United Nations Association International Service, Rwanda Cohort IV. Blog V.
By Emerald Ladjimi and Nancy Iradukunda
The weeks following our mid-term review have been our most successful weeks yet. We are now in the performing stage and this is apparent within our team dynamics and how efficiently we are completing work. Within these weeks we have completed our final Kitchen Garden, Nutritional Demonstration, made visits to Nursery and Secondary schools, built more toilets and had our cultural trip to Gisenyi. The Football World Cup has also started (which we are all very excited about) and has given a sense of camaraderie to the team.
During the last week we managed to build our sixth and final kitchen garden. This was definitely the most challenging - despite our enthusiasm - as the dry season is finally upon us, making the ground dry, difficult to hoe, and nearly impossible to find nutritious soil. However, with all our collected efforts we managed to complete it in good time. As with previous kitchen gardens, we took time afterwards to speak with the local families to educate them on the nutritional value of the vegetables planted and their role in a balanced diet, ensuring maximum impact. We highlighted that although we have built the kitchen garden it is now the responsibility of the local community to maintain and take care of it.
Building the Kitchen Gardens has been a great experience for us and we are delighted to have given something of such value to the local community. Working alongside the local community while building has been such a pleasure and has given us a greater insight into exactly who it will be benefiting.
Visiting the children at the Nursery school was quite an experience and they certainly kept us on our toes! The biggest challenge for us was to see just how many children were in one class, the teacher to student ratio seemed almost impossible to handle but nevertheless the teacher was superbly efficient at keeping them all engaged. We taught the alphabet and numbers in a fun and interactive way which instantly captured their attention.
We also visited the local secondary school, in which we were warmly welcomed by a chorus of song and smiling faces. I led a talk on the topic of anti-drugs and gender based violence, and how that correlates with human rights. It was very insightful to hear and discuss their thoughts and ideas on these matters. We also led a talk on public speaking and a debate which the students eagerly participated in.
Our most recent nutrition demonstration found us battling through the challenges of a smoky kitchen, blunt peeling knives and damp fire wood. However, despite all of this we are all so proud of our efforts as once again we managed to prepare some very delicious and nutritious food for 73 children and 60 mothers. We even had enough to share with some older, very malnourished children, which was very rewarding for us. This means the running total of children reached in our efforts to combat malnourishment and growth stunting is 320!
Having now completed 4 nutrition demonstrations in our time so far in Mushubati we have managed in total to feed over 320 children and their mothers within the Rutsiro district. As this is the 5th worst region in Rwanda for malnutrition and growth stunting, this work was paramount in combating these issues. It is quite an achievement that we have reached so many people and not only given them a balanced meal but also thoroughly educated mothers on the importance of balanced diets, the role of food groups, hygiene and sanitation, and health care for their children.
An early rise brought the excitement of our cultural trip, our project partners KOPAKAMA staff accompanied us. Our first port of call was sightseeing the tea leaves hills that are infamous in this region. Further into our journey we visited the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Next, we paid a visit to the geothermic hot springs of Gisenyi known as Amashyuza. This is one of only two zones in Rwanda where geothermic energy can be found. The average temperature of the water is 85 degrees Celsius, although some areas are at boiling point. It is thought that the water within this hot spring possesses medicinal qualities such as curing headaches, muscular pains and aiding blood flow in the veins. We ended our day with a visit to the famous beach of Gisenyi to watch the sunset over Lake Kivu, with the Congolese mountains in the background. It was truly breathtaking, and the perfect end to the perfect day.
The final weeks are looming over us and we are determined to make our remaining time the most successful yet. The coming weeks will bring new challenges, but we are ready for them as our team is stronger than ever. With only limited time remaining in Mushubati, Rutsiro District, we - as the final cohort - are very eager to leave a long-lasting, positive, impression upon the community and fulfil all our planned endeavours.