02 October 2014

Remembering the past; affecting the future

Today was a somber day but an important one. Today we had the opportunity to learn firsthand about the devastating genocide that took the lives of more than one million Rwandans in 1994. It wasn’t a day for photographs or anecdotes or humor. It was a day for reflection, consideration and confrontation with something that was bound to upset us, confuse us and force us to think.
We began at Nyamata Memorial, where more than 10,000 people who were seeking refuge from the ‘genocidaires’ (as they’re called—those committing genocide) in a Catholic church were brutally massacred. The site is now home to a chilling memorial, the church is filled with the clothes of those killed and a mass grave holding 47,319 bodies of those murdered for no apparent reason. While we have always been taught it was an ethnic cleansing of “ethnic Tutsis” by “ethnic Hutus” we learned today that those distinctions were not actual ethnic groups. In fact, they were introduced by Belgian colonisers in the 1950s to divide and conquer the population. A Tutsi was anyone with 10 or more cattle and a Hutu was anyone else, which only served to make the genocide seem even more futile. While the entire experience was incredibly emotional, a real nerve was hit when we learned that two of our drivers had lost their entire families in the genocide and their parents and other relatives were buried right there where we were standing. To say it personalised and put a face to the experience is an understatement.
141001_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Visiting Kigali Museum and Memorial GardenIn the afternoon we visited the Kigali Museum and Memorial Garden, where more than 250,000 people are buried in a mass grave. The museum explored the history leading up to the genocide, the genocide itself and what has come afterwards. It also offered an overview of other genocides—The Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian genocide and the Bosnian genocide—as well as an incredibly confronting exhibition about 12 children who were killed in the genocide. This incredible museum laid the framework for the conflict, explaining the role European powers played not only in dividing the population and causing conflict, but also in its and the rest of the world’s complete and utter failure to act in the face of one of the world’s greatest tragedies. It also shined a light on how genocide has now become a continual part of our human history despite a pledge in 1948 of “never again” by every nation on earth in the United Nations.
This chilling day led to an extremely thoughtful evening circle, where we come together each evening to discuss the day’s experiences. We talked about how the day made us feel—sad, angry, helpless. We talked about the futility of war and how the driving force behind this genocide and so many other conflicts in the world is an insistence to point out what’s different about each other, us and them, as opposed to what’s similar – we are all human beings trying to be healthy and happy in this life. We discussed how this related to our own countries and our own lives, from treatment towards Australia’s Indigenous population to bullying in school. Finally, we talked about what laid ahead. What’s become crystal clear to us in our time here is that this is a nation that has forgiven each other and is moving on, learning from their tragic history to ensure that this never happens again here.  Similarly, we know that we too need to move forward with our newfound knowledge and understanding, not just of past conflict but of present efforts by World Vision and so many others to drive long-term sustainable growth and bring prosperity, equality and justice to the people of Rwanda. That leaves us, the future, to take what we’ve learned and spread a message of hope, appreciation, kindness and forgiveness in every way we can. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and every student here is committed to making the most of it.

01 October 2014

Health Programs Deep In The Countryside

Tue 30 Sep: Going far beyond a paved road

Imagine driving somewhere really remote. From there, drive another 10 kilometres deeper into the remoteness. Are you there yet? Great. Now head another 10 kilometres away from there. Perfect. Now you have some sense of just how remote our visit today felt. Our hour long drive took us deep into a valley full of green tea farms. One of the most remote villages in northern Rwanda, the valley school is responsible for educating 1,700 children and it felt like we met almost every single one.140930_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_kids
We started our morning in the local health centre, where we were able to watch firsthand new born babies given every vaccination under the sun—polio, measles, mumps, typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis and a few others as well! In fact, every child is vaccinated against more potential infections and diseases free of charge by the government than we are in Australia, Europe or North America! Unlike at home where we have the luxury of privacy, here the children were all together with their mothers, the doctors, a small army of 27 foreigners and anyone else who managed to wander in from nearby. We were all marvelling in just how fortunate we are to have such a modern and relatively luxurious medical system.140930_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_group at a health centre
From here we broke into three groups and had the opportunity to experience ‘a day in the life’ of some of the students in the local community. We visited their homes where their families welcomed us in with open arms, bug hugs and a kind offering of anything they had in the home. We were confronted with the stark reality that a family of eight can often live in a three-room home, sleeping shoulder to shoulder in one room while another is reserved for animals and a third is for cooking and eating. We carried water a great distance to cook, drink and feed the animals, tiled a small garden (which was exhausting) and got the best sense possible of what day-to-day life is like here, once again being reminded of how much we take basic needs—food, water and shelter—for granted, without even realising it.
After a box lunch in the school it was time to take to the classrooms, learning with and trying to teach to the middle and high school kids at the school. Their complex physics and maths work, however, left us wishing we had freshened up our minds before arriving!  And like all great days here in Rwanda we finished with a highly competitive game of soccer, where the school fielded their best players and absolutely destroyed us. It wasn’t pretty.140930_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Chloe, Sienna, Michael, Sophie, Jess, Candice, and Rebecca teaching a lesson at school
It’s early to bed now as we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow learning all about the devastating genocide of 1994, that not only rocked their nation but the African continent and the world.

