Saturday, August 30, 2008

YETAM Day 10: my last day in Kiramuruzi

The groups all worked again today finishing things up. The IT person from the Program Unit office is still here trying to resolve the issues with the computers. He fixed the USB port on the one and is going to purchase a CD player for each computer so that the software can be installed.

The Program Support manager visited today with the advocacy coordinator from Plan Canada. It’s very clear that there will be good follow up from the Rwanda office on everything coming out of the project. The Program manager was quite keen on the ideas that the kids and partners have come up with and commited to building Plan’s interventions around the topics/issues coming out from the kids’ work.

We worked until 3 and then I said goodbye to the kids. They gave me some really sweet drawings and letters to take home with me. Chrystel and I stayed at the hotel until around 6:30 and then we drove back to Kigali where I checked back into the Ninzi Hill Hotel and took my first hot shower with running water in the past 2 weeks - that sure felt good!

I got online to check in on my other life, and almost immediately Julie Skyped in and said that she was having trouble getting passports and visas sorted out for Noe (her small son who was supposed to come with her for the last week of training). It sounded like a big hassle for her to try to sort it out, so we agreed that she would not come. I felt that the team was really on track anyway, and didn't require us anymore. I think the important thing is the first week or 2 and by then things just roll along. Julie said the same thing happened with the Senegal training, so we agreed she'd cancel her trip. Though she was disappointed, I think it will be OK.

Around 10:30 Jacques and Olivier came to pick me up to go hear some live reggae at the KBC (Kigali Business Club). Really nice place and good music. We stayed pretty late and then walked back to the hotel and I crashed. Photo: Kigali by night.

Olivier, Joseph and Tony came in the morning to say goodbye. Chrystel took me to the airport around 2:30, (stopping on the way to pick up some Waragi to take home as a souvenir)!

My flights home were uneventful. I think I slept for about 16 hours! Picked up some coffee in Ethiopia airport and made it home to my house around noon on Sunday. I'm still exhausted, and with such lovely memories of the trip. One of my favorites of all time....

And now back to the grind!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

YETAM Day 9: reaching the end of my time.... :-(

The groups continued working today on their different ‘products’. Chaka’s group will be ready with the community map by Wednesday. I spent a little time going over the maps that other groups had done in the smaller group so that the kids could see more how the computer works and what the virtual visit set up is and how the map will play into it. They are doing something more symbolic with the map that looks really interesting. They will make representations of the 3 kinds of lifestyle found in the district – the most ‘pure’, the medium developed, and the city type life. These will be combined into one map and they’ll also add drawings of the different things they saw out when they were surveying to prepare to draw the map. Originally we had worried about letting the kids join other groups but now it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. Each group has solidified and they all feel proud to be in the group they are in. Photo: the rainstorm flooded my hotel room!

The theater group practiced with a dress rehearsal and we planned to film it but there was a huge rainstorm in the afternoon and we couldn’t go out to film. The video guys continued editing and filming, but we are still having some computer issues and the kids were not able to learn much editing today.
Tomorrow we will go over the ‘list’ of things that we need to accomplish by the end of the training to see where we are and so that next week Julie can ensure that we produce everything. This includes:

1 community map
15 community videos
5 drama videos
30 drawings/paintings
3 sets of 12 photos each by theme
3-5 music recordings/music videos of the kids singing
1 ‘making of’ video
25 ‘making of’ photos
5 testimonials for Nokia (30 seconds each)
1 follow up plan which can then be turned into a project to be funded by the website donations (i.e., the training center?)
Media coverage (local media when we have the parents/community presentation, and national media coverage plan via television, print and film festivals, etc.)
Face photos/names/ages of all participants and partners/facilitators

Tomorrow is my last day here…. Photo with Chrystel, the Rwanda project coordinator.
We set up the sound system in the hotel courtyard and had a big farewell party in the evening. Photo: Bernard and Chaka setting up the music for the evening.
People went around and said good things to each other about how great it was to work together, etc. It was a really nice time. I'm really sad to leave! Photo: Joseph, my faithful friend and translator, and Patrick saying lovely things about me....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

YETAM Day 8: visit from the Country Director

We arrived a bit late this morning. We brought over the desktops and set them up in the training center so that they could start editing today. The Country Director (CD) arrived around 10 and visited each one of the groups and talked to each of the partners. He seems quite happy with the project and open to the necessary follow up with the kids and through the partners. I was really happy about that. We relaxed most of the rest of the morning and after lunch I worked on some reporting. The arts group went back out to do some more community surveying. Photo: Mamadou Kante, the Plan Rwanda Country Director.

