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Home from Africa: Money returns from Rwanda
In the first of a two-part series, Alberni District Secondary School teacher Kama Money talks about her experiences while on a humanitarian trip to Kigali, Rwanda.
A Port Alberni teacher who went on a humanitarian trip to Rwanda, Africa has returned home rich with practical experience and eager to impart it to students.
Alberni District Secondary School social justice teacher, Kama Money won the Smart Girl contest earlier this year that brought her to Kigali, Rwanda from Aug. 2–11.
“It felt so good to be back in Africa,” Money said.
“I could feel the energy that country is full of when we landed.”
Money was also struck by the heat and red dust, which she and her colleagues were caked in every day.
“The heat was like our summer here but that’s winter weather to them,” she said.
Money’s white face cloth would be bright red from the dust after we washed, “It was almost embarrassing to give them back.”
Money observed different humanitarian initiatives at a rural school during her first two days.
The welcoming Money and others received distinctly stands out.
“People would run after the vehicle smiling, waving, and yelling — it’s like we were greeted like celebrities.”
The experience was poignant for other reasons too.
“We were the first white people that most of the villages ever saw,” Money said. “Some babies even screamed when they saw us.”
The school was lacking in resources but not hope.
“They had no running water, a latrine for a toilet, no library and no resources,” Money said.
“But they value education and they are so hopeful.”
Money met with a girls group at the school and listened to them talk about their dreams and aspirations, which she found weren’t unlike those of students here.
“They want to be teachers, policemen and athletes,” Money said. “
“They remind me of people here but there aren’t the same opportunities in Rwanda.”
One of the schools Money visited had a student population of 1,500.
Students behaviour at school wasn’t out of control — there wasn’t much behaviour to control.
“The principal has seen five students for misbehaviour issues since January,” Money said.
“Can you imagine administrators here seeing only that many kids in a year for misbehaving?”
Money also had a chance to watch small economic development initiatives at work.
A Plan Canada loan helped buy two pigs to start a pig cooperative and the investment has grown into 12 pigs.
Cooperative members share pig tending duties.
Some of the pigs are kept and bred while others are sold, the proceeds of which are divvied up amongst cooperative members.
“It’s self sustaining and they’re proud of it,” Money said.
Before the trip, Money said she was apprehensive about seeing the crushing poverty that Rwandans live in.
“I feel it’s important to be a witness to it so you can do what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said then.
“To experience these things will make me a better teacher about them.”
Money did witness extreme poverty in a way that she’d never seen before.
“I saw babies with swollen bellies from hunger,” she said.
But what she didn’t see were homeless or downtrodden people.
Despite the dust it’s one of the cleanest places Money has seen.
“People have a real pride in themselves and their properties,” she said.
“The hope they have in spite if their circumstances is inspiring.”
Money noticed something else too, a lack of crime.
The observation is surprising considering that the country is not yet two decades removed from one of history’s darkest moments — the Rwandan genocide of 1994 in which anywhere from 500,000 to one million people were killed.
Money visited a site at which 50,000 people were slaughtered in 5-6 hours.
“It’s just impossible for me to reconcile these warm generous, and peaceful people with those events in 1994,”she said.