The dominating impression when making my first trip to Rwanda is that it is all hills. And it is so green. Now is the rainy season so all the small fields in the valleys (small because of the square pattern of drainage) are lush with growing rice, potatoes and other crops. And the terraced plots on the hillsides are surrounded by banana palm trees.
As we travel out of the capital Kigali there is a constant flow of lorries, bicycles, minibuses, some cars and people walking as well as running. Everything that moves goes up the hill and down the hill. On the top there is often a village with rows of small shops and brick houses. With blue tin roofs if they can afford it.
I’m here accompanying project coordinator Hanna Brandvik. She works for the Salvation Army in Sweden with development projects and Rwanda-Burundi Command is part of her areas of responsibility.
Our first day was spent in Kigali, meeting the leaders of the Command and staff at headquarters. Hanna cleared some of her business and we got ready for the week’s program here.
In the blog I will share some of what is happening by posting some pictures and telling my story. The photos I add while in Rwanda-Burundi will just be from the phone and quality accordingly.
On our second day, Wednesday December 5th, we left early to visit a refugee camp in Kigeme. People here come from Congo and one reason why they are forced to leave is that they speak the kinyaruanda language. I will not go further into that complex situation.
This camp is one of four. First they arrived at a camp just by the border and then they were transported here by bus. It was opened in June this year and here lives almost 15.000 people. 80% of then are women and children. Between June and September 126 children has been born in the camp.
The land (mainly two hills) has been allotted by the Rwandan government and the Anglican Church who owns the land. The camp is organised by UNHCR along with other organisations. The contribution from the Salvation Army has been to supply mattresses and blankets (kikoyo) and medicines to people when they first arrive. They are bought locally and are paid for from Sweden, from the Salvation Army Emergency fund. This support is in a concluding phase and the visit was also a way of starting the process for possible future projects that will be identified.
It is impressive to see that there is experience and leadership in place to organise all practical matters well. The disturbing fact is that these things happen. That rebel groups force people away from their homes and land and there is no solution to that basic problem in sight. It is likely that most people will stay here for 10-15 years.
Even if this society gets organised on the surface – men building homes with brick walls instead of plastic sheets, women starting to grow vegetables and children starting school, there is no easy remedy to traumatised people and the loss of hope. I could easily identify the primitive life to a scout camp – but this will not end after a week.
From the refugee camp we went to the Salvation Army corps (church) in Muhanga. They had organised a meeting on a Wednesday afternoon just because we were visiting from Sweden. It was a new experience for me to be the attraction. Being white, woman and a Commissioner of the Salvation Army it was an honouring and exotic experience to the soldiers and friends of the corps. Of the 100+ soldiers a good crowed turned up on this afternoon.
Preaching for the first time in Africa I was truly blessed to realise that the same message from God’s word that is relevant in Sweden is life and hope to village people in Rwanda too.
Here is a link to short video in Swedish with Hanna Brandvik from the camp.)
Above: Arriving at camp, meeting our guide.
Below: Huts for a family. Three families Cook meals together. Water is pumped into the camp.