Kirkcaldy High School Rwanda Links

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October 7, 2019
by P. Murray

Ninth Day in Rwanda – Zaynah’s Thoughts

We got to relax for the morning until lunch which was at 1pm. It was soup today so I opted for two rolls with Nutella (must say this was much needed).

We then travelled to our second set of genocide memorials of this trip.

We met our guide and went into a massive room filled with the skills and clothes of the Tutsis that were killed during the genocide. It showed some of their belongings. They believed they could hid there for a while and wait for it to pass as they wouldn’t be killed in a religious place. They were wrong. 5,000 people died in this place, the holes from hand grenades were all still there. We then went in to a building showing all of the old school books, and then we went in to the kitchen where many people died this was then preserved so visitors could see where everything occurred.

We then travelled to Nyamata. Firstly we entered a church. This was once again filled with many clothes, in this case many were babies or toddlers clothes, we say some belongings, such as watches and the identification cards. We went down to a room showing a closed coffin and skulls with some bones. You could make out the way they died from many of these. From the outside you could see all of the bullet holes in the roof and the places that the hand-grenades were thrown. Outside were many graves you could go down some stairs however I decided not to as my leg is still partly sore.

Overall I did not find that I was emotional at these memorials as much as I was at the very first one. I believe it is because in the first one there was the names, faces, favourite food etc. So this made you realise that it was a person. It can relate to you as it could feel like your cousin sibling auntie uncle. However in the two today it could be anyone which in one was it harder but you can’t feel a personal connection, as the clothes tell a story that something happened to the place. The faces tell a story of what happened to an actual person, that still had a whole life to live.

October 6, 2019
by P. Murray

Laughter and Tears

It’s a difficult thing weighing up the highlights of this trip so far. We have had everything from the highs of working with the babies and children of Comfort International’s babies project to the ridiculousness of watching Dr Murray scrambling in the back of the bus to save escapee potatoes that we were bringing to one of the communities at Nduba.

I did get to fulfil a lifelong ambition of seeing a baby warthog and being able to sing the wee line “When I was a young warthoooooog” from The Lion King! Our Akagera day was amazing for sure and none of the students complained about the incredibly long day…absolute stars! This day also included Ben rallying round to make sure our driver was fully fed and watered. Our KHS kids have massive hearts and acts of kindness like that really epitomises what our school is about.

In February 2018 I had planned to go visit the MindLeaps project in Kigali on my last day here before flying back to the UK. However, the African Union cycle race effectively cut Kigali in half meaning I could not make it to the project. It seems to have worked out for the best though as yesterday we took the team there and it was an absolute privilege to take them.

MindLeaps is a project that utilises dance to build relationships with street children in Rwanda and other countries in order to build up cognitive and social skills. This then allows them to have the confidence to get into or back into education. The organisation is heavily involved with the families of these children and family strengthening and support is key to the success of MindLeaps.

My former RME teacher, Jim Bell, was a major funder of the project in Kigali and after his passing in 2017, the MindLeaps centre in Kigali was renamed The Jim Bell Centre. Pulling up to the centre yesterday was emotional for me and I managed to pull myself together once we were in. After my Dad, Jim is the next most influential man in my life. Without him I would not have pursued teaching. Without him I would never have ended up on that trip to Rwanda in 2008; which was the first Rwanda trip for both of us.

Jim was everywhere in this building. I was moved that so many of the kids knew who he was and were so excited to meet one of his former pupils. On the back of one of the doors there was a sticker with his name on it and in the main studio room you could see the room was sponsored by Jim and his wife Anne in the name of their first grandson, Logan.

If that wasn’t emotional enough, one of our pupils Kieron decided to suggest he would do a zumba class demonstration in the centre. To see one of our KHS pupils taking such a class in the centre named after Jim is a feeling I can’t quite describe. Proud doesn’t cut it. Saying their are no words to describe how proud I am of Kieron for this is probably better. What he doesn’t realise that I know for a fact that some of Jim’s family will read this and that will move them to tears. Lynsey, your boy did good!

Yesterday morning was definitely the highlight of all 6 trips I have travelled to Rwanda for and I could not be happier that KHS were there alongside me.

October 6, 2019
by P. Murray

Eighth Day in Rwanda – Esha’s Thoughts

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 07:55 with breakfast being served at 08:00, a typical morning. For breakfast, we had pancakes with maple syrup which gave a great energetic start to the long day. In Kigali, supposedly, it is considered very usual to heat the maple syrup before it is spread on the pancakes.