The main issue today is that the electricity was coming on and off which made it hard to work. The country office will send us a UPS that we'd accidentally left there for each computer for tomorrow morning. Photo: Saide, Jacques, Lauben and Bernard.

The monitoring and evaluation coordinator visited along with the CD and had a chance to talk with the different partners about sustainability of the project and follow up. Some good ideas came out such as how to respond to the kids requests for forming an association and how to offer them other kinds of training or good follow up and more depth on the skills they are learning in this workshop. One idea that is coming up from different sides is that it could be possible to open some kind of training center in the area, managed by partner organizations, to house the equipment and conduct further training in the 3 areas plus areas that the youth identify during follow up planning. Photo: the theater group getting ready show their work to the CD.

It was quite a good day and I feel like the follow up with all the partners will really happen.

At the debrief, people were happy with the results of the day. Amina said that the theater group had stepped it up somehow and all the issues with the play were resolved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

YETAM Day 7: rice, fishing and B-ing Kool

Today we had transportation so I went with the 2 video groups to film in the community. Olivier and Bernard went with one group to film one topic the kids had that was ‘we are developing and progressing, so they filmed different things that they see as progress. I went with Jacques and his group, along with Joseph for translation. We drove quite a long way with 21 people in the minivan. Bernard showed me the half-hour t.v. show that he does every Friday called “B-Kool” which covers fashion, music videos, and what’s cool. He showed me also some of the latest videos he’s made, one included Chaka as an angry father who beats up a guy for going out with his daughter. Photo: the video group for today.

Our group got out first and we filmed the dam which irrigates the rice paddies, and then Joseph and I stayed near the dam caretaker’s house while the others went off to film a couple other stories, like rice growing and fishing. We ended up waiting for over 2 hours for them to come back. But mainly Jacques figured that if I went, we’d get the crowd following me shouting muzungo again. I think this time it wouldn’t have happened and I would have liked to have gone, but it was also nice to stay up and sit outside for a few hours enjoying the fields, weather and sunshine. Around 12 the caretaker came out with a bowl of amazing food – cooked green bananas, beans, carrots, a small squash type vegetable all in a mild chili sauce. So delicious. Joseph and I shared it with the 2 girls who had stayed back with us. Photo: filming a rice grower in the storage shed.

Finally the group came back and reported on what they’d been filming, and that they had lots of great footage, with just one problem – that they’d dropped the camera in the water…. But Jacques figured it would be OK (and it was). We sat for another hour or so waiting for the car to pick us up and I learned a whole bunch of phrases in Kinyarwandan which was cool. Photo: fisherboy.

In the afternoon we mainly sat around while the groups worked. I met with Patrick from PAJER to learn more about what they are doing, and to talk about some things we could work on together and possibilities I had thought of for places/people I could connect him with, including possible ideas for collaboration with Plan. We broke at 4, took naps and met again from 7-9.30 to plan for tomorrow.

We are still adapting the schedules for the different groups. Amina still felt her group wasn't progressing as she had imagined, so different people were giving her advice. We reminded her that the goal is not having perfect theater students, but using theater to support expression, and that if there was something that the students were able to do that she should focus on building that up, not on making a long play.

Chaka explained how he’s making the map. It will be stylized showing the 3 different zones of Kiziguro – the very rural/not developed areas, the semi-developed areas and the town area. They are also working on drawing pictures of the things they have seen when they are out surveying for the map.

Tomorrow the country director is coming to visit around 11. We decided to have the video group focus on some photographing around the training center, the arts and theater groups would continue working. In the afternoon we’d have a debrief of all groups and the kids would move into new groups for Thursday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

YETAM Day 6: out to the communities

We decided yesterday to only take what we need to the training center instead of lugging tons of stuff over there every morning. The kids were in groups again today, and in the morning they worked out a plan for what they were going to film and then around 11.30 we started out. I went with Jacques and about 7 kids. We ended up walking to Lake Muhazi (where we'd spent the weekend) but reaching it from a different side, which took about an hour, and taking pictures along the way. The walk was along a very clean and well kept up dirt road with squarish adobe houses along the way. It was a bit uncomfortable in a few places as we gathered quite the posse of kids following us saying muzungo (white person) the whole way. It was pretty alright until we got to the primary school, which unfortunately was on break time, so then they followed us (well, me) for a couple miles saying muzungo, muzungo. A couple adults came out and took a picture of me which felt strange but I readily accept – it's a 2-way street. Photo: kids in the trees next to Lake Muhazi, taken by the video trainees.

