Saturday, September 30, 2017

Umaganda - "Coming Together in common purpose to achieve an outcome"

Today is Umaganda. My Body & Soul exercise class is cancelled. Marc's Saturday morning basketball with the high school guys is cancelled. The shops are closed. The roads are quiet with no one driving on them. Unless we are participating in Umaganda, we aren't really supposed to be out & about. 
So what is Umaganda? 
My answer is Taken from
The word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture,  members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task.
As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions -- culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is Umuganda.
Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Expatriates living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part.
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the meaning of Umuganda was distorted to describe ‘finding Tutsi where they were hiding and chasing them out’. It wasn’t until 1998 that Umuganda was reintroduced to Rwandan life. This was done as part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and to nurture a shared national identity.
Today close to 80% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Successful projects include the building of schools, medical centres and hydro electric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The value of Umuganda to the country’s development since 2007 has been estimated at more than US $60 million.
Our family hasn't quite gotten out to actually participate in Umaganda yet. We don't know who our community leader is in our neighborhood, nor do we know which types of projects they are working on and if our kids could participate. We've heard that there are also hour + long meetings in Kinyarwanda that we would need to go to in order to participate. 
So instead, we're having a quiet morning at home, accomplishing some work and homework after our delicious chocolate chip pancakes and getting ready for a few birthday parties this afternoon that Isaac and Geneva are going to. 

I love the idea of Umaganda and the focus on community life and unity. I am looking forward to learning more about it the longer we are here. 
What do you think about a required once a month morning of community service in YOUR community? Would you participate? What benefits or outcomes do you think you might see? What would be the drawbacks to such a requirement? 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Weekend Accomplishments

This weekend we accomplished two big things.


We got a dog!

Bongo is a rescue dog who has been staying at a volunteer foster home since he was rescued off the streets of Kigali. We think he is around 6 months old and have no idea what type of dog he is. There is an organization called WAG here in Kigali, who rescues dogs they find, nourishes and nurtures them until they find their forever families. Bongo is up to date on vaccinations and we had him neutered this past week before we picked him up. The kids are so excited to have him home, as we've been talking about a dog for a long time.


We got patio furniture!

This might not seem like a big deal, however, there are no Home Depot or Lowes around to browse and buy in. The furniture we wanted for our patio is made out of banana leaves and woven together to make the furniture and it's very affordable. We have a map of the city, and the spot to buy this furniture is located on it, but Kigali is very hilly and curvy so nothing is quite as simple as it seems on the map. We tried to find the place last weekend and after lots of frustrating U turns, gave up and went home. This time, we got help from a friend and were able to find it! We had to park at a supermarket a little ways away and walk, as there really wasn't anyplace to park nearby. So after crossing the busy road and walking up the steep dirt path, we found a few people who made the furniture. I was grateful that the people we talked with knew a small amount of Kiswahili, as that really helped us communicate. We had to hire a truck to follow us home with the furniture in the back. I'm so excited to be able to enjoy our patio a bit more now!