I got dressed and ready quickly after breakfast as our departure time was 09:00 which was fairly soon after breakfast. After I was ready, I took out some of my time to complete some of my schoolwork for when I return to Scotland. There was load shedding, so with the lack of internet, I played cards with some others in the rest of the group. I got to bring out my competitive side during this which was so much fun.

During our journey, I made sure that I brushed up on my Kinyarwanda with our bus driver, Mathaais, before we arrived at the MindLeaps studio where we were going to learn more about their project and participate in some of the dancing. MindLeaps is a not-for-profit organisation which is dedicated to bringing more children into education and creating positive livelihoods through dance. We had a very warm welcome once we arrived and some of the dancers gave us a performance which was beautiful to watch. We then participated in the dancing with Kieron leading an excellent Zumba class with the children. I loved participating with all the children bringing good vibes into the dance room as Kieron taught. We were shown around the studio which taught me more about how exactly MindLeaps function. They have an excellent procedure and one thing that really stood out for me was how great they were with engaging with each specific child and tailoring their action plan for each child. When we taught the children Ceilidh dancing which was great fun as the children learn very quickly and showed us the dances themselves before we left. They truly were very quick learners.

We returned back to the guesthouse for lunch which was spaghetti, this was a nice meal prepared by the guesthouse staff.

When we arrived at the Nybasindu Street Kids Rescue project, we again received a very warm welcome. Warm welcomes and friendliness are both things which I have noticed consistently during my time in Kigali, the people are so great and the culture is soo welcoming. We sat with the young children as we were told more about the project. They are all children who had been saved from disgusting conditions and helped to restart their lives in conditions which were easier than before, they have been reintroduced into the education system. We decided to walk down with the children to the fields to play some games. We began by playing Agati which is a team, racing game – everyone got involved for this. Then the whole group, including the children, split into two with one playing football and the other playing some more musically influenced games. I decided to join the musically influenced games as there was less of our group apart of this. Hannah led the ukulele session and played some excellent songs for the children – they loved this, which was obvious through the big grins on their faces. We played various other games with the children. I helped Dr Murray, Ben and Mrs Cunningham teach the children ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’. Ben and I then distributed strawberry lollipops to the children, they loved this, the rest of the group then got in the bus while the both of us walked them back up to the project site. It was really hard saying bye to the children as we probably would not see them again for the rest of the trip.

We returned to the guesthouse around 18:30, which was not too late and gave us half an hour before dinner. It was a really powerful and important day out of our trip, it was great watching the children smile and the rest of my group become more confident with the tasks.

October 6, 2019
by P. Murray

Thoughts from Ms. Mahr

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.

October 5, 2019
by P. Murray

Seventh Day in Rwanda – Hannah’s Thoughts

In the morning we finally had a long lie that i think we all needed. Breakfast commenced at 9:30 when we are normally at the table for 8. I think we all benefited the long lie, we were all more awake and just generally better.

After breakfast we had until quarter past one to just chill, catch-up on school work or play cards. I used it as time to just catch up on some of the work I’ve missed whilst being absent. I also made sure to take time to talk to my family and friends.

At one we set off to go to Bumbogo the school that KHS are in partnership with. We took the time of our visit as a way to get acquainted with the teachers and some of the senior pupils. We were asked to join the senior pupils for a brief dance. We also watched the pupils partake in a brief fashion show. We also gifted the head teacher a few Scottish related things. After we had met everyone it was unfortunately time to leave.

We then came back to good news to get ready for going out to dinner. We were all excited to be in a change of scenery. We went to a wonderful restaurant called The Hut. We spent the time at the restaurant talking about music, our trip so far and just other friendly topics. Whilst out we acted more like a group of friends than students and teachers which was rather refreshing. Unfortunately the main reason we were going out to eat was to say goodbye to Susan our wonderful new friend.

Throughout the week me and a few of the girls in particular have taken the time to befriend Susan. I can safely say that she will be missed by most of us and when we’re out we will definitely be thinking of her.

October 5, 2019
by P. Murray

KHS in Rwanda – Day 8. Dance, Dance, Dance

When Dr. Murray (Uncle Paul) is on away from home, he writes letters to his nieces Heidi (6) and Morag (2).  A letter from Rwanda is unlikely to get home so he is posting them here instead so the girls will get them and others might enjoy them.

5/10/2019, 6.30pm CAT.  Good News Guest House, Gikondo district, Kigali, Rwanda

We had a lovely meal last night. The venue of choice was “The Hut”, which is very near the bee-hive-like conference centre here in Kigali. The menu was a mixture of Rwandan and Western food. I had the goat brochette – a kebab type thing which came with grilled plantain and stuffed aubergine. It was utterly delicious and I very much enjoyed the conversation round the table. It’s so nice when teacher/pupil divisions break down a bit and we can all just be a group of friends out for a meal.

