Thursday, 27 October 2016


Welcome to the blog of the International Service team working with Association Mwana Ukundwa (AMU) in Kigali. We are the first cohort on this ICS project, which will hopefully see seven further cohorts from International Service over the next two years. The team is made up of seven UK volunteers, seven in-country volunteers, and one UK team leader. We arrived here in Gikondo at the beginning of October, we have settled in well within our host families, and the UK volunteers are getting used to the culture here!

AMU is an association that was set up just after the genocide in 1995, with the initial aim of rehoming children who had been orphaned during the civil war. From that initial idea, it has grown into a place that helps a variety of disadvantaged people from the local communities. The organisation has five separate ‘branches’ spread across Rwanda – the last one opened just over a year ago.

So far we have worked with many different groups of the community: children who come to AMU daily, Self Help Groups, HIV clubs at five different schools, AMU club for people living with HIV.

The grounds of AMU are used as a centre for children to study and play every day. Without us here they normally play football and other playground games by themselves. Since we have arrived, each morning we separate the children into their school classes and attempt to teach them child rights in a creative way. The general consensus from all the volunteers is that playing with children is tiring work!

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, two different groups of volunteers attend local Self Help Groups. These are support groups set up by AMU for people living with HIV and the members are primarily women. The idea is that AMU sets up the organisation, however, the groups are independent and do not rely on the help of AMU for their weekly activities. So far, we have established that these people want to be taught English, so we have started with the basics! The women are generally very cheery people who are extremely happy and appreciative to have us here helping them.

A recent new venture of AMU is to teach local disadvantaged women to sew. Rwanda is currently trying to stop using second hand clothes from western countries, so in the near future tailors are going to be in high demand in the country. The women come to AMU for their tailoring lessons every day. We support them by teaching them English every morning and afternoon for an hour, during their break. We have discovered that teaching adults English takes a lot more than teaching children English, but it is also very rewarding. We must be very patient and ensure that everyone in the class stays up to speed so they don’t miss out!

The volunteers are split into five groups to visit HIV clubs at local schools once a week. Our first impressions of the groups were great – the secondary school children had plays, sketches, dances and other various performances well-rehearsed for our arrival. Since then we have been working with the groups to develop their fantastic ideas.

Every Saturday, AMU has a club for people living with HIV. From our second week here we decided that, after the morning activities, we would cook food for them – the first week we made rice, potatoes and beef stew, which went down very well! The second week we made ‘brunch’ consisting of porridge, bread, honey, eggs, bananas and tree tomatoes. Last Saturday we also organized a very successful debate between the students of Secondary School on the topic of premarital sex.

This weekend it is our first proper ‘Umuganda’. Umuganda is a Rwandan tradition, it happens every last Saturday of the month and is a community clean-up day. It takes place throughout the country and the aim is to spend the day ensuring your local community is tidy and clean! We plan to spend 8am-11am at AMU tidying up…and hope the children don’t bring polystyrene back again!

During our time so far we have experienced some inevitable problems, due to the fact that we are the first cohort, from long waiting to obtain basic supplies, to having to figure out the goals and plans from scratch. However, a great advantage of being the first cohort is that we have a lot of freedom when it comes to deciding what kind of impact we want to make on the community.

We have also been thinking of ways to overcome the issue of UK Volunteers being too overpowering, loud, and generally just quite rude (to their own admission) when it comes to group discussion. The Rwandan Volunteers find it highly annoying and are too polite to interrupt them! So far, our solution is raising your hand when you want to speak during a discussion, as well as sticking some “DON’T INTERRUPT” posters on the walls of our office!

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