It is a little sad to wind up this blog and this chapter. I have learned SO much during this trip and come away somewhat in awe and inspired by what Rwanda has gone through in its recent history and the remarkable recovery and progress the country is making.
Probably the single most important aspect of this remarkable recovery is a return to traditional integrity with modern goals to lift up everyone in the country. The billboard at the border with DRC says it all:
There is a billboard just outside the Kigali airport: “Corruption undermines your integrity – sweep it away.” I’m sorry I was not fast enough to photograph it.
I leave with many more questions and it is hard to really know the country and the people without understanding their language. I can’t listen to the radio, have a sidebar chat with villagers without an interpreter which limits the conversation. However, I have come away with many wonderful connections and have had great conversations with both Rwandans and expats who live in Rwanda.
There are many impactful and inspiring projects that I’ve shared throughout this blog, AND there is still a need for more education and support throughout the country. Rwandans are proud, gracious and generous. They are healing together and I can only imagine what inner resources it takes to overcome the pain and resentment that must have built up during the genocide. They are doing this through small empowered communities, developing transparent servant leadership, educating the best and brightest to be leaders and creating partnerships with other countries, agencies and individuals.
When I started the blog,I shared that there is a lot of criticism for the current government, but to pull themselves out of total devastation, they needed strong leadership and clear governmental and social structures to allow people to work together. As we’ve seen in the progress of the imihigo annual goals, there is a move to less centralized control. I keep thinking that Rwanda is well on its way to fulfilling its dreams of bringing everyone into the middle class and becoming a regional health and Information Technology hub. The pieces are strategically coming together.
This sculpture is in the Genocide Memorial garden and is a gorilla talking on a cell phone to alert the rest of the world to remember how devastating genocide is. The recovery here is remarkable – we need to “take the call” and listen to their message.
The day before I left for Rwanda, my friend Bernadette (my favorite midwife) gave me a stone egg to give to a project or agency that was birthing as a symbol of encouragement and support. That egg burned a hole in my bag the whole trip and I came full circle back to the women I met the first day I was in Rwanda – the INEZA sewing cooperative of women who shared their stories of violation and loss during the genocide, resulting in HIV/AIDS. Women who had nothing (except shame, loss and a lifetime disease) and have come together to support and love each other back to joy, independence and prosperity. As I presented the egg to Marie, the president of the cooperative who came to meet me at the hotel before we left, I encouraged her and the other women in her cooperative to dream big and create the lives they want because they have proven that they have the strength, will and ability to do that. They are beautiful women and I wish them well. Thank you, Bernadette!
I’ve found that when I’ve talked with people about Rwanda and my admiration for what they’ve done, I get emotional, the tears just come and I’ve been trying to figure that out. I am very touched by the resiliency we see here, the good will, smiles, welcome, forgiveness and freedom to dream big and rebuild the country together. Rwanda is a special place and I frankly was fairly ignorant about what is happening here – I had a vague recollection of the genocide and sort of knew where it was located and that it was a nice place for colonialists. Beyond that – nothing. I had no desire to visit, but I believe there are no accidents and I was led here. It reaffirms my gratitude for my own life and the realization of how privileged I am and I will hold this experience forever in my heart.
Of course, being in the forest with the Mountain Gorillas was icing on the cake, something I never dreamed I’d be able to do and I feel so privileged to have had the experience and realize how critical it is to preserve their environment.
One of the Americans that we met told us that when you get the red dirt of Africa on your skin, you can never get it off. My guess is this will be the case for me.
As we visited institutions, NGOs, projects and ministries we gave an donation from the delegation. I’ve posted as many websites as I can in the blog and I do have contacts. If you are moved to GIVE to any of the programs, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the contacts – I can guarantee any donation will go far and will make a difference.
I am confident these young people have a bright future ahead of them!
Thank you for joining me on this incredible journey and for your kind and supportive comments.
Peace to you all!!