After a pancake breakfast, we stopped at an ATM on the way to the first project we were visiting. I was very excited to find that…

a. The ATM displayed my name.
b. It spoke to me
c. It had a Scottish accent.

Wonders will never cease!

Also en-route we stopped to exchange our “Jibu” carrier of fresh water. I was delighted to see that the shop had “Jibu” branded water bottles so I bought one for use back at KHS.

This morning we visited “Mindleaps”. This is a project which engages street kids and hard to reach families through dance. Suzie’s RE teacher from school, Jim Bell helped to set it up and the centre is named after him so this was quite a special day for her. The dancing was amazing and very quickly a bunch of us piled onto the floor and attempted to follow the moves – with some success. We found that we were present at the return of a former student of the school who had been studying at a dance school in Seattle. He was now back to pass on what he had learnt and I could see how excited everyone was to see him. His mum was standing next to me and was clearly very proud!

The centre managers toured us round and explained that not only does the centre teach dance but it also helps to bolster other areas of the curriculum in the same way that we do “study support” back home. They also engage with the families and loan them money to set up businesses and therefore bring in an income. It is a very impressive project.

Kieron stepped up to the mark in style to lead a bit of “Zumba” before w e took the opportunity to teach our new friends the “Gay Gordons” and “The Flying Scotsman”. The KHS team demonstrated first before grabbing a Rwandan partner. Once we had finished and we’re heading off we say a bunch of the kids form a set and repeat the dance. The fact that they could pick it up as quickly as this was very impressive and a testament to the hard work the school managers and teachers put in.

After lunch (spaghetti Bolognese), we visited one of Comfort International’s newest projects. A couple of years back, the CI staff were on a walk and found a bunch of kids on a swamp. They then founded a centre specifically for those kids and this is where we were to visit. These kids were some of the most joyous and most tactile we had met so far and within seconds we were being prodded, poked and crawled over. After introductions they had the chance to ask us questions and one gentleman (aged 14) asked me “what is a compound?”, “what is valency?” and “what is the skeleton?”. It turned out that he was a total science fiend and we made friends. He was a delightful lad and very enthusiastic about his science.

We made our way down to the pitch where we played agate and football (we discovered that I’m just as bad at football as I ever was). We also sang some songs which culminated in me leading “Singing in the Rain” and “The Music Man”.

Our job before we left was to hand out sweets. Ben commented that he’d like to give them so much more and I agreed. We have to follow the instructions of the CI leaders though as everything must be 100 % fair and equal.

Soon it was time to leave so I bid farewell to my science pal who told me “never give up”. I think that’s a great message.

I remain as ever your very good and loving friend.

Paul ♫ xx

October 5, 2019
by P. Murray

KHS in Rwanda – Day 7. Welcome to Groupe Scolaire Bumbogo

When Dr. Murray (Uncle Paul) is on away from home, he writes letters to his nieces Heidi (6) and Morag (2).  A letter from Rwanda is unlikely to get home so he is posting them here instead so the girls will get them and others might enjoy them.

4/10/2019, 6.06pm CAT.  Good News Guest House, Gikondo district, Kigali, Rwanda

We had a morning off today so breakfast wasn’t until 9.30am! It was lovely to be able to linger for a bit and just chill out watching some TV and just hanging out.

At 11.30am we practiced some Ceilidh dancing ready for our trip to Groupe Scolaire Bumbogo. We managed to perfect….

  • The Gay Gordons
  • The Military Two Step
  • Orcadian Strip the Willow
  • The Virginia Reel
  • The Flying Scotsman

I was really proud of the group – particularly the shyer members. Everyone flung themselves into it, despite the searing heat. We felt well prepared and well exercised after. Chris, one of the staff members at the Guest House commented on how impressive it was that we all knew what we were doing. That was a great accolade since most folk didn’t!

After a lunch of samosas, chips, salad and cake we headed to Bumbogo.

At the school we met Jean, the head teacher. He welcomed us to the school and showed us the Scottish flag in his office, signed by many of the KHS pupils and staff. We then went to their assembly room where we were met by the students. They gave us the most amazing welcome with drumming, singing and dancing and we got the chance to dance ourselves. I think the Bumbogo and KHS students were all amused by my crazy moves!

They did a kind of fashion show and and at one point Dominika became a model!  Also, Ben ended up at the top table as a KHS student representative between Suzie and Jean.  I was really impressed to see the group “stepping up to the mark”.  They did an amazing job.

