Children
 Rwanda
Project #10392

Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty

by HANDS AROUND THE WORLD
All the Team with shirts given by the School
All the Team with shirts given by the School

Our idea of what it would be like volunteering in Rwanda was similar to our first view of Kigali from the air – rather foggy! But like the sky above the runway, things soon became clear as we settled into a happy month teaching English in Bugarama, a small town in the SW corner of Rwanda.

Wendy writes:
Before we left England, seasoned Hands Around the World volunteers told us that the most rewarding aspect of the volunteering experience would be forming relationships with the people we would meet. As I look back now on our time in Rwanda, I have to agree. I think of:

Thierry with his big grin and black homburg hat, festooned with our multiple cameras, enthusiastically taking pictures of and for us all while simultaneously talking on his mobile phone!

Carpophole with his deep voice (a gentle giant), showing us the books he looks after in Muko School library (meagre by European standards but a source of great pride to him).

Wellars with his quiet smile, meticulously translating a Kinyarwanda sermon for us during a 3.5 hour church service. (I will remember those five key points he translated long after most English sermons have faded from memory)

Jean and his wife with their amazing hospitality, welcoming us into their home to meet their gorgeous toddler twin girls and presenting us with lovely matching outfits - made by a local tailor to measurements cunningly obtained via a note from an anonymous well wisher (alias Jean)!

Our students (experienced teachers themselves), patiently welcoming our efforts to learn their names. Always enthusiastic ... lively ... keeping us on our toes. “Teacher, you told us meals in English are called ‘lunch and supper’, but here on my phone Google says they can be ‘dinner’ and ‘tea’.” Oops, Felix, you’re right - hasty explanation needed!

Georgine and Japhet, heads of Muko and Mihabura Schools – hospitable, generous, humbling us with their welcome and appreciation of our efforts

Joel, Esther, Rehema, Rachel, Louise – and others too many to mention (working with fellow volunteers Dennis and Myfanwy to improve the school buildings) - our lunchtime companions, singing with us in an impromptu choir, playing games and sports with us, and laughing kindly at our unsuccessful attempts to walk with a bowl on our head... something they manage with effortless grace

Children ... everywhere - eager, laughing, grabbing our hands and then running away, startled by their own boldness. The parents too that we met in the market or on the streets of Bugarama – their initial shyness of the “muzungu” (white person) replaced with a beaming smile when I greeted them in my (albeit scanty) Kinyarwanda.
I loved Rwanda – its beautiful scenery, sunshine, interesting culture. But most of all, I loved the Rwandan people. They have very few of the things we would consider essential for a good life in material terms, but they have a large measure of warmth, friendliness, good humour and love that means they find their way very quickly into your heart. Why was I feeling tearful singing a song at church back in England, I wondered. Oh yes, I know ... it’s because the last time I sang that song it was in a dusty classroom in a far-off little African town with people who have become my friends. And I miss them!

Peter writes:
What can I add when my wife has already said it all?
A few thoughts about the experience do occur to me.

The first is - given that we were only there for a month - how little we were able to contribute to the development of Rwanda. It is true that we probably improved our students’ English slightly and probably, with that, their appreciation of the mindset of somewhat elderly English folk! However that was as nothing compared with what I learned of my own faith, philosophy and personality from the act of giving rather than receiving.

Although I have visited several African countries, this was the first time that I actually spent my days in their homes and schools, living and working alongside their citizens and children, getting to know them. I cannot pretend that this makes me some sort of expert on the subject but what it did do was to give me a new viewpoint from which I could observe my native land and its history, economy and its people in a new light.

I came back to the UK via Heathrow to find myself in the middle of the nation where few people actually spoke to one another or looked one another in the eye, let alone smiled. Many of them looked very overweight and inactive, a sure sign of malnourishment if ever there was one! There was not a single child playing in the streets. Perhaps it was too cold for them although the sun was shining and I was wearing the same clothes as I had in Africa? I bought a newspaper to read on the journey home. Although this was one of the wealthiest and supposedly “advanced” countries in the world, almost every article seemed to be about poverty, inadequate housing, medical care, inadequate education or refugees. How much we could all learn in a few weeks in Bugarama!

It
It's hard to say Goodbye!
Eager Muko school children
Eager Muko school children


We have after many years of trying achieved one of our goals!


As stated in my July report, we are delighted to have now secured the services of three English teachers willing to join the team visiting Muko School in Bugarama in early November - they will be teaching the teachers of the School and surrounding area. Working with the help of the Headmistress and the Dean of Studies, they will be there, in the next instance, for up to four weeks.


Other members of the group will continue with the building maintenance program that has made a vast difference to this underprivileged school. Local labourers will continue with the building of the perimeter wall, which it is hoped will completed on this trip. The long-drop unhygienic toilets are still a huge problem for the children who at the moment only have a very limited number to share; fresh water storage too is a matter that will be addressed, in order to stop all the rainfall going to waste.


Each of these visiting volunteers will be self-funding - travel fares, accommodation and food expenses. But of course finance is still required to bring this school up to an acceptable level - both to pay the local labourers and for building materials.

On my return home just before Christmas I'll be reporting on our progress and look forward to adding lots of photos too!


If you have donated to this very worthy project I thank you. Please continue to help us support this school!

Many Thanks

Some of the kids from Muko School
Some of the kids from Muko School

Since this project began back in 2010, one of the main objectives of the charity is to have English teachers visit Muko School. We did manage to get two in 2011, and one this year in February. If all goes to plan, this coming November will be our most successful to date, as we are intending to take a team of five volunteers, four of whom are trained teachers including one with TEFL qualifications. These four will be working under the guidance of the school head teacher, and dean of studies; they will spend four weeks teaching the resident teachers of the school during their holiday period.


