Our long weekend had a great start as we visited the vision 2020 village at Gashora. We drove close to an hour and half, stopping in between to pay homage to mass grave of genocide victims. The trip to Gashora was actually meant to be a rural emersion for the Rwanda CAP team. The line ups for the trip were truly interesting.
We had a detailed briefing upon arrival. The coordinator with the help of our translator Franceswaz briefed us about this unique rural project. The 2020 village was modeled on a millennium development program however it was more expansive and covered a large demography of eastern province. It had a cooperative craft center, a well-equipped hospital & maternity center, an ICT enabled agricultural development programme and a state of the art senior secondary school for girls.
One of the most unique meetings of our trip unfolded under the tree, where we learned about SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative) from the program head. As it started raining, we moved our meeting from the tree to our bus. It was a memorable experience playing with children who surrounded us throughout our stay. The place was buzzing with local women, urchin and young men who were excited to see some Zungus in their vicinity 🙂
Up next was a lunch visit to Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technlogy. It was a state of the art girls’ school established under Rwanda Girls Initiative. We had a detailed discussion with the Head of the school Mr. Peter Thorpe who talked about the budding talent of girls in this institution and shared some great stories about the background and brilliance of these girls. As we proceeded for a group lunch, we soon realized that we were amidst the most talented and gifted girls in Rwanda. They not only spoke fluent English and had strong academic background, but they also had a clear vision of their brimming aspirations. I was struck with surprise when one of the 10th grader asked: “Can you tell me how I can get into the best civil engineering program in the US” before I started my answer another girl asked what it takes to succeed in life. We had a great conversation eating away a tasty lunch comprising of Rice, beans, fish, chutney, fries and pineapples. It was indeed an inspirational visit and one of the high points of my Rwanda visit so far.
As we bid farewell to girls, we moved to a maize/corn (the debate is on about the difference between the two) cooperative established with the support of USAID. In between I quickly stopped by a local market to buy some pineapples plucked moments ago from the tree. For 200 RWF it was a steal as I relished the juiciest pineapples I had ever eaten.
The visit to maize cooperative enabled us to understand the functionality of an agricultural cooperative. It was heartening to see the difference an entrepreneurial investment by USAID had made in the lives of maize producers. The cooperative was well equipped with the computer systems and it sold its produce twice a year to Rwanda Government and United Nations World Food Programme.
We wrapped up our engaging day by visiting local handicraft cooperative at Gashora. As some of students shopped, the others were engaged in conversation with locals and international volunteers. However the highlighted of the day came when the women of the cooperative decided to do an ethnic dance performance for us. Soon almost were dancing with Prof. Click leading the charts. It was so joyful to see every one immersed into a fun filled atmosphere. Before we departure, every one of us were presented a Rwandan peace basket as token of love and memorabilia.