Somebody made the mistake of giving me a microphone so it became a stand up shoe pretty quickly. They asked me about Scotland so I told them we had a big lake (Loch) with a monster in it. They looked quite confused.

We presented Jean with a quaich and a KHS tie which he put on with some pride. We left at about 4.15pm after some chats with our new friends. I look forward very much to seeing them on Monday. They are the best kind of people and a huge amount of fun.

I remain as ever your very good and loving friend.

Paul ♫ xx

October 4, 2019
by P. Murray

Sixth Day in Rwanda – Sophie’s Thoughts

The 6th day started off fairly early I do have to say. Much earlier than any of us would have liked!

We travelled for about 2 1/2 – 3 hours to get to Akagera National Safari Park. When we eventually arrived we got an amazing guide named Justus.

Justus travelled on our bus throughout the journey through the park. At first we spotted giraffes, which was spectacular to see as many of us had never seen giraffes in real life before.

We sighted many species of antelopes, water-hogs, and other types of birds. There were many zebras around the park. Many different types of animals would stay to one specific area of the park but zebras were all around.

Around the water area we saw hippos sunken into the water, including a hippo skull.

Finally, our last sighting was the best of all many would say. We had spotted an elephant in the distance. We went as close as we could and we all got some amazing photos.

The safari trip was an extremely interesting and a very worthwhile trip.


October 4, 2019
by P. Murray

KHS in Rwanda – Day 6. Monkey Blood on my Book

When Dr. Murray (Uncle Paul) is on away from home, he writes letters to his nieces Heidi (6) and Morag (2).  A letter from Rwanda is unlikely to get home so he is posting them here instead so the girls will get them and others might enjoy them.

3/10/2019, 10.00pm CAT.  Good News Guest House, Gikondo district, Kigali, Rwanda

My very dear friends Heidi and Morag.

We had an early start this morning – on the bus at 6.00am with breakfast to be consumed while travelling. The reason: we were off on safari. Akagera National Park is on the East side of Rwanda on the border with Tanzania. We traveled for 3 h 18 mins on a mixture of tarmac and dirt track roads to arrive at the park at 9.18am. We visited the facilities and Ben was unimpressed with the privacy screen made out of sticks. There were so many gaps that it might have well have been not there!

At the gate we met our guide, Justice who was absolutely charming. He talked us through the map of the park and explained that it has a natural border of a river in the East and a solar powers electric fence in the West. There are guard houses along the fence with 4 guards in each one. Every so often 2 guards swap with another two and inspect the fence for holes due to animals getting out of humans (poachers) trying to get in. Gavin bought a hat made of banana leaves in the gift shop and spent the rest of the trip looking very stylish.

We set off through the park in the bus and very quickly spotted warthogs. The cry of “Pumba” went through the bus and I considered as to whether these ones were as flatulent as their fictional compadre. Some beautiful giraffes followed – nibbling away at the tops of the trees that their long necks allow them to reach. The zebras looked like they were from Mars and we learnt that each has a unique set of stripes – a “fingerprint” if you will.

We saw baboons grooming each other and some very cute baby baboons riding on the backs of their parents. While we were watching them I had to swat a tsetse fly that was buzzing round the bus. When I hit it blood came out and stained the back of the book I swatted it with – hence the name of this post!

We had lunch next to some hippos who were sunbathing by a lake. Apparently they have quite sensitive skin and can sunburn easily so we offered up some Factor 50. Needless to say, Justus declined the offer on the hippo’s behalf. At one point a hippo started to come towards us so a concerned looking Justus instructed us to move. When a park ranger tells you to do something you’d be extremely foolish to do otherwise.

Justus was the world expert at spotting creatures in bushes and that was epitomised when he spotted….an elephant! It was quite far away and quite hidden but a side track took us to where it was. We spent a long time looking at it through the bushes before it took the decision to come right towards us. Folk on the bus were swearing blind that it was posing for us as we had such an incredible view. I did detect it had a cheeky smile so perhaps they were right. It was so beautiful and so graceful and quite the contrast to my previous elephant experience in Thailand where they were captive. Not one I would ever repeat – these animals deserve to be wild and should be left to be so.

Later on we saw a herd of wild buffalo and I was reminded of how I refer to you when you’re running through the house.

Eventually it came time to leave the park.  It had been a long and bumpy day but well worth it! We arrived back to beef, sweet tatties, rice and peas. Then we crashed out.

I remain as ever your very good and loving friend.

Paul ♫ xx

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