At the lake the kids did an interview of one of the girls in the training explaining how they use the water from the lake for everything. You see lots of guys on bicycles with yellow jerry cans everywhere bringing water for cooking and washing. And you understand why not much washing is really done since the water is so scarce and from so far away.

After the interview, we sat awhile waiting for someone to come to collect water so we could film it. It took awhile because it started raining (pretty gently) and I guess it wasn't really water gathering time. Some cows came along so they interviewed the herders. Then a boat came across the water from the other side so they filmed that and interviewed the water taxi people, and people riding on the boat. Then finally some of the school kids who´d been trailing me came back with their jerry cans and went swimming and got some water, so the kids filmed that and we started the walk back. Photo: kids collecting water. Taken by the video trainees.

We came upon a wedding so we stopped and took some pictures and film of that too. Then Jacques said we should catch bikes back to the training center so we wouldn’t have to walk – it was already 2.00 and we’d missed 1.00 lunch. It took awhile to find 10 bike driver guys, and they all wanted to carry the muzungo. We finally had all 10, but then they upped the price, so Jacques decided we’d walk. And so we started walking. After about 10 minutes of the guys on the bikes following us as we walked they agreed to down the price to 200 Rwandan francs (like 50 cents in US dollars) each. They still all wanted to carry the muzungo, and finally Jacques told them ‘great, you can carry her, but she’s not paying’. He told me not to go with this one guy who’d been a bit obnoxious and found another one for me to go with. And we started out, 10 people on the back seat of 10 bikes with our drivers carrying us along the red dirt road, over potholes and up and down hills. We rode for something like 30 minutes before getting back to the training center. Along the way all I could hear was people shouting out muzungo this and muzungo that to the guy taking me. I could only imagine what they were saying. It was nice though despite being a main attraction. The breeze, the quiet little town with plantains and mango trees on all sides. I like this place. Photo: me on a bike!

We got back and they still had some lunch for us – yay! The 2nd film group got back about 10 minutes after we did, and the first thing Olivier said was that if I’d seen where they went today, I’d ask him to take me on a picnic there. They went to see the palace of the traditional king from the area. They got a tour of the place and interviewed him, etc. I can’t wait to see the footage. He and Bernard were quite impressed. They got about 4 stories out of it they said. So together with the water story, potential wedding (if they got good footage), their 4 stories, and the films (to be taken later) of Amina’s theater group, we’re well on our way. We’ll film again tomorrow morning and then start editing in the afternoon I think.

We went straight back to the hotel at 4 as everyone was tired. We met at 7 to debrief and plan for tomorrow. Some of the issues that came up were related to logistics – we walked for an hour to get to the place to take the video, and hopefully tomorrow there will be transportation…. The drama group isn’t progressing as quickly as Amina would hope because some of them have poor reading skills and they can’t remember lines. We are starting to pull together the report of what we’ve done up to now, and what we’re planning to do for the rest of the time to ensure that we meet all the goals.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Muhazi Weekend

We attempted breakfast at the hotel but it was more eggs which Chrystel couldn’t really deal with, so we got ready and walked over to the restaurant that we’d been at last night and sat out on a table on the dock over the water for most of the day, having a big lunch and listening to music and just relaxing. We went for a boat ride on the lake as well before going back to the hotel for a nap and then going back out to the restaurant again. Photo: Lake Muhazi.

Olivier came back from Kigali, and now we also had Brian, Chrystel’s friend from Uganda, with us. We danced all night to Conogolese, Ugandan, and Rwandan music, taking pictures. The next morning there was no water and we were all very tired. We went over to the restaurant for a long lunch and then back to the Kirimuruzi hotel for a 2.00 meeting to get ready for the week ahead. Photo: dinner!

