Passion, Inspiration, and Dirty Hands

Passion, Inspiration, and Dirty Hands

James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.


Day 2

Today kicked off with a workshop at the Water for People Rwanda office in Kigali. Perpetue and her team at the office lead a fascinating and inspiring discussion of Water for People’s work in Rwanda moving towards the Everyone Forever goal .

Water for People’s “Everyone Forever” model was born in Rwanda. This approach is brilliant, because it involves a lot more than projects. It is a system of partnerships promoting cooperation and ownership from local businesses, organizations and government. It is important that solutions be sustainable to allow for success to continue long after Water for People has left a district.

As the team delved into the details and peppered the Rwanda staff with questions, it became clear they had simple, common sense answers for some very complex issues. The people of Rwanda are in great hands.

The team took a break halfway through the presentation to stretch and play some games that are used to teach children hygiene skills. The first game was designed to show the importance of proper hand washing. Six cans are stacked in a pyramid on top of a picture of hands. The cans have images of dirt, germs and diseases. Students take turns throwing soap (green balls) at the cups until the hands are all clean. It was our turn to play. The staff looked for volunteers to kick off the game. I confidently strode to the front of the line, grabbed a soap ball, went into the wind-up, and let it rip.

It was truly impressive just how badly I missed the cans, but I did manage to hit an unsuspecting security guard. I had very generously set the bar low, for my fellow handwashers. There were a lot of laughs, and even more dirty hands. If you’re wondering if I managed to redeem myself on subsequent throws . . . not really.

Following the second half of the workshop and a team lunch, we set off into the field. We traveled to the Kicukiro District, which includes parts of Kigali. The first stop was a water treatment facility. The plant uses the Nyabarongo River as its source and provides water for 60% of Kigali’s 5M population. The average day demand produced at the facility is almost 16 MGD. The plant employs mechanically-cleaned screens, coagulation and flocculation, two-stage sand/anthracite filtration, and chlorination. Finally, the treated water is pumped to a storage tank 1,200 feet above the plant. At the time of our visit, the source water, as seen in the photo, had a turbidity of 865 NTU. The treated water achieved a turbidity of 0.40 NTU. The plant was impressive to see, and as clean as any facility we see back home.

Our last stop for the day was a water point installed in the Kicukiro district. The water point was installed as part of the Water for People effort in this district. Before this water point was installed, water was fetched from a swamp, a four-hour round trip journey. We met the water seller, a local resident who donated the land where the water point was installed. She operates and maintains the water point and collects the water fee of 200 Rwandan Francs for each 20 liter water can. This equates to approximately $0.04 per gallon. Each month the water distribution system operators read the water meter and she pays them for the water, keeping a small profit for her work operating and maintaining the water point.

It was very heartwarming to see how proud the community was of their water point and to hear how women and children were using the time saved to seek opportunities for work and education. This interaction was the high point for me on a day with many great moments.

High & Low

High Point: Meeting the water seller and learning firsthand the real difference Water for People is making in people’s lives. It is one thing to read the success stories, but it’s so much more impactful to meet the people impacted and talk to them about their lives and experiences.

Low Point: Today the low point was being out in the field and seeing how difficult life is for many of the people there. Despite all the great work being done, there is a lot more work to do. In the meantime,  there are a lot of people, including children, who live in conditions that frankly, just aren’t good enough yet.

 

A Day of Broken Hearts, Hope, and Inspiration

A Day of Broken Hearts, Hope, and Inspiration

James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.


Day 1

Today was the official start of the Water for People Impact Tour to Rwanda. The goal: get to know the group, and learn about Rwanda’s history, people and culture.

The day started with broken hearts. Our first stop was the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Visiting the memorial was an incredibly moving experience unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The Memorial features three exhibits which describe the Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsis, the history of genocidal violence around the world, and a special tribute to the children who lost their lives during the Rwandan Genocide. The memorial also serves as a burial site for more than 250,000 victims. As many as 1,000,000 people were brutally murdered during the Rwandan Genocide.

Each exhibit was powerful and moving. Learning of the senseless violence left me bewildered, angry, and heartbroken. It was the children’s room that I think will have the most lasting impact on me. The room serves as a tribute to the thousands of children who were killed during the genocide. The room features several child victims with exhibits that include a photograph, a short biography, and the means of their death. It was upon seeing the photograph of a young girl, the same age as my daughter, and reading of her death by machete that I succumbed to grief and 90 minutes of suppressed tears came all at once, unrelenting.