29 September 2014

World Vision's locally led, sustainable education programs in Rwanda

Mon 29 Sep: The Kids


Today was day one of three project visit opportunities where the whole group had the opportunity to see firsthand where the money they have raised for World Vision is going. It was really something special. The day began with a decent drive along a washed out dirt road deep into the countryside of Northern Rwanda. We arrived at the day care centre just in time to help with the daily chores – collecting firewood to cook the kid’s lunch, collecting water to make the porridge, picking vegetables and peeling potatoes. It was a real wake-up call to think that these tasks have to be performed every day just to provide food and water to the young children.
140929_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_children at the childcare centre
Afterwards, the Kimberley College students were able to pop open their bags and bags of presents and enjoy a fun morning with the kids. There were bubbles, balloon animals, chalk drawings and even a foam football! It took a bit of time to really get the group going but we all slowly learned that the language of fun, happiness and laughter can break down any language barrier. Before sadly having to depart (there were several students jokingly threatening to take a child home with them) we all lined up and performed a choreographed dance to Nutbush City Limits by Tina Turner. This launched a bit of a dance-off with the children, who soundly crushed us with their singing, clapping and stomping that blew our little dance out of the water! 140929_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Candice bubbles
Following our lunch pit-stop back at the hotel it was back on the road to meet Chantal and Promesse, the focus children of this year’s 40 hour famine. Promesse’s family has been struggling with several vital issues – food, shelter and safety while Chantal had to leave school last year to help care for her younger siblings while her mother went to work on a farm to pay for food and shelter. She is only TWELVE years old. We were all taken aback by how grown up she was, which was absolutely a factor of her situation. World Vision Australia’s programs are slowly beginning to impact these young people’s lives and we were able to hear firsthand just how significant these programs have the potential to be on their lives.
We finished the day by once again breaking down all the traditional barriers to communication—common language, culture, etc.—through sport. This time it was a rousing game of soccer that pitted the tough students of Kimberley College against the incredible skills of an entire village of World Vision sponsor children.140929_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_socccer diplomacy
As you can probably imagine, even with the help of our exceptionally skilled local drivers, we were destroyed. More than anything, however, the group really learned to appreciate those rare moments when the first thing to come to mind is that we are foreign and they are local. We are white and they are black. We are wealthy and they are struggling with the cycles of poverty. Instead, for just a few moments, we were all just young people kicking a ball around trying to score a goal. It’s these moments more than any other that this group cherishes most.

28 September 2014

We Saw Monkeys! (And The Back of a Gorilla)

Sun 28 Sep: Monkeying around

There’s nothing quite like watching the African sunrise over the hills of Rwanda. Today we got to do just that, as we had a 5:30am wake-up to ensure we were in the jungle to track golden monkeys before the midday heat pushed them deeper and deeper into the heavy rainforest.
140928_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Hannah, Georgina, Sienna, Sam, Jess, Emma, Sophie, Candice, Lindsay and Jack at the start of the monkey trekAbout to begin their monkey trek
We were locked and loaded by 6:30am, zooming northward into Volcanoes National Park. After a thorough briefing from our local guides we headed off on foot. It was already hot and humid and the sun was already fierce. It poured with rain last night, which meant the air was clear, the grass was greener than greener and the path was MUDDY! We were slipping and sliding as we weaved through farmland, locals waving, smiling and yelling “hello!” as we passed.
140928_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Volcanoes National ParkThe Volcanoes National Park
It took us about thirty minutes before we hit the dense bamboo forest, where we regrouped before continuing on. The temperature dropped instantly as we were under heavy tree cover. The mud, however, did not abate! Neither did the biting ants, which were munching at our ankles as we went. Another thirty minutes and we reached a small clearing, where we dropped our daypacks to be more nimble to follow the golden monkeys. It was just another 100 metres to the monkeys. As we re-entered the forest, Greg, our charity rep, noticed our head guide talk into a walkie-talkie and dart off into the forest at full speed. We learned later that there was a gorilla just a few hundred metres away! While they’re far more scared of us than we are of them (they’re notorious for disappearing into the forest at the sight of a human) we of course had armed guards looking after us.
Gorilla sideshow sorted, we continued onward without realising that all of a sudden the golden monkeys were all around us! Left, right, up, down, leaping from branch to branch, ripping bamboo to shreds as they ate and coming right up to us almost curious about what we were doing. They took a particular liking to Joel, who came within a few feet of them as they looked him up and down. It was a truly surreal experience being consumed in every direction by wild monkeys!140928_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_monkey
We had over an hour with them before hiking our way back out and heading back to the hotel. While it’s not quite the season for the short rains, we seem to be getting them every afternoon and today was no different. In fact, we were in our rooms no longer than two minutes before monsoon-level intense rains blew open the balcony doors and pounded us for a good solid forty minutes. It was just fantastic.
We’re now nestled safely in our next hotel just a few minutes from the World Vision northern region head office following a two-hour drive on back country dirt roads through rural villages full of warm, smiling, waving people who couldn’t stop welcoming us to their magical country. Once again, another INCREDIBLE day.
Catch up on today’s guest blog by Kimberley College student, Tiffany - read blog.