The main thing for this week is getting the 3 areas (arts, media and video) to come up with a full schedule to meet the ‘production’ goals for the website. We also had some logistics to deal with, like getting transportation for the crews that were going to be making the map of the area (the arts group) and the ones who would be going out to shoot video. That plus the bathroom situation at the training center is abominable. We are supposed to be getting someone to clean a few times a week.

Chrystel went back to Kigali to take care of some more logistics and the rest of us went to bed around 10. The electricity in my room is out so it’s candles now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

YETAM Day 5: Smooth sailing

I’m alternating hair washing days since the cold water is a little harsh in the mornings. It’s been interesting getting ready every morning with just a tiny compact size mirror. Wonder how I’m actually looking as I haven’t been able to see my entire face for the past week! Photo: my mirror and essential bottled water for teeth brushing.

Training was easy for me today as the kids were all in their groups and I could just float around to see what each group was doing. In fact I took a couple of hours as a break before lunch because I felt like I was kind of in the way. The kids stayed until 4, working on the script for the play, learning more about video shooting, angles, etc, and doing some prep work on map drawing. Photo: Bernard training the kids on angles and framing.

We loaded up all the equipment and took it back to the Hotel and then we packed up and were on our way to Muhazi, the very beautiful lake on the borders of which President Kagame has his ranch. The rooms were really quaint, and we had 2 lodges. Around 8 we walked down the pitch dark road to a restaurant on the edge of the lake. Photo: Amina and I at Jambo Beach, Muhazi Lake Restaurant.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

YETAM Day 4: Easing into the group work, discovering themes

We got started reviewing the agenda for the day. The technical teams had met and decided how they wanted to do the next few days. They decided that they’d work in the specialty areas for 2 days and meet again on Monday afternoon with all the kids (all 3 groups) to share what we’d all done. Photo: Monday, age 5, one of the stragglers who wandered into the training the first day and stayed on the fringes painting while the rest of the kids worked in their groups.

If the youth performed well in their groups, they would be able to join other groups later in the week. This was to resolve the fact that not all were totally happy with their assigned groups. Edson, the Plan community liaison was here today, so we asked him to give some deeper explanations on how Plan works.

He did an excellent job of explaining how Plan works, saying that Plan supports the community’s initiatives and so it wasn’t just like that, training and we'd leave. The youth said they want to start an association, so he explained that they should get organized and start the association, get the association registered. Plan can meet with them and help them do this, and then they should meet with the local authorities to see if they can get on the register of youth associations because maybe there is some support from there. Once seeing what the local government can do, they can once again sit with Plan to analyze that the gaps are between what the youth can do and what the municipality can do, and then Plan can see what it can do to support them. We encouraged them to work together and come up with ideas so that we can have a feedback session later in the week to discuss the follow up. He assured them that Plan would be around to work with them and support them.

After that the kids separated into their groups and began their specialized work. The kids in the art group perked up as Chaka began teaching them how to make cutouts for painting on the sides of buildings or silk screening. They immediately saw that as a potential way for making some money, starting a business. They made taxi signs and painted them. In the afternoon they started doing some drawings and using water colors.

The video group started sharing some more ideas on what they would film. They went over the 7 questions of an interview, story development, the need to research your topic and think of concrete shots to prove your point, getting relevant and concise information about the person you are interviewing, how to film and interview and the background shots, different shots/angles (close up, long shot, etc), scripting and storylines, and members of a video team.

Some of the stories they want to film are:

--Education: with the point of letting kids go to school

--Modern agriculture: trying to develop ourselves/the community more in the area of agriculture

--The development/progress we have achieved: show the aerial antennae, we have electricity, small hospital

--YETAM workshop: its purpose is to hear children’s voices and Plan is sponsoring it

--Impact of genocide: fighting against genocide mentality, after effects of AIDS

--Environmental protection: soil erosion

--Lives of children who are not attending school

The theater group started getting deeper into pantomime, sketches, etc. They are working on a skit about a girl whose parents are not supporting her to go to school. Her mother is somewhat weak and the father is drunk all the time. They seem to know this story quite well.

Kids seem happy today with how things are going since it’s a bit of a break from sitting inside, they are in smaller groups and they are more active, with some groups working outside. At 4 when they were supposed to leave, they didn’t want to go home. We still have the situation with the non-participating kids coming and peering in the windows, sitting in the back of the room, etc. and we just don't have enough food to feed them all, but it feels really uncomfortable to be sitting inside eating a plate of food while 15-20 kids are looking in at you.

