in fundraising.

Finally, Grace Rwanda needed to finalize arrangements for a Grace Rwanda in-country agent to be in charge of the organization’s Rwanda-side opera­tions. Franco, Elizabeth and Paul are pleased to announce that Kigali-based Apollinaire Kayumba will assume this position, bringing Grace Rwanda one step closer to being able to effectively assist post-genocide communities.

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