Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 6 -> Tikkun Olam and Family Time

            The morning started at 6:15am when a few of us went to breakfast.  A few others meanwhile took advantage of an extra hour and a half of sleep.  At breakfast, it was a little quiet until there was a STAMPEDE to the cornbread.  Before we knew it, we were left alone at the tables while the kids rushed to get this special treat.  After breakfast or sleeping in, we went to the amphitheater for our morning meeting. 
            Our kavanah for today was a word we made up to capture the essence of such an important day.  Our word was famunity, not a combination of immunity and famine, but a cross between community and family.  The more time we spend in Rwanda, we continue to see that because families in many cases have been broken, the community has taken the place of family.  Today we helped to rebuild multiple communities.  With our service project, we are helping to improve the ASYV community.  Through tikkun olam, we worked alongside ASYV students to fix the neighboring community, Rubona.  At family time, we saw firsthand the way the kids at ASYV have become each others family and as always, we as a group worked to strengthen our own Tufts family.
            After our group morning meeting, we met with the informal education department.  We split into multiple groups to discuss the roles and perspectives of the counselors and house mothers of ASYV.  Discussions ranged from how ASYV finds vulnerable children and staff to how children are disciplined.  The conversation was a little shorter than we might have liked, but it was a fresh perspective of the role of the village.  We saw the house mothers need family just as much as their kids do; they become each others family.
            The busy day continued with a new component of our service project.  We began construction on the four stone benches that will complete the central gathering spot of the Village.  Half of our group moved HUGE heavy rocks while the other half dug massive holes all for the foundation. The sun was beating down and there was blood shed and laughter!  It was a grueling three hours. Some of us got to work alongside workers from the surrounding community. Afterward we went to lunch where there were fresh vegetables. We ate cucumber and cabbage salad and the usual fare of rice and stew.
            After lunch we went straight to Tikkun Olam, which happens every Tuesday in the village. The kids at ASYV learn not only that they can lead happy and successful lives, but they are also capable of repairing others in their “famunity” at the same time they are repairing themselves. We all broke up into 4 groups. Some of us went to the local school in Rubona to teach English alongside the ASYV students. The students-turned teachers were very enthusiastic and in control of the class. They also had a lot of fun singing songs and getting their sillies out. Another group went to the health clinic in Rubona which sounded like an eye-opening experience. The clinic had an impressively large supply of medicine, but also was far from our western standards of sanitation and was staffed by nurses not doctors. The third and fourth groups were both building houses for people who currently live in grass huts which, due to a new law, are now illegal in Rwanda. However, the two projects were in different states of completion. One group was digging the foundation for a house, throwing and playing in mud, and learning a traditional Rwandan game (which photo evidence proves David is terrible at). The final group cut grass near the school to strengthen the bricks that would go in the house. Sports EPs started at 5 so Rachel and I, along with Tali, Amanda and Inbal, played football (not American) with the first-year students. It was amazing how generously the kids play with each other on the field. It’s like they all have one mind. Luckily Dan is 50 pounds heavier than most of them and was able to hold his own. In the same time period, the rest of the groups returned from Tikkun Olam and many Tufts Students went out to tutor or hang at the homes of children in the Village. It is midterm week and everyone is busy with studying.
            Soon it was dinner time, and we walked with the kids up to the dining hall. As usual, finding a seat was difficult among the bustle and chatter of the kids. We sat down and started to talk with the kids around us about our busy days, midterms, jokes and more serious matters. Dinner was the usual fare of rice, beans and stew. Mmmmm. After dinner we went in pairs to join ASYV students for family time where each of the families get together, drink tea, debate and debrief about how the week was going. Experiences were varied but highlights included Dan and Kevin freestyle rapping and “dougying” with the whole family, talks about boyfriends and economics, games, songs and a strong feeling of camaraderie. Many of us were asked to come back again tomorrow. We all left feeling much closer to the families we visited. We ended the day with thorns and roses and all fell asleep quickly after our longest day yet.

Fun Fact:  One kick from a giraffe can kill a lion.
 - Dan and Rachel, 5/31/11

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