So our KHS team of 9 students and 3 staff have been in Rwanda for over week now and with 3 nights left I feel it’s time for me to add my voice to all the already existing and beautifully written blog posts to date. The posts so far have been so heartfelt and from such an honest place that I feel like I have my work cut out for me with this one!
What can I say to start off? Well what a credit to KHS this team are. Not only that, they’re a credit to Kirkcaldy and Scotland. A week in and they’re beginning to get the gist of this beautiful country and its people. They have engaged so sincerely and compassionately with the Rwandan people that my heart, on several occasions, has been fit to burst.
An experience such as this changes you. I’m certainly not the same person before I started my visits in 2008. I can already start to see this in multiple ways. I have the least ‘huggy’ member of staff with me who gave me a spontaneous hug the other day and another member of staff who is also pushing himself out of his comfort zone with team sports and the common Rwandan culture of breaking out into dance at any possible point! They’re already talking passionately about wanting to do it again so, who know, you’ll have to watch this space but I do hope that this happens.
Then there’s our wonderful students…
Ben is our comedian of the group. He knew this before he went and he has not disappointed. He’s funny and his smile infects all the projects we visit. I know his family well and know that his wonderful mother would have been in tears if she had seen his interaction at the Comfort Babies project. I first had to convince him he wouldn’t break a baby by picking him up and once he got over that he had kids climbing all over him. Check out his post to read about how he felt about having to give ‘his wee boy’ back to his Mum!
Dominika has risen to all the challenges this trip has thrown at her so far. She was particularly taken with the Comfort Babies project…when I say that I mean there was a child glued to her and I began to worry how we would separate them! Dominika has been a massive strength to the team, mucking into everything needed! Plus she’s been a musical support to Hannah which has been amazing to see.
Esha appears to have surpassed our Comfort International rep in the Kinyarwandan linguistics front. What a talent! Esha, your affinity with children and women has really been key this past week and you have been a strength to the team in many ways. She has a keen interest to understand how a country such as Rwandan has had to deal with the aftermath of the genocide in a judicial way as well as the personal way every Rwandan has had to. This passionate interest and genuine concern to understand means a lot t people here.
Gavin has had to deal with a slight age issue this trip. Whatever we say and whatever he says, Rwandans will not believe he is a teenager and instead age him in his 30s! But just like these trips teach you various skills…Gavin is learning to roll with these Rwandan cultural quirks. He became ‘Uncle Gavin’ to a wee one at Comfort Babies as I’m pretty sure the wee one recognised Gavin’s massive heart.
Hannah really pushed herself to the forefront of the group when we visited a Survivor’s Group at Nduba. Hannah played a song, solo I might add, on the ukulele and it was such a pure and honest performance. I’m so glad she did this as our group rendition of 500 Miles was, perhaps, a little rough around the edges! Hannah added a bit of class to our musical offerings at Nduba!
What a card shark Kieron is! He’s been keeping our team going with cards and uno on the evenings after dinner and daily discussion. This is essential for a team…you need someone to keep people going when trips are intense like this. What Kieron’s post earlier also failed to mention was he returned from playing rugby with the Batsinda kids and said he wanted to gift them with one of the rugby balls we brought over. Sure Kieron, shall I do the speech? He said he had it covered. For someone who doesn’t like public speaking I was impressed. This is what the love of Rwanda does to you!
Lauren is our highland dancer of the team and although the prospect of doing this in front of groups you don’t know, she has done this on 3 occasions in one week! She also had the Batsinda Street Kids Rescue wee ones copying her so we are passing these wonderful skills on to the wonderful Rwandans we meet. She should be super proud of herself…the rest of our Scottish dancing is a group effort but Lauren has gone solo and that takes guts!
Sophie can peel tatties! That’s what Sophie was faced with on her first day. I had at least 5 Rwandan women show me how to do this and eventually got ‘moved’ to another activity but Sophie’s were up to scratch. Sophie’s warm smiles are going down well wherever she goes and it’s an honour to see her working alongside Rwandans here.
Zaynah is honestly the only person I’ve ever taken round Gisozi Nationa Memorial taking notes! She has been so keen to soak in everything like a sponge and probably also deserves the accolade of most creative journal entries! Every project we go to Zaynah has children sitting around her, on her, playing with her hair within seconds. She exudes a warmth that is a magnet for young people and we have no doubt she’s headed into teaching in the future
…which is handy as that’s what she wants to do.
There we have it…3 sleeps to go and then we will be back on the plane back to Scotland. But our journey will not end there. It will then be our responsibility to share all the stories and testimony we have heard here. It’s beginning to dawn on the team how special this country and how much we have to learn from Rwanda.
It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be part of this team and to be witnessing how this country, that has been part of my life for 11 years now, is impacting everyone in the team.
Thank you KHS Rwanda 2019 for an awesome time so far and realise that you might be finding inspiration from the Rwandans but I’m also drawing an incredible inspiration from each and every one of you.