Waking up to the melliflous sounds of birds singing and the beauty of the sun shining over surrounding mountains, one would have a hard time remembering the genocide that brutalized this country 20 years ago. Rwanda, the size of Massachusetts, lost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the span of 100 days in the most brutal government run killings known to history.
But the scars are so deep now that they can barely be seen, sitting here looking out at the banana fields and hearing the laughter of children in the street. It is hard to believe that a few hundred kilometers away ,war rages in the conflict mining zones of The Democratic Republic of Congo and many seemingly peaceful countries contribute to that violence. My week here with SIT will be to remember the loss and learn about work Rwanda has done to heal, reconcile and rebuild. I also hope to gain a better understanding of the conflicts in neighboring countries that could affect the future here.
“The dead of Rwanda accumulated in nearly three times the rate of the Jewish dead during the Holocaust. It was the most efficient mass killings since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” US journalist Philip Gourevitch, author of We wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda”
Now a stable country with a growing economy, Rwanda feels at the moment like a tropical vacation sitting here in my friends Cory and Matt Melaugh screened in home in the beautiful village of Rwinkavu. Cory, a nurse at Mass General Hospital in Boston, MA, has a one year position as a nurse in the local hospital here and Matt is the supervisor in a library built under by Ready for Reading, anorganizationunder Partners in Health started by Betsy Dicky of Greenwich, CT
I was not sure If I could believe Cory’s advice that I did not need to travel with the same full pharmacy in my suitcase and survival gear as our trip deep into South Sudan last year. This, she said, will be a much different experience. I arrived to the paved roads and lit up city of Kigali and the drive to Rwinkavu was smooth and comfortable. Hey, I might even be able to return the nausea bands and other remedies I rushed to get before taking off!
Before leaving for Rwanda Betsy and I loaded a suitcase with over 80 pounds of donations for the library. Printer cartridges, dry erase markers and dress clothes. I prayed the whole way here that the small photo printer I packed would make the journey. Matt and I planned a project to help the children have a better undertstanding of their own importance in the world through learning about their image. We hoped to take photos of the children in the library so they could see themselves and make their own portraits.
The library staff occupied the children as we prepared for the exuberant participants.
Six hours, ten groups and 220 photos later……
everyone had gone home with a self portrait, photo and a smile!
A huge thank you to Matt’s brother, Brad for orchestrating the photos of the children and printing all of them at the slow pace of 50 seconds a photo!