Project Umubano- Volunteering in Rwanda

DSC_0596Im August I spent two weeks with an amazing group of Conservative politicians and friends on a volunteering project to Rwanda. It was a truly humbling experience to be in the remote town of Kigali with three other Councillors from around Britain passing on business experience and training to budding entrepreneurs.

DSC_0790We had young Samuel who wanted to start up his farm of pigs, Angelique who wanted to grow her shop for children clothes, and others who wanted to sell clothes, grow crops and repair motorbikes.

While their passion and ambition were very touching, for their age they really struggled to grasp the fundamentals in business projection- things that we take for granted as common sense. Samuel, a young 18yr old boy, had a business plan carefully worked out. He cheerfully explained how with his investment of $100 he would buy 3 pigs, which would have 8 piglets each within 6 months. He would sell 10 at a profit, and carry on growing the business with 17 pigs. Beaming he declared 6 months later he would have over 100 and was pushing for $500 so he could start off with 15 pigs all at once.

“Brilliant” I said. “Well done! But what about food? Will they have piglets within 6 months? are you sure! What about disease, staff to look after them, theft..?” The sparkle in his eye did not dim, but the pencil rubber certainly came out.

Not only did they lack the capital finance, but also the experience and the future market. There was only so much we could do in a few weeks.

Out on the street we saw students in their best clothes printing out their dissertations on advanced veterinary  techniques and developments ready for submission at the local university.. We were told that there were no jobs waiting for them. The country was still on the recovery from events over twenty years ago, but which still scars the entire country.

A few days later we visited the Rwandan Genocide memorial. The resting place for over 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. It honours the memory of the over one million Rwandans killed in 1994 in little over 100 days as the international community and powers stood by. We visited the Murambi Genocide centre where some 65,000 Tutsi’s were lured and trapped at a school, then, after defending themselves for a few days with stones, were massacred. The French bought in heavy equipment to dig pits where many thousands of bodies were placed. They then played volleyball above it to disguise their actions.

From such unspeakable horror, the country has made huge strides forward. For the 50 or so of us who formed part of the ten years of support to Rwanda, it was inspiring to see the changes over the years and the legacy left behind in orphanages and schools built directly through the contribution of those who came before us, and the lives helped.

Then, on our return we saw in the news of the fleeing of over 600,000 Rohingya seemingly systematically driven away from their own country’s military. More than 9,00 Rohingya, including over 1,000 small children are said to have died between Late August and September. No accurate statistics are available.


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