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Kivumu-Kivumu
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 Written by Dubravka Nezić

Kivumu Kivumu

It is time to type my impressions for the website. I come from Croatia and thanks to recent life circumstances I have made this trip to volunteer in Africa. It has been a month since I arrived - on April 7th. I started to write my article on the twelfth day of my arrival, so as you can see, it took me twelve days to even start to put together my impressions and thoughts!

Everything is so different here, my emotions are quite intense and as much as I try to suppress them, they prevail! Time passes quickly in this state of confusion...the only thing that is constant is fra Ivica's composure.

Kivumu Kivumu

My first Sunday in church I wasn't even able to follow the Mass very well. First, because it is in Kinyarwanda and secondly, when I looked around and saw so many people in church, I couldn't even recall the words for Mass in Croatian. Thankfully, the next Sunday was a little better.

So my welcome to Kivumu was simple, yet very warm. Fra Ivica is radiating in his simplicity and behind that there is his sincere care for the people. Fra Philippe and Alojz, his African brothers from the Franciscan order, are beautiful people, especially when dressed in their habits.

At the project, both the Vocational Training Centre and the Technical Secondary School are well organized and there is a very positive atmosphere in the classrooms, as well as among the teachers.

Kivumu Kivumu

Kivumu village itself is situated in a beautiful natural setting, surrounded with green trees and colourful flowers peeping out from the grass. Eucalyptus trees are bountiful and their verdant colors enhance the blue eucalyptus, which is used in the production of essential oils. The once volcanic hillsides of are now completely cultivated and planted with legumes, green beans, potatoes, corn, peppers and tomatoes. These fields are interlaced with plantations of bananas, pineapples, coffee and peanut bushes and avocado trees.

We are still in the rainy season so almost every day it rains; yet it passes quickly. Daylight lasts until 6.15 pm, so my afternoons are short. People in the village don't have electricity in their homes so they also go to bed early.

Kivumu Kivumu

Talking about people is the special side of my story. My observations and impressions don't match the information I have read in magazines at all. People were described as smiling, mirthful, carefree and all in all, happy. I read somewhere that Rwanda is a country of a thousand hills and eleven million smiles. This statement is correct about hills but the smiles are a different story.

Rwanda has a very large population; therefore, wherever you go there are many, many people. The streets are flooded with people of all ages. When weekly market day arrives, it is very crowded and traffic is overwhelming. By the way, traffic means bicycles, rarely cars. Hence, smiling faces are something that we can talk about from their prospective. Expressions on their faces, for me, are more apathetic, accompanied with a resigned expression and subdued shoulders.

Kivumu Kivumu

When a white person is met, that white person never passes unnoticed, they will say hi and continue to walk. On the other hand, younger people will express interest to stop and make a conversation and of course children are running around everywhere. They - the children, with their big eyes, express something between sadness, hope, desire and then once in a while joy.

Kivumu Kivumu

Their smiles are especially forthcoming when they think they’ll receive something, possibly a gift. And when you start to play with them, they show real joyfulness, especially if you take pictures of them and then replay to show them pictures of themselves.

They usually take my iPhone as soon as I come to them and they just take pictures of everybody and everything. Then, if I have my glasses on, it is an additional “toy” to pose for pictures. My afternoons are usually spent with the children outside on the unpaved roads leading to the village or on the green meadow used as a sports ground or during walks through the intensely colored countryside. There is not a lot of time for playing football during the week because by the time school is finished, it gets dark or it rains. Playing football is the children’s favorite sport and they play very well.

Kivumu Kivumu

Often, young boys have small balls made of old materials tied with strips of banana fibre for a football. They have no leather ball unless somebody brings one.

Another favorite toy is the spare metal rim of a bicycle, which they push in front of them with a forked stick, running as fast as they can. The more time one spends with them, the more questions they have about everything. Most of the questions are about the country you are from, asking “how is life there?”

Kivumu Kivumu

Their curious eyes are scanning you, they touch your skin, your hair and who knows what they are talking about among themselves while doing it, but their conversation resembles bird chirping. It means everything to them to receive attention, to spend time with them, even if that time is walking in silence.

Life here is very hard. The land is fertile and cultivated, planted with plants tolerant to Rwanda’s climate, but the population is so large that it is difficult to produce enough food for everybody. Furthermore, work in the fields is done manually; they dig with hand tools because there are no motorized tools available. The land is extremely hilly and planted fields are on the steep slopes. All this is to say, that people here are very hungry and very poor.

Kivumu Kivumu

They live in small modest houses made of mud. Very few of them can afford a brick house. Bricks are also manually made of clay. Most of the inhabitants are unemployed, and those who sometimes work in agriculture, which means digging, are paid meager wages. For all day digging they are paid one euro, which is not sufficient for even one meal. Due to these life circumstances, they are unable to enjoy much of a social life.

Children are also involved in the daily activities, doing simple physical work, such as watching the cows or goats in the fields, collecting firewood or bringing water. This is one of the reasons rural Rwandans are very dependant on any kind of help, donations or assistance they receive.

Kivumu Kivumu

The only way out of this situation is education. Education will enable them to develop skills. More and more young people are becoming aware of the importance of education and this is exactly why the schools at Padri Vjeko Center are so vital to life here. The Schools offer them the opportunity for education, helping them in so many ways and equipping them with life skills and with the opportunity to build a future where they will be able to support themselves and to provide for their families.

Edited by Valerie Kae Ken

 
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