Hope & Inspiration

As difficult as it was to read of the brutal violence, see the horrific photographs, and hear the painful accounts of survivors, I am so grateful for the experience to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It is a place of learning – we must learn from the Rwandan genocide and never allow anything like this to happen again. It is a place of hope and inspiration – the genocide occurred only 25 years ago and Rwanda already has experienced a great deal of healing. Ethnicity has been removed from IDs and the Gacaca justice system allowed for communities to share information and resolve conflicts. This inclusive approach is credited with speeding up national unity and reconciliation following the genocide. Agaseke, also known as peace baskets, have become a symbol of reconciliation and unity after the genocide. The baskets are a nested set and feature a zig-zag like pattern which represent two women holding hands.

Exploring Kigali

Following the memorial visit, we had a guided bus tour of Kigali. The tour included sightseeing, a history of the city, a visit to a local market, and a trip to the hills to see the city sprawled across the hillsides.

A highlight of the tour was Sunday brunch at the Hotel des Mille Collines. The hotel is also known as the “Hotel Rwanda” and as depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda, the hotel protected over 1,200 refugees during the Rwandan Genocide. Brunch also allowed for the tour group and served as an opportunity to get to know each other. We did introductions and discussed the individual goals of each tour member. The Rwanda Impact Tour consists of an inspiring group of people passionate about the water crisis and making a positive difference.

Next was a visit to a lively village market full of seamstresses making clothing to order, and seemingly endless rows of stalls packed with handicrafts, fresh fruit, supplies, and butchered meat. The chaotic scene was a bit overwhelming, but for those who love to haggle, there were deals to score.

Finally, we had the welcome dinner at a great French restaurant where we shared our experiences of day one.  Each person shared their high point and low point of the day. The beer I ordered ended up being non-alcoholic, but even that couldn’t take away from a day I will never forget.

High & Low

High Point: Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial and learning of the resilience and forgiveness of the Rwandan

Low Point: As a father, the children’s room was very difficult to process.

 

Prologue – Welcome to Rwanda

Prologue – Welcome to Rwanda

James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.



Arrival

Despite some last-minute flight drama, Jenna and I arrived in Rwanda Friday night (September 6). After a brief, but exhilarating drive dodging motorbikes, we arrived at the Hotel Chez Lando. We were welcomed by our Water for People trip coordinators, met a few fellow tour participants, and enjoyed our first African beer.

Stepping into my room, a mosquito net canopy on the bed reminded me that we were not at home. Exhausted from 24 hours of travel, I went to bed excited for the adventure about to begin.

Exploring Kigali

Saturday we teamed up with our new Water for People friends to explore Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. The day got off to a perfect start, with a perfect cup of coffee. Question Coffee is powered by Rwandan Women Farmers and supplied by sustainable growers. Each drink is expertly and meticulously hand-crafted. Jenna and I formed “Coffee Club”, a group of individuals who got up an hour early to make the daily pilgrimage.
 

Sufficiently caffeinated, we donned a shiny red helmet and hopped on the back of a motorbike, which serves as the most common taxi option in Kigali. We were dropped off at the Inema Art Center, which features local artists. The artwork featured bright, bold colors and the beauty and originality of the art was a clear reflection of Rwanda itself.

Our adventure wrapped up with a visit to a local market and milk bar. Against the advice of wiser people, three brave (perhaps foolish?) souls found a local milk bar where a traditional unpasteurized, fermented milk drink is served. Prior to the trip, I reluctantly promised friends and loved ones that I would not eat street-meat; however, I never agreed to avoid questionable dairy products. The milk was thick and creamy. The taste reminded me of unsweetened Greek yogurt. It was a fun experience, but moving forward I think I’ll stick to coffee.

Meeting the WFP Team

The day ended with a team dinner where we got to meet the rest of the group who would be joining us on the Water for People Impact Tour. Dinner featured traditional Rwandan dishes. I tried Akabenz (the Mercedes Benz of pork)  and beef brochettes (bbq skewers). Jenna ordered the “I Gisafuriya” a traditional stew of chicken, potato, banana  and another vegetables served in a large pot meant to be shared by a family. Jenna was kind enough to share and it was delicious! The food was all great and no one left hungry. 

Overall, it was a real pleasure to meet the passionate group who traveled halfway across the world with the common goal of water for everyone, forever. Welcome to Rwanda!