27 September 2014

Lending A Hand In Kigali

Sat 27 Sep: Community Service in Rwanda

Wow does life feel good after a proper night of sleep! Everyone was up and ready for what turned out to be a really big day full of new experiences.
We learned last night that we were here for their monthly national day of community service, where every citizen and visitor across Rwanda spends the morning doing community service in their local area. There is a chairperson, a leadership committee and near mandatory participation. Cars are not allowed on the road, shops are not allowed to be open and even the president takes part!
140927_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_the sweepers on national community service day
We joined our local group and put it a solid few hours sweeping, raking and pruning a large section of land in the heart of Kigali.
140927_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Emily, Chelsea, Michael, Candice and Dave cleaning
Everyone really enjoyed the opportunity to get their hands dirty and several noted that it was a moment when they didn’t feel like tourists because everyone mucked in together regardless of anything at all.
From there we hopped in our transport vehicles and headed north for Ruhengeri, where we will visit the golden monkey preserve within Rwanda’s largest national park tomorrow. What we expected to be a scenic yet otherwise uneventful drive turned into a major cultural experience as we stopped to take in the view of the Nile river (under a different name here in Rwanda) which runs from the centre of the African continent all the way to the mediterranean sea!
Within minutes of arriving we were inundated by local kids who were curious at the large group of white people wandering around their village. This was the first experience like it for the group and it was a learning one. How do we take photos without feeling like we’re objectifying the local people? How do we not feel objectified when asked for money and food and other items? How are we perceived driving around a developing country in our convoy of SUVs while still trying to have a local experience? These questions and so many more are ones we will continue to work at answering over the next week.
140927_Kimberley College_World Vision Australia Experience Rwanda_Inspired Adventures_Jess making a new friend
We closed the day with a visit to the local market in Ruhengeri, which was also quite an experience. Again, the sites, sounds and smells took people by surprise and led to a really interesting conversation about what the word “need” really means. We’ve been here only 36 hours and already every one of us has been challenged to really think about so many aspects of our day-to-day lives. No doubt the next week will be truly life-changing. Be sure to read our guest blog by Kimberley College student, Chelsea Taylor – read blog.

26 September 2014

On The Road To Rwanda

After months of hard work, departure day finally arrived! The group have landed safe and sound in Bangkok and we are now playing cards, eating Burger King and enjoying massages (the hard life!) before catching our connection to Africa. Watch this space!

Below is the group cruising along a travelator (don't miss Mr. T doing his "escalator" moves) and Joel enjoying his first fresh coconut!




--Kyle Taylor

It's Time For Africa!

Fri 26 Sep: “Waka Waka – this time for Africa!”

The questions of the day were most certainly “what day is it?” and “what time zone are we in?”  Both were fair questions, as it took us three flights, thirty hours, and EIGHT time zones but we’re finally in Africa!
140926_World Vision_Experience Rwanda_Kimberley College_flying into Kigali_image by Inspired AdventuresThe theme of our travel was “EAT.”  It’s all we seemed to do. Eat on the plane, eat in the airport, eat in customs, eat at the hotel, EAT EAT EAT.  Everyone has managed the journey brilliantly. Our first-time flyer Ryan was a legend, we got to experience the brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and even the “adults” (though we’re not THAT old) are functioning despite a serious lack of sleep.
Oh, and Shakira’s Waka Waka (Time For Africa) is running on loop in everyone’s head (check out the video!).
After showers and a little nap it was off to World Vision HQ for a security briefing followed by a wander around central Kigali, where everyone had the opportunity to take in the sights, sounds and smells of this bustling capital city.  It’s now just past 8pm and all 22 students are either fast asleep or on their way to dreamland. We have a big day ahead tomorrow. More soon!
140926_World Vision_Experience Rwanda_Kimberley College_resting in Kigali_image by Africa Wild Explorations_ Inspired Adventures