Arrived in late at night at the hotel Gorillas. Beautiful little authentic hotel above the hills in . Quiet at night – seemed very orderly. Our guard had an M4. Not sure whether I felt safe or weirded out. It was a big temperature change, so happy that we were able to get a fan for the room. Morning found my traveling companions and I with great views of the city and a breakfast of local fruit – passion fruit, papaya and tree tomatoes. Alex the animal lover and horsewoman passionate supporter of Women for Women, Lynn the intrepid leader of our group who is in love with Africa and has changed so many lives for the better and Lise our environmentalist who has cleaned up so much of New York and has a keen eye for all the possibilities here. I walked around after breakfast and found it hard to believe that this peaceful city was once so full of so much death and hatred. Blood on the red earth that has regenerated such positive spirit going forward for this wonderful country. is very clean they have a no plastic bag law and every month the whole community gets together to have a community clean up day. Red earth, great temperature in the mid eighties with hibiscus, oleander and bourganvilla. Met with Paul Farmer’s wife, Didi Farmer, a doctor from . She runs Partners Community Health Workers Program – I will learn more about this program as we go along. She lives in a delightful house with their three beautiful children. Barbed wire on the fence and an enclosed compound – high walls with metal doors. I as reminded that caution is always best in a very poor country. They were serving state of the art croissants for breakfast – always impressive anywhere and reminiscent of Didi Farmer’s native with its mixture of French, Creole and . Didi has been raising money with her lovely fourteen year old daughter Elizabeth for . Tonight a fundraising dinner with rice and beans, stew chicken, and curried goat. Great tea shirts for sale for ! You go girl!
Driving out to Rwinkwavu from in our large jeep that is reminiscent of an armoured car – its for safaris! Windows open and a wonderful warm breeze. Our driver Kirenga gives us a running monologue. Women on the side of the road in bright colored long skirts, longsleeved blouses and covered heads with scarves that denote the villages they come from. Tropical fields, banana trees and one story concrete block and mud houses with corregated iron roofs – although there are some tile roofs here. While the road is elevated no sign of mountains. Young men and women all along the roads and in the distance the snakes of red dirt roads rise up through the sugar cane. A lot of small terraced plots growing green vegetables, tomatoes. The red of the flambeaux trees everywhere. The language spoken here is a mixture of Kinyarwanda, French and English – the country is switching to English now for its official language in order to be a more effective partner in the East African trade partnership of , , , and – unofficially as well.
Arrived at the partners for health hospital and compound here in Rwinkwavu for lunch. Very impressive site and work. We had lunch and were briefed on the program constructs. Went out to several umudugudus (communities) where they work with the Partners social worker Eugenia. She was widowed in the genocide and has four children the youngest one was three months old when she lost her husband. We saw three single women who have been given housing based on the communities decision to do so. The communities come together to decide who should get help and what it should be – PIH is not involved in making those decisions. The reason for not being involved in the decision making is to avoid any jealousy or in fighting as to who receives housing. All of these women were beyond extremely poor – one still lived in a mud hut which was indescribely, small, dirty and derelict. Many of these women are left with children by their husbands and are completely impoverished. Partners uses a traditional case work model to help them. Starting with health care and then trying to improve the causes of poor health such as asthma and other chronic diseases caused by living in such terribly conditions and not having enough to eat – there appears to be enough clean water. They work in partnership with the government which is extremely committed to eradicating poverty. Many beautiful children running around and very interested in our cameras. They seemed well fed in an incongruity of clothes that were beyond dirty. The concept of washing here would be considered very middle class… most water is carried from the well which doesn’t seem to far away from the urumdugu. There doesn’t seem to be a family here that hasn’t been touched in some way by the genocide. Local courts have truth and reconciliation hearings and after guilt has been admitted there is foregiveness. Quite remarkable and break the cycle of ongoing violence here.