Letter from our Founder and former CEO, David Chaplin

David writes from Rwanda

Rwanda Newsletter Spring 2022

In many respects this has been a hugely rewarding trip but sadly it has been overshadowed by the fact that two of our team were involved in a road accident. Jonas suffered a badly broken leg and, more worryingly, Isaie has an injured back. Both are now out of hospital, and we are all praying that they will make a full and speedy recovery.

Both men have been in a lot of pain, but they remain remarkably positive and cheerful, and it is an indication of their devotion to their work that they have been telephoning instructions even from their hospital beds.

And I know that they would not want their misfortune to prevent me from telling you all about the wonderful things that they and the team are achieving out here.

After a long and somewhat frustrating confinement, the last stage of the Alivera Project, the Village, has been delivered, and what a fine and flourishing young baby it is proving to be!

The first two parts of this project, the School of Excellence for Inclusion and Special Needs and the Alivera Centre providing support for children with disability in their homes, in school and in the community, are now growing strongly under Felix’s wonderful leadership.

The primary school is flourishing and benefiting from the additional classrooms that Earlscliffe enabled us to build.

Sally visited the school this time and this is what she has to say:

The standards at Ntendezi primary school are going from strength to strength. Supported by the RA Education Team, the quality of teaching is improving fast. Not only did I observe a carefully planned, interactive and cleverly paced lesson in Primary 4 about the jobs that people do, but the group of deaf children in the class, supported by their signer, took a full part in the lesson too.

I also visited the children in the Semi Inclusive Learning Unit who were having an exciting lesson about the uses of water. Note the circles chalked on the floor where each child stands to take his / her turn. Their teacher, Alphonsine, is wonderfully patient and kind!

The Alivera Centre is a joy to visit. The needs of the children are many and varied, and in some cases quite acute, but the moment you come through the gate you sense a buzz of calm and constructive activity, and, above all, you know this is a happy place.

This is Boris:

He really is a bit of a star. When we had our joint Board meeting with the District, he insisted on making his way round each member of the team giving him or her a great big hug and a few reassuring pats on the back. This is all the more remarkable knowing that when he joined the Centre last year Boris was completely unable to walk.

Now the Alivera Village completes the picture. We have watched with a mixture of pride and admiration as so many of the children have fought their way through school and training, even when the odds have been stacked against them. So how frustrating and wrong it has been that at the end of that journey there has so often been disappointment. Finding employment for people with disability remains a challenge not only here in Rwanda but in most countries throughout the world.

The Village sets out to meet this challenge.

And here is the first group of apprentices!

Allow me to introduce you to some of them individually.

Alice is physically disabled and Damascene is blind (right). They are going to learn to knit under the expert guidance of Godberita who is also blind (below).

Isaie, who is physically disabled, is delighted to be working in the restaurant.

Marianne and Jeanne, both of whom are profoundly deaf, are happy to have joined the tailoring group.

And here are the card-making girls hard at work


Mechak’s hairdressing salon always seems to be busy.

And last, but by no means least, Fidele and Obed are photographed in their new shoe-making workshop.

We feel privileged to be working with such brave and cheerful young people and we look forward to helping them to develop the skills that will enable them to lead full and independent lives.

And here is Alivera, smiling down on “her” project, glad in her heart that something good has been born from her suffering.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to architects Ben Reed and Tim Ryan, and engineer, Leo Woods, all of whom worked on the Village project on a pro bono basis. Circumstances have forced us to compromise somewhat on their imaginative design, but the Village functions brilliantly and we feel the Rondavel goes some way towards retaining the feel of the original design

Certainly, the Rondavel provides a wonderful focus for the Village, a place for people meet and relax together.

Sparked by the remarkable results achieved in the first year of our pilot Learning Initiative, interest in our in-service teacher training programme continues to grow. Early in my visit I was pleased to be able to present to the Senior Management Team at the Rwanda Education Board, and I was also fortunate to be able to meet the Director General of the National Examination and School Inspection Authority (NESA). We are planning to scale up the initiative next year working closely with the authorities at local and national level, and we are confident that if we can achieve the same sort of success with the bigger sample this will prove the touch paper for replication on a much larger scale.

We are carefully developing our new Building Communities project. All the data has now been collected for the first pilot cell, and we are planning one on-farm and one off-farm enterprise group for each of the five villages in the cell. At the same time, we are initiating a tree nursery and supporting the schools with teacher training and kitchen gardens. The aim is to lift the community in spirit and in prosperity, carefully and accurately measuring the impact of our interventions. That way we have the best chance of persuading the government to scale up what we are doing.

More and more youngsters are attending our Saturday club for former street children and their drumming and dancing are more stunning each time I visit. I am really hoping they will be able to perform at the official opening of the Alivera Village.

So, there we are. This will be my last letter as CEO of Rwanda Action. I am very much in favour of slipping quietly out of the back door, but I would like to take this opportunity of saying huge and heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped to make the Charity what it is. There are too many to name – co-founders, incredibly generous donors, dedicated volunteers, brilliant Trustees, youth associates, card sellers, sponsors, and, not least, the wonderful team in Rwanda. I have made so many friends, met so many generous and inspirational people and I have so many wonderful memories to dwell on as I slide gently into dotage. The Rwandan journey has been immensely rewarding and I would not have missed it for the world. Thank you.

And, of course, because of the commitment and vision of the Trustees, Rwanda Action is not coming to an end but rather entering a very exciting new stage of its life. My successor is called Robbie Macmillan. Robbie has a degree in developmental studies and has wide experience of working in international development, much of it in Rwanda. He is young, personable and full of energy and enthusiasm and he is immensely fortunate to be able to draw on the experience and wisdom of our UK Operations Director, Janyis Watson. Together they will forge a great and powerful future for the charity.

With love, and very big thanks

David

Formerly Rwanda Aid, we are a charity that is empowering communities to reduce poverty in Rwanda

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