As I start to write the first blog post of Project Noel de Nyundo I find it hard to believe that we have only been here, in Rwanda, for 5 days! It feels a lot longer. So much has happened; new people, food, smells, sounds, journeys through the winding Rwandan hills, moto rides and so much more….
Nicky and I arrived in Kigali on Saturday afternoon where Steph was waiting for us, having flown in from South Africa. We were met by Viateur, the local projects manager for the Point Foundation (an organization who we have been planning the project with across the last year). He quickly whisked us off in his car to find food, foreign exchange and local sims for our phones. Admittedly after a 16-hour journey through the night, Nicky and I found this slightly tasking, especially in the hot midday sun. We survived though and made it to our accommodation for the night with enough time to have a shower and relax before venturing off into Kigali to find some much needed food. The next day we travelled with Viateur, through the winding roads and beautiful hills of Rwanda, until we reached Gisenyi where we will stay for the next 6 weeks.
It’s day 3 of the project and we have used the time so far to visit the Ubumwe Community Centre (UCC), a centre for children and adults with physical and learning disabilities as well as the Noel de Nyundo Orphanage.
First stop on Monday morning was UCC where we were welcomed by Zacharie, the manager. He gave us a tour around the Centre and we were able to make initial introductions with some of the staff and the young people that attend the Centre on a daily basis.
In the afternoon we visited Noel de Nyundo. We were greeted enthusiastically by the residents giving us a good opportunity to practice our wobbly Kinyarwandan. There is a lot of change happening at the Noel orphanage at the moment as Hope and Homes for Children (HHC) are working to rehome each child that lives there, eventually closing the orphanage completely. We were able to meet with the local coordinator for HHC and discuss the possibility of sharing some skills with the social workers that are working to reintegrate the children into their new families and villages.
Day 2 was spent at UCC, observing staff and clients as they go about their day-to-day business. They have several workshops in place already, all with the principle aim of encouraging clients to develop skills that they can use once they leave the centre.
In the afternoon we had a brief stock check of all of the instruments, which involved Hannah and Steph trying to work out how to assemble windchimes and various shakers.
Today we returned to Noel to get to know some of the staff and the children a little better. Although we were initially met by despondent faces we soon had some of the staff, who care for the babies, sharing local songs with us and dancing along with big smiles on their faces, how quickly the atmosphere in the room changed; A reminder of how music can bridge the gap between cultures. Later we met some older children and using our limited knowledge of combined Kinyarwandan and French we devised a few fun games using a play parachute. The children have boundless energy, us on the other hand, not so much…. but maybe we can blame the high altitude?
As I sit on the balcony of the place we will call ‘home’ over the coming weeks I can hear a chorus of lovely singing in the distance, the chatter of birds and the buzz of cicadas. Everything is coming together and we are feeling positive about what we are able to achieve in the next 5 weeks.
Hannah, Nicky and Steph x