Sunday, 8 July 2018

The impact of an inspiring journey

It was not easy to realize it, my participation, good sense of humor, helping classmates in different courses; no one thought that I could stay home for long without administrative occupation, so did I. Where many calls from classmates was to ask Chantal did u get a job and I would not enjoy even chatting on social media just to reduce those questions. During the day, I could take my laptop check different website and apply for the one that suit me then in night after my casual teaching job; the same sketch spread in my mind telling me list of my mate who got job already. Moreover, I could not forget my lecturer of macroeconomics whilst my undergraduate studies; she said that: “The real world would be very competitive and tricky in a way that it would drive people differently”. Mostly, top performers in class struggle a lot to find job, the lower grade get it easily let me say that is also my experience.

In fact, when I meditated, I realized that making connection was the key to survive but was not good at it. Waking up in morning, walk to the university; teach primary students in their homes and prep in night before sleeping; that was my routine. Anyway, I was an active girl who couldn’t be afraid of talking in front of people due to many practice of debates but to make bond and spend much time with others was really hard as I thought studying hard, getting good grades and believe in God was enough yet it wasn’t. I started getting different calls for interview and many rejections but I kept on even applying for United Nation International Service volunteer. It was 11:00 AM when I received a call from International Service for interview - by the time I was heading to teach children. I celebrated; on actual date I joined interview it was good but felt a bit worried to get new rejection as well. Thankfully, two weeks later I received a call confirming that I was selected - the best time of my life - how i felt! I remember kneeling down and say thank you Lord but then we had to wait for six months to start. I felt a bit discouraged and many people would tell me that volunteerism provides no money but I would say "rimwe riruta zero" literally meaning one is greater than zero. So at least I was going to work with mature people .

Me enjoying the view
Meanwhile, we were supposed to start on 4th July 2017 and I woke up at 4:30 got in car, on our way I checked my e-mail and got disappointed as they postponed to the following day. I went back home feeling discouraged but luckily the following day arrived and I got to the venue as first in-country volunteer; Oh God! I entered dining room which was full of UK volunteers, I took a deep breath and greeted all of them. There was nothing wrong with them but it was my first time finding myself in a meeting like that. I felt safe as we were getting along with my counterpart though the accent was terribly breathtaking. 

My team was made up of volunteers who loved to challenge themselves to change the world; in- country orientation ended and we traveled to western province of Rwanda. Finally, we got to Mushubati a very landmark with interesting view of the Lake Kivu. One of the Uk volunteer Pasha said: “How am I going to survive here” I encouraged her and said “we can make it”. She used to experience homesickness, staying by her side resulted in unbreakable bonding and lingered memories on both side. We both had sense of humor, helping heart, loyal, born in big family, having almost same hobbies like, dancing, initiating a conversations, visiting vulnerable people and kindness; the only difference was a religion belief and practice. Although, we had some differences, we tried to exchange the uniqueness of our culture.

cohort 1
Me, Pasha and our friend

In terms of work, it was a challenging workplace as first cohort to start our work in a very well established coffee co-operative KOPAKAMA which had their own working system. It wasn’t easy as people didn’t figure out what we came to do. They thought UK volunteers came in tourism and recruited translators to help them yet it was totally wrong where we were all one and equal. We met the community members through different events such as, English class and "Umuganda" community work. These helped us get integrated and to a smooth path for the next cohorts, we conducted a baseline survey where 300 people participated including partner members and community to examine their standard of living, understanding of human rights and gender balance. A hilly place with no proper shoes, climbing with skirts, packing food was a big challenge and all of our shoes got tone.  The baseline survey results  revealed the low understanding of human rights and gender balance in community, high rate of stunted growth among under five children. Here the  recommendations  and corrective actions  were carried forward to the next cohorts.I got a chance to attend training of pests and soil management on field with farmers with the aim of harnessing a sustainable agriculture.

Cohort 2
We were wondering how we would track the progress of our recommendations. Fortunately, I came back as team leader. With past memories and fresh ideas - we got oriented in the host families and came to meet the community members. When I was a volunteer I used to assist my team leaders and team to reach our target but when I became team leader, volunteers were waiting for me to guide and assist them.

Challenge yourself to change the world, our moto before these six months I thought may be its to accept living in new place but that wasn’t enough because I was requested to accept any concern and request of volunteers not to order them but just sitting with them in planning of three months and weekly was engaging as we discussed to find a common understanding. 

Ejo heza coffee harvested

The third cohort engaged a lot in raising awareness human rights, worked with Ejo Heza women coffee in harvesting and slashing grasses, building  kitchens and cooking demonstration so my roles was to make budget for the fields, assist and help volunteers, maintain relationship between International service and partner organization (KOPAKAMA) and make sure that volunteers engage fully in community development  activities.

Kitchen garden

After nutrition demonstration

Lastly, due to the phase out of ICS 2 another cohort started, ready to meet new volunteers with new personalities and many expectations. The placement has been interesting in terms of hard work where we reached and exceeded our targets. I knitted sacks, dug the soil and carried manure in the course of  building 6 kitchen gardens to ensure  availability and  access of micro-nutrients to families, it was sweaty in kitchen; cooking porridge, rice, and sauce for 3 nutrition demonstrations where we served children with malnutrition cases and we taught their mothers how the preparation of balanced diet is done practically, delivered customer care training to KOPAKAMA staffs, sessions on family planning and on fighting against unpredictable pregnancies in youth club, importance of education and health insurance, built 4 toilets to families who had nowhere to go, fetched water and made bricks for the poor woman whose her houses had fell down as a result of heavy down pours.

                                                                                                      Roasted Kopakama Coffee

After building toilet

I am very happy that I have been in three cohorts and the goal of contributing towards our 1st cohorts' recommendations were successfully achieved.

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  1. This is very inspirational. You are a courageous girl that I have ever seen. Keep it up, the sky is not even the limit.

  2. Dear Chantal as my OG, Really I ma proud of you and more blessing are yet to come to you as u been a such patient sister,determined and focused I remember how you been teaching children at their homes after school, late evening on foot walk.. this is much more inspiring, keep and so Much Happy for you and I remember how we've inspiring one another at least now we got such great testimonies of success.. Glory be to God and Big thanks to International services that attained your capabilities into opportunities. Bless you

  3. Very inspiring @Chanty, God has been so good to you.
    in Swahili they say: "Na bado", "greater things are on its way toward you."

  4. Dear chantal, you are only one determinated and intelligent girl who i even know and may God be with you in every step of your life

  5. Thank you all of you my friends hope life brings better for all of us.
    Thanks to International Service and my volunteers

  6. This is so nice to read Chantal, so inspiring cause you are blessed missy, beautiful, so kind and funny and caring at heart xx

  7. That was a great thing and God be with you..