As I was writing this, a group of kids came to watch me as I don’t think they had seen a computer before and they were really fascinated with what was going on and why as I typed, the paper kept rolling up off the page at the top of the screen, and where was it going and what I was doing. Why was I just writing and erasing words?

We left the training center around 4.15 and took some of the jump ropes back to the hostel with us. I think we all needed some exercise. So we spent an hour or so playing jump rope games, running around, having push up contests, long jumping, and sprinting and just generally playing around which was exactly what people needed. We gave Chrystel a general update since she'd been gone to Kigali to sort some more logistics for the project.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

YETAM Day 3: Forming Working Groups

We started off like we do every morning, with about 30 minutes of games and singing. The kids are used to leading songs because many of them belong to churches where they sing a lot. Then we reviewed the drawings kids did at home as homework from Chaka. We pulled out all the topics that they had drawn as potential areas to go deeper in over the next couple of weeks. Amina did a drama activity with them where they did a silent act about one of the stories or issues that had come up in the morning. Photo: kids starting off the day with songs.

Then we broke them into groups as we’d said. There were 22 for video, 10 for theater and only 2 for art. So we decided each technical area would look at the different kids who wanted to be in art vs. video and make a decision about where they would be best placed. Everyone will still get a 1st or 2nd choice. Chaka ran them through some more art activities before lunch. There was a lot of music and dancing today as the training center became “Radio Gatsibo” with Bernard as a DJ and Chaka as the MC, playing lots of music between and during activities. This made the workshop atmosphere much more relaxed and fun.

During lunch we watched several of the professional music videos that Bernard had made, and they were really impressive! He has his own production company, and he can’t be more than 24. I told him and the other video guys about AURA (Artists Unies pour le Rap Africaine) which is supported by Plan in W. Africa to see how they work and potentially collaborate. They said that they work on both music and video productions and are trying to start a network of film makers, music people in the region, especially the Great Lakes region since they are all involved in the same conflicts and there is a lot of migration to and from these countries.

After lunch the main activity was the youth debate. The kids decided the topic: should there be a law requiring birth control. Olivier had taken some 5 kids out to make a first practice video. They called me out during the debate to interview me. It was a little difficult because they basically wanted to know if Plan would be doing any other training for them that was more relevant to them so that they could make money. So that was a little hard to answer since it will be up to Plan Rwanda to do something with the information that they gather from this training. So I couldn’t give the kids a straight answer…except that what Plan wanted was to know more about the needs/issues of children so that they could help…. And hopefully that will happen, but the nature of the current project is more of discovery, not resolution... yet.

Our debrief included:

--Just asking the kids what they think is the simplest way to figure things out.

--The team work is really to be appreciated as we are being very supportive of each other.

--At the break the number of kids who are not participating but who wander in and out is increasing. There is not enough food feed them all, and some become rude and disruptive during the training time so we have had to send them away. There needs to be some kind of stronger policy on how this will be managed.

--We need to revisit the groups tomorrow to be sure everyone is OK with the group they are in. One solution is to revise the next week and find a way for them to participate in different groups during the week so that they would not be unhappy but would still have enough time to do something of quality with enough depth in their original group.

--After the workshop I caught up on some emails with Jacques’ wireless network card. I need to get one of those! Not much except that we have all our funding for the Social Media workshop and people are beginning to discuss more on how to put the agenda together.

--Regarding the YETAM website, we are still waiting for input on selecting the partner/company to build the website. I hope we get on this quickly so that the actual web site building can begin. It’s been complicated trying to ensure that it meets all the goals and integrates with all the other sites we want to have a seamless link with…. Julie’s working on moving that forward these couple of weeks that I’m out.

Before dinner Olivier and Bernard set up a little cinema area in the place at the hotel where we normally eat and were watching a movie about Bob Marley. Then we watched a film that Olivier made about Rastafarians in Rwanda. The technical teams met and will brief us at breakfast on the forthcoming agenda.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

YETAM Day 2: Training Rwanda

We were better with breakfast timing today but still a bit behind. The training was composed of the following:

Review of yesterday with a renewed focus on the project objectives, and with more clarity among partners that we are not looking for kids to name a list of problems, but to look at their community from many angles and express about it. The kids worked in small groups to tell what they understood from the day before. They really got the idea and we felt certain about moving forward. Photo: Kids doing a theater exercise with Amina.