The fifth member of the group will once again (with the help of local labourers) continue with the maintenance program that is now firmly in place, the continuation of the perimeter wall having priority, Also the installation of the fresh water tanks that have previously been purchased with money donated to the charity. And there is still a lot of work to be done on the long-drop toilets. General painting, mending broken windows and doors will continue too.


All this and the general maintenance of this school in what still is a very under privileged area, still needs to be financed. Although the volunteers pay their own expenses, there is still the cost of the very enthusiastic local labour, and materials to be paid for.


If you have already donated to this project, I thank you! But more finance is always needed to allow us to continue to support this school... Please help us if you can!

Muko Classrooms needing work
Muko Classrooms needing work

In February 2015, I went to Bugarama in Southern Rwanda to teach English in St Paul Muko School. This was the first time I had taken part in such a project and I was accompanied by Dennis, who had been visiting Bugarama for several years. We flew from Heathrow to Kigali and after a long bus journey through some spectacular countryside we were greeted by Wellars and Georgine, the headmistress of the school.

On my first day in Bugarama, we were taken on a short tour of the school and we were introduced to some of the teachers. I then observed a couple of lessons and I noticed how well-behaved the students were and how motivated they seemed to be to learn English. It really struck me how difficult it must be for the pupils to concentrate in the heat and the class sizes were big. There were about 40 pupils in each class, although in each class there were 50 students on the register – it was usual for a few students to be absent each day. I got stuck straight in after that and ran the English club for that day. It was well-attended with around 60 students turning up! The students asked me lots of questions as they were eager to learn about me and where I came from.

Rwanda Ceri class 0215

I started teaching on Thursday and it was great to be in the classroom and the students were really excited to have a native speaker as an English teacher. The first lesson for each class was taken up with some introductory activities and ice-breakers. We also worked on the present simple tense. I tried to make the lessons as interactive as possible – this was quite a challenge given the large class sizes.

Saturday morning was given over to teaching the teachers. The session was really well attended with 20 teachers and it was a really productive morning. We worked on a few different areas such as extreme adjectives, narrative tenses, sport vocabulary, active and passive adjectives. I tried to make the lesson as communicative as possible and based speaking activities around the areas I have mentioned above which also allowed me to work on pronunciation. Possibly, the most challenging aspect of this session was that the teacher’s abilities varied greatly from having a post-beginner to an upper-intermediate level of English. We finished the lesson with a communicative “Who dunnit game”, which everyone enjoyed. On Sunday, we were kindly invited to attend a church service and introduced ourselves to the congregation. It was a great opportunity as it really helped us to feel part of the community.

Over the next couple of weeks I settled into a routine. My first lesson of the day usually started at 8.05am. I taught several different Senior 2 classes and we worked on grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and did lots of speaking activities. Although the students found it a little difficult to understand me to begin with, the use of pictures, graded language and gestures helped them to understand and by the time I left they had got used to my accent and I was able to talk at close to normal speed – this really helped them to improve their listening skills. I also started teaching some of the senior 3 classes later in the week and we focussed on their writing in these lessons. Overall, the children were a joy to teach and were excited at having a teacher from the UK. While I taught, Dennis took care of the painting with Moses and Carpophone.

Rwanda Ceri painting 0215

During the breaks, I spent some time with the primary school pupils who loved singing songs like “The wheels on the bus go round and round!” At the end of the school day, I spent some time teaching the teachers and I continued to run the English club which was always well attended.

All too quickly it was time to say good bye. After giving all of my students certificates, we were treated to a farewell ceremony.

Rwanda Ceri 0215

Teaching English in Muko School was an unforgettable experience and I’m hoping to visit again in November. Everyone was so kind and appreciative. Both teachers and students have a real desire to improve their level of English and I feel that it is important that the English teaching project continues. I think it’s a perfect opportunity not only for qualified teachers, but also for anyone who would like to spend some time talking to the teachers to improve their level of conversational English.

Ceri Thomas, TEFL teacher volunteer
Ceri Thomas, TEFL teacher volunteer

Dear friends,

I personally write to you to thank you for Muko and HATW partnership. I am one of Muko teachers and I have been observing your different aids to Muko since 2010.

“Little by little an egg will walk” Muko was unknown school in terms of performances but due to your support: teaching and learning materials you give our school, different trainings you give teachers from our sector, aids for nursery, renewing the classes, painting rooms, the wall you recently started…

In Rwanda before 1994, English was not taught at primary level and only a few secondary schools taught it. This was due to the fact that Rwanda became a French speaking country after the Belgian colonization.

After 1994, many Rwandans came from exile with English language background in the way the government of Rwanda realized that there was need to teach English in schools at all levels. The government further decided to consider English as one of the national languages and a medium of communication in line with globalization because English is widely spoken in the world.

However teaching and speaking English encounter some problems like lack of text books, teaching and learning materials and well trained teachers.

Ceri’s visit to Muko was needed to enhance our capacity to teach and speak more efficiently English language. We were first nervous to speak to Ceri but two days later every teacher was excited to be trained by him. He is a skilled teacher with methods that were encouraging us to participate actively. He developed our speaking, listening, writing and reading skills. I appreciate how he uses the learner-centered method. I would like to ask you to send him again in November to help us.

I would also like to invite HATW to look how you can connect our school to one of UK schools whereby our students can exchange ideas through letters and emails later.

Thank you!

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Organization Information

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.hatw.org.uk
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom