Muraho (Hello) ! I did a lot of exploring today. Long post with lots of pictures. I started off my morning at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center. This is an initiative started 17 years ago by a group of 18 women looking to empower themselves and create a better life for them and their families. The mission is simple- provide education and training to disadvantaged women. YAAAAS. This initially began with the 2 literate women in the group of 18 teaching the others how to read and write to now offering free classes in literacy, English, basic computer skills, handicrafts, and sewing to the women in the community. They also started a library which offers books in Kinyarwanda, English, and French as well as activities which are all free to the children in the community. They provide homework assistance as well. It seems as though there are 2 ways these initiatives are funded, for one, Umutima (which means heart in Kinyarwanda) which is a training and employment for the women – they make housewares and children’s wear at the Centers shop which gets sold and the women pocket some of the money. So the great thing is this both employs these women from the community while also funding the classes and educational resources for the women. Women helping women ❤️. Secondly, this is funded through community based tourism- the walking tour of Kigali was about 15 USD and all proceeds go to the initiatives of the center.
I OBVIOUSLY LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS! Before the walking tour they taught us some common phrases in Kinyarwanda so we could interact with the people in the community which definitely came in handy. We met friends a long the way who decided to follow us along. A little back history of Nyamirambo- it’s the oldest and biggest township in Kigali.
First we went to the library which is across the street from the women’s center. There are now about 3,000 books which the children can use for free. They meet several times a week for praying, times tables, cartoons, and even homework help. Seems like anywhere between 3-15 children participate daily.
Next we went to a local Hair salon. We learned about local hair styles and even historical ones and their significance. One of the women on the tour even got her hair braided!
Next we went to “the tap.” It’s a government provided water dispensary for the community. People were becoming very sick with water borne illnesses so the government provided this area where you can get clean water for 10 RWF. That is something like pennies in USD. These are all over the country. Next door to the tap was the charcoal center. Here community members can buy enough charcoal to cook for their families for a month. Costing about 9,000 RWF. (~ 10 USD).
Next we walked passed a Mosque and learned that this area is predominantly Muslim. We also learned that during the genocide while pastors and priests were betraying their congregations and leading the militia to the Tutsi members causing their deaths, this mosque acted as a safe haven and Refugee for many of the Tutsi.
We walked through the markets interacted with the people in the town and learned how to pound cassava leaves! The tour concluded with a delicious lunch prepared by one of the women in the center in her home right in Nyamirambo. It was interesting to meet all the other people on the tour- some people from Germany focused on tech start up in Rwanda, an optometrist from the UK helping screen children in the community, and even a group of Americans here just to see the endangered gorillas. In any case, our participation supported their initiative. I even bought the cutest baby dress for Maisie made by one of these strong women with love. 💕
After the tour and lunch I contacted my taxi driver to take me to another stop. The Kigali Genocide Memorial. Nyamirambo means “the place where dead bodies are found” in Kinyarwanda. It was named this because after the genocide bodies were literally piled in the city. I wanted to learn more. Several of the people on the walking tour had the same idea. I went on the free walking tour of the memorial and it was touching, saddening, and heavy all at once. It took me a long time to even bring myself to write this blog post because my heart was so heavy. This memorial is where 250,000 victims were buried of the approximately 1,000,000 murdered during this killing spree. Hearing these stories of survivors watching every one of their family members killed during the genocide or seeing the faces of the thousands of children who were not immune to this fate was very impactful. The propaganda, the warning signs that were ignored, and the international community turning a blind eye were all so troubling. How many times has this happened in history, why don’t we ever learn? I’m glad I was able to see it. It makes me appreciate this amazing country that much more. In spite of all they went through those 100 days in 1994, they are unified and resilient!