The Words of the Adshead Family

Report from Rwanda

Jeff Adshead
February 21, 2009
NGA (Next Generation Academy) Founder

"There's a noticeable difference between Burundi and Rwanda almost as soon as we crossed the border. The farming seemed more abundant, the economy more vibrant and there are a greater number of Mizungus (white people, pronounced: muh-zoon-goo – first word in Swahili that we learned as we hear it so often – especially from the kids)."

Kigali makes Bujumbura look like a small village but it still has an old-world feel as the streets wind around 3 major hills. We were brought first to the Youth Council, where our dear friend and driver Jean Bosco, from the Burundi Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture was friends with his counterpart here. We arranged to meet with the Minister of Youth, but it didn't work out as we weren't able to connect during our short stay.

We went to the New Hope School, a vocational school built by Women's Federation for World Peace in the 90's. They have a one-year program teaching a practical skill, such as tailoring, cooking or hairdressing and insert some moral education along with it. The Director, Annunciata is really passionate about giving opportunity to those who have none and to redirect the culture of Rwanda to a real culture of heart. There are many emotional, spiritual and physical wounds from the genocide of 1994 but it is clearing up and the different ethnic groups are determined to never go back to that tragic time.

We were asked to give a presentation about purity to the New Hope school students and, after some songs, an intro to Character Education by NGA director Jeff Adshead and a talk by Laura Hinkle on the status of purity in the US, Tesia Bobrycki gave a very entertaining and lively skit about protecting her purity using a flower and it's petals to represent purity. The auditorium of about 150 students and teachers were very uplifted and they decided to hang this flower in their classrooms as a reminder.

We stayed with the President of Women's Federation of Rwanda, Georgette Umubyeyi. She lost 11 members of her family in the genocide with only her and her brother left. It's hard to fathom what kind of spiritual burden that can have on someone. However, she sees that God spared her and is guiding her life.

Our guide is a deep-hearted man named Moses Rusa who has been doing public work since early 80's. He's a teacher and speaks English, Swahili, French and Kin'Rwanda. His wife is a faithful Catholic.

We met with the Itorero Organization which is run by the former Minister of Education. Itorero is the name of the traditional school system of old Rwanda before the European system came in. It uses traditional story, song, dance and art to teach about morals and values. So, they were very inspired by the link or commonality the CEI has with their philosophy or methodology. They are just launching in March, so they see our participation in their development as excellent timing. They will also connect us with the current Ministry of Education.

While at the airport in Dar Es Salaam a couple of weeks earlier, we met a young man from China named Yu Zhu. He works for a cell phone company and is based in Rwanda. He loves Kigali and told us to visit him when we get there. So, we called. He was really happy to see us and took us out for pizza! Mr Zhu is hilarious – he's been here a year, but hasn't learned any of the local language, hasn't been outside of Kigali and, when asked if he eats local food, he said: "Oh sure! Once." Or "are there many Chinese restaurants here in Kigali?" "Yes, lots. Well, three".

We had traditional clothes tailored for us as well. You pick out the fabric, then bring it to a tailor to custom fit a dress, or shirt, in my case. We went to a tailor who graduated from the New Hope School a few years ago.

On Saturday, we were asked to give a presentation to the local community. So in the morning we spoke for about four hours essentially just answering questions -- about NGA, about raising young Generation and guidance about marriage, in general. We also did a couple of activities with them to spice it up. In the afternoon, Laura and Tesia played games and activities with kids in the community. Many parents sat in and watched.

We caught a bus to Kampala early Sunday morning. It was cramped, bumpy and hot, but it was safe and the only real threat was the guy at the border trying to collect 50 cents 'cleaning fee' to use the very unclean toilet. I feel like Rwanda has a lot of potential. A lot of NGO's have invested in the country since 1994 and there is a real effort being made to give Rwanda a makeover – especially in the eyes of the international community.