We went into the adults mock debate which was also good. The kids were interested in the topic and they had a lot to say about it also when asked to comment on which side they agreed with. After the debate we had an introduction to arts techniques lecture, and then the video guys introduced the kids to the camera and allowed them to break into small groups to start practicing very initially with it. Then there was a drama activity where they made picture poses about something in the community. After lunch we had the rest of the art lesson, and showed them some more films as well as some of the maps done by children in Togo, DR, El Salvador, Uganda and some of the art and videos done by youth in other projects. Photo: Bernard filming the activities.

Things went smoother today with the logistics in and outside of the training but not 100%. I think by tomorrow the routine will be more clear for everyone and will begin to run better. Photo: Kids making a "photo" that represents something that happens in the community.

After the workshop, the partners met to go over the day. We all agreed it had gone well for the most part, that people were clearer about the objectives and the team was gelling better.

--Still need to improve time keeping – people need to be sure they have enough time to do the activity they want to do and others shouldn’t have to tell them their session is over.

--The art session was too much like a lesson: need less teaching and more doing to keep the kids engaged.

--We need to be sure to end on time and not give the kids home work because they already have house work to do

--We agreed that they seem ready to specialize into smaller groups now. This way we said they could have more focus and more relaxing time during the workshops so they don't get tired.

On the walk back to the hotel Patrick from PAJER was telling me about an idea as follow up to create a kind of training center where these kids could come to form their association and also to continue training in arts and media so that the empowerment would also be economic.

At dinner we had another very long debate about how to divide the children in groups. There were lots of different ideas. In the end we decided that we would ask them to write down on a piece of paper their 1st and 2nd choices, and explain that they would focus on that area for the next 2 weeks. That we would do our best to put them in the group they want but couldn’t guarantee it due to numbers and available equipment.

Patrick led people through the agenda for tomorrow to ensure everyone was clear about their role and the time they needed.

We ended dinner around 10 and I went to bed but couldn’t sleep well with so many thoughts in my mind about the project and the next few weeks, as well as what will happen after the 3 week training finishes to ensure that the training/the YETAM project is the beginning of something, not the end.

Monday, August 18, 2008

YETAM Day 1: Getting Started with training

The night was a bit restless given that they were listening to evangelical Christian television in Kinyarwandan all night at top volume in the main room of the hotel, which carries through the courtyard right into the room. Up at 5.30 to shower – cold water, but washed my hair anyway. The air is quite cold at that time of the morning, so it’s not so much refreshing as it is just plain cold. But it’s easy to fall back into that routine, seriously like being back in El Salvador. No one else was up for our proposed 6.15 meeting, so I kind of wandered around in and out of my room to see what was going to happen. Breakfast was extremely late – guess they were somehow unprepared to feed all of us. We finally started eating around 7.45 – tea and egg bread (yum) and were late getting to the training center, which is a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Photo: first breakfast in Kiramuruzi hotel. Baptiste (translator), Musafiri (PAJER), Amina (Never Again), Jacques (Maison de Jeunes) and Chaka (artist).

The kids were there when we arrived, and we got started after finding everything we needed. We mainly did an introduction and helped create a good environment for participation, and to help the kids feel comfortable and have clear idea of what would happen in the next 3 weeks – introductions, name games, objectives for the project and the 3 weeks, short introduction of the partners and their specialties (video, art, theatre), and we made our constitution of how we would act, rules to follow for the week. Everything was facilitated by the different partners, with Crystel and Isaac and me supporting them, and Joseph and Baptiste translating for me. PAJER is the main facililitator, and the other 3 partners focus on their technical areas.

The kids are all between ages 12 and 18 and they are all out-of-school youth due to economic and other issues. They had a lot of questions about what they would learn, would it help them to earn a living, and where would the materials and equipment be kept in the end.

The first day went pretty well. We met to debrief and made suggestions to improve tomorrow:

--be more on time (i.e. make sure the hotel gets breakfast to us on time!).

