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WJR Mission to Rwanda: Week 1

November 24, 2016 23:02

Hello from Rwanda! We are two third year students from the University of Nottingham, Karin Woolfe and Hannah Layton, and we are spending six weeks in Rwanda working for the Charity SACCA (Street Ahead Children’s Centre Association). We are both here to gain an experience of a lifetime by helping the Children to learn English and to bring a bit of happiness into their lives. For Children who are so young they have been through so much.

SACCA has been sponsored by World Jewish Relief for many years. SACCA as a charity aims to reintegrate the street children of Rwanda back into society. The Children are on the streets for many different reasons, some because their parents not being able to afford to keep them, or because their parents were killed during the genocide of 1994, or even because they had abusive parents, the reasons are endless. , It is clear from our introduction to the children that having parents, which we take for granted in the western world, is not considered the norm. “Do we have parents?” was one of the first questions the children asked us along with our names and ages. SACCA takes these children off the streets, gives them clothes, food, shelter and access to education before trying to reintegrate them back into society and hopefully back to their families.

There are three SACCA centres, all of which are in the Eastern province of Rwanda about an hour and a half away from Kigali which is the capital. There are two centres in the small town of Kayonza, one for boys and one for girls, and one boys’ centre in nearby Kabarondo. We are staying in Kayonza and are about a five minute walk away from centres in the town. English was only introduced as the language of tuition in 2008 so consequently the children, but more importantly the teachers, have very little English as they were originally educated in French.

Following our arrival we were introduced to the SACCA team. After getting used to the pit latrine, washing in buckets and dust everywhere we launched ourselves into our new daily routines. Our first day volunteering saw us thrown into the deep-end teaching English at the Kayonza Boys’ Centre when we were expecting a briefing about the curriculum. Thinking on our feet doesn’t quite cut it. Twenty of the older kids who had learnt some English were desperate to learn “new words” and “English” whilst the younger ones were just staring at us not understanding what we were doing there. This was one of the first problems we encountered when trying to teach English; the kids were not only different ages but all had different levels of ability, yet they were all in one class. We started by teaching a few verbs such as to hop, to walk and to jump as the kids asked to learn verbs. They were most responsive when they were actually hopping, skipping or jumping! We had an idea to teach them how to tell the time and so then spent the next hour producing a human clock with them and trying to explain with taller Karin about the minute hand and shorter Hannah about the hour hand. The kids took to it very well yelling out the hours and clicking and snapping their fingers at us so we would pick them to answer the questions.

The next day the head of SACCA, William, took us to the site of the new girls’ centre. SACCA owns only one of its centres, the one in Kabarondo, but rents the other two. This new girls’ centre belongs to SACCA but needs £10,000 to be finished. It seems such a shame that the construction has stopped due to lack of funding as the new centre would be life changing to the girls. That night we attended the music lessons at the Kayonza boys’ centre which are run by Louis Geary, a gap year student we share the volunteer house with who has been working for SACCA for five months. Louis has been teaching the kids to play the recorder and to sing. The songs are educational, promote ambition and some are just downright silly. With songs such as “I want to be a lawyer after studies, education is the key I must use”, to “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”. The kids are amazingly musical with their offbeat clapping and spontaneous dancing. They seem most excited and happy when singing which is amazing to see.

At the weekend we headed into the capital, Kigali, and much to our surprise and mortification we found ourselves on a 4k hike up a very large hill over-looking the beautiful and very picturesque Lake Muhazi, whilst wearing impractical sandals. We somehow failed to follow the path and ended up arriving about 45 minutes later than the rest of the group having been almost literally dragged through a hedge backwards. Several falls and slips later we made it to the end and had to down a pint of beer!

By the end of the first week we couldn’t believe how much we had done and experienced and were looking forward to a full week of teaching ahead.

November 24, 2016 23:02

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