Rev George (who is brother of Moses Rusa) is very happy to have NGA to come. He, along with Anunciata, Georgette, Marcel (who runs a newspaper and encouraged us to broadcast CEI on the radio), Moses and others, made our welcome very warm.

They are all eager to learn what we have to offer and to help us accomplish our goals.

God Bless! Jeff Adshead. Director, NGA

Burundi: 2nd Installment
February 10, 2009

Burundi was magical. We didn't want to leave – it was such a heart-warming experience. We really connected deeply to the 'Community of Burundi' School – a boarding school for Batwa students. The Batwa are a marginalized ethnic group that has all but been forgotten. We visited two of their villages – straw huts, dirt floor with a family of 6 living in a hut about 4 ft x 10 ft. I've never experienced such poverty in my life – and I've been in a lot of countries with poverty. The director of the school where we are staying is Everiste. He came from one of these Batwa villages and got a break as a teen to be able to attend a Catholic secondary school. He attended university and from there, petitioned the government to give land to his village so they could build more solid homes. It seems that Batwa villages are moved often as the government takes over the land so they are always having to move and build straw huts to live in.

Not stopping there, he connected with Honorable Liberate-a Batwa member of the Senate and AFP to establish a home for Batwa students and provide for them to go to school. The Community of Burundi was established last September and houses about 50 students, sponsored by individuals and churches in the US. Liberate also houses about 20 orphans and impoverished kids in her home from each of the three ethnic groups that make up Burundi ­ Hutu, Tutsi and Batwa. She is working to raise leaders who see each other as family no matter where they come from. These people are truly remarkable.

The Government of Burundi is very open and willing to help. Rev Mwololo has made good inroads with various officials. We gave about 4 presentations to different government officials. We had a meeting with Minister of Education ­ there are 3. We met the Minister of Higher Educ who takes care of universities and teachers college. Rev Mwololo didn't know him, but he was very receptive and after our presentation, he offered whatever help we need to get this curriculum into the schools. He said he would talk to the other Ministers (for Primary and Secondary education) to open the door for us to teach anywhere.

The Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports was particularly friendly. The Minister had just returned from the ILC in New York and agreed to see us the next day. As our team wants to start a sports festival, we wanted to introduce the idea to him. He, and a few other members of his ministry offered to help. Jean Bosco, the Speaker for the Ministry and Advisor to the Minister invited our team to stay in his house when they are there in March. He also drove us to Rwanda. Going through the border was a painless process as he shook hands with many officials and got us through very quickly. Bosco, pictured here on the left, exchanging money with some very sketchy money changers at the border.

But, back in Burundi, at the beach, we were tossing Laura's volleyball around and met 3 members of the Womens Burundi National Volleyball team. They challenged us to a match ­ we beat them the first game (which they said was their 'welcome gift' to us) then proceeded to cream us the next game. The third was pretty close though. It was a lot of fun and we became fast friends. We told them about the Sports Fest and they leaped at the idea of helping to organize it.

Interestingly, a couple of days later we randomly met the head coach of the team who is from Egypt. I greeted him with Salaam Alaikum and he also encouraged us to connect with him when we return. In fact, he said: 'let's play right now. What do you want to play? In my car I have volleyball, squash, football' … Haha. He was great!

Every Saturday, the whole country gets spends the morning doing some community service work, including the President. We couldn't find out until that morning where he was going to be so we drove around asking the massive amounts of armed soldiers at roadblocks "Ou es le President?" We finally found him upcountry in a tiny village down a very rough dirt road, but we were a few minutes too late. He waved at us as he drove by ­ the lone Mizungus (white people) in a crowd of thousands of Africans standing in the Burundi countryside. We then got a flat tire in the middle of the countryside ­ within minutes, there was a crowd of people ready to help ­ and then headed off to visit the Batwa village described earlier. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the video camera and Laura's camera battery died, so we have no tangible record of any of this.

On our last night in Bujumbura, we sang songs with the Batwa kids, taught them "Blessed Be Your Name" and gave them all bracelets. It was a fond farewell. They're really precious kids. I wish we could do more for them. 

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