Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 7 -> Boundary Breakers and Exploring Rubona

Today was the third day of work! Being the leaders of the day, we decided that the Kavanah of the day would be “perseverance” because we have been working really hard and we need to maintain the high level of energy! Also, since in the past few days some of us have expressed concerns over not bonding with the kids in the Village, we should also realize that making connections take time and that we need to persevere in our effort to connect with the kids. It is also important for us to keep connecting our experience in the Village to the larger context of Rwanda because it’s sometimes easy to forget that the creation of ASYV was because of what happened in 1994.
We started the day with Trevor (Long Term Volunteer), continuing our work on the benches for the center of the Village. We moved more bricks, cement and sand around. By now, some of the benches are partially built and it seems that they would be completed soon! At 10:30, we played a game called “Boundary Breakers” in which Tali asked a series of questions for us to really get to know each other. We found that exercise to be a very good way for us to connect to each other as a cohesive group. For example, questions asked included: “What is your dream job?” “What is your biggest regret?” “What makes you happy?”, etc. Through hearing everyone’s answers, we really learned a lot about everyone’s aspirations and formed connections on a deeper level. After lunch, instead of continuing the discussions, many of us took a field trip to Rubona (although David and Nate went and helped Hizamark and Clyde with their music project). The walk to Rubona was very nice (although hot) but we really got to see the rural parts of Rwanda. Many of us reflected that our trip to Rubona was the highlight of the day (and in the case of David and Nate, the music session). While we were at Rubona we ate brushettes (lamb on a stick), visited various stores and interacted with some of the residents there. After we returned, we had dinner with the kids again and caught up on the happenings of the day.
However, there was one experience stood out to us in particular. Three students, Inbal, Rachel, and Dan, witnessed something that many people can’t imagine witnessing in their lifetime. Because they weren’t able to perform their tikkum olam social service work on Tuesday, they were able to sit in on a local town meeting to discuss the wellbeing and situation of a family ridden with poverty, poor health, sexual abuse, and betrayal. The students of ASYV came across this case while performing their tikkum olam service work, cultivating a local house in Rubona, Rwanda. However, one day, the students found a woman with half of her body paralyzed lying on the ground of the mud hut house with no furniture or windows. Thus, the students of ASYV decided to look further into this woman’s situation to see if they could help her in any way. Unbeknownst to them, her story would only get more complicated. It turned out that this woman, who is probably in her 30s, was lying on the ground of a house that no longer belonged to
her. Her husband had sold the property without her consent and had spent 80% of the money in one week. Her husband had been in jail for raping their 7 year old daughter but had been let out because the family with 4 children, had no other source of income. What was originally thought of as a short term service project turned into a long term challenge for the students of ASYV. The students got people from the sector, the local government, the women leaders in the community, and from ASYV to sit in on this hearing and to discuss how to help the woman and her family. The problem is that although the community is aware of the husband’s criminal behavior, he is able to walk free because his work is needed to support their 4 children. In addition, the wife needs to go to the hospital to figure out why she can’t move her body and someone needs to take care of the children while she is gone. Another problem is that the hospital does not provide a mattress, sheets, food, or transportation, which would be an additional cost for the family. During the meeting, the community members decided that while the wife is away at the hospital, the community would take care of the 3 kids (the 1 girl who was abused is living in another district of Rwanda with another family member). We found it inspiring that despite the fact that some of the individuals in the community cannot fully support their own families, they are willing to take in an additional child for the benefit of the community. In addition, other community members volunteered to cook food for the woman while she is in the hospital and ASYV students already coordinated getting her a mattress and sheets.
After hearing this story from Rachel, Inbal, and Dan, it got us thinking how complicated solving one issue is. It is not as easy as getting the woman to the hospital and paying for her stay, because it also includes taking care of her children, keeping them safe, while not angering the father so that he poses a further threat. It is incredible that despite the community’s awareness of the husband’s monstrous act of raping his own daughter and selling the family’s house and spending 80% of it, there is no true justice. However, despite such an atrocity, it is incredibly inspiring to know that the students of ASYV and the community have worked extensively to help one woman and her children, amongst the many other people in the community who need help. Whether one tries to help one person or an entire village, he or she is still making a difference.
In retrospect, we think that the Kavanah, “perseverance” we had chosen in the beginning of the day was established. Many of us have formed a much closer bond with the community, the kids and each other by the end of the day, whether by teaching music, talking to each other or listening to people’s stories. The connection that we have finally formed with the community was really a big step for us as a group to take to understand Rwanda just a little bit more.

- Kia and Kevin, 6/1/11

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