--We noted that the children are very free and open and not afraid to participate. Many of them took the microphone and led singing and dynamics with the whole group and in general they are not shy about speaking in public and saying their opinions. That means that we are ahead of the game.

--There were lots of 'street kids' coming in – should we let them participate or not? We agreed that if they were few it would be OK to incorporate them, but they needed to get permission and we need to know that they will participate the whole 3 weeks.

--Be sure to review our sessions ahead of time to avoid interrupting them to get materials, etc.

--Do more integration activities tomorrow to integrate boys/girls and kids from different sectors/communities.
--Reminder to not become ‘problem centered’ - to start from resource and strengths standpoint.
At dinner debated for about 2 hours on what should be the topic for the youth debate…. We decided it would be “Parents should talk to their children about sex.” We then mixed into groups to take sides so that we could do a mock debate tomorrow to show the kids what a debate looks like.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arrival to Gatsibo

I checked out of the Ninzi Hill hotel around 9 and we spent the day at the office finishing up the first few days of the agenda, checking over equipment, installing software, etc. We left for Gatsibo around 3.30, stopping on the way to get some lunch.... talk about starch!! I guess that's what I'll be in for for the next few weeks: plantains, manioc, pasta, potatoes, rice were the main course. I added some peas for variety and so my plate wouldn't be all white food! Photo: road to Kiramuruzi, near President Kagame's residence.

The drive was beautiful – reminded me of the hilly areas of El Salvador or Honduras – really green (even though it’s the dry season) with red dirt. We went past Lake Muhazi, and the president of Rwanda’s private residence where he keeps cattle and spends most of his time apparently. We'll be staying there on the weekend as a little break since the hotel is nicer and the lake is beautiful.

The ‘not nice’ hotel is in Kiramuruzi, and it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. It is a pretty typical rural type hotel. I have a small room with a private bathroom off a large courtyard (most of the others have to share the bathrooms...). There are probably 15 rooms, so it’s quite small. There’s a mosquito net, small table, and then in the bathroom there’s a shower floor (no running water) and a toilet (no running water), and a yellow 5-gallon oil container type thing with water in it for bathing and flushing. So not much different than El Salvador except that the water is in the yellow container and not the stone sink. Photo: sunset over the roof of our hotel in Kiramuruzi.

I settled in and Joseph came out with some playing cards, so we spent the evening playing cards with him, 2 of the video guys (Olivier and Bernard) and Amina until we went to bed around 10. I taught them my family's favorite game: oh hell, which is now "american cards".

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Genocide Memorial

Had a nice evening out on the town with Chrystel, her friend Denise, her boyfriend 'Boo Boo' and his friend 'Giga'. We mainly just had a nice dinner and drinks, but got home pretty late.

Joseph and Tony came to get me at 9 to see down town Kigali and then go to the Genocide Memorial. Kigali is so clean, I think that's what is nice, you hardly see any trash anywhere like you do in a lot of other places. They also have this ban on plastic bags which is really cool and I'm sure that helps a lot.

The memorial was really sad. It really made me think a lot, as I have been since getting here and as I used to a lot in El Salvador about human nature and how those things can actually happen. How far people can go and what people, myself included, would potentially be capable of in certain circumstances, both in terms of perpetrating and in terms of surviving something like that. I hope I never find out.

The other thing that was so clear looking at the other exhibits there about other genocides was how much complicity other countries have in all these horrible wars and genocides. How ignorant colonizers were, how arrogant. I know this already but it really hits home when you see Cambodia, Nigeria and Rwanda in the same memorial.

Tomorrow we go to the office early to get ready, partners come at 10 to finish the schedule, and we are off to Gatsibo District at 2. We'll arrive around 4 to settle into the 'not nice' hotel and get ready for tomorrow. I'm excited -- and need to get packing!

Friday, August 15, 2008

YETAM: 2nd Day of Rwanda Training

Today's a holiday in Rwanda so I slept in late and have some time to catch up on other work. Slept well last night but encountered my first nighly mosquito.... annoying how they buzz in your ear. And I stopped taking the malaria pills.... but I figure one mosquito won't hurt. I'll see what Gatsibo is like though....

Last night we stopped by the bank to cash the check to cover our expense for the next 3 weeks and waited in line, I kid you not, for 2 whole hours. There must have been 100 people in line ahead of us, the place was wall to wall. I realized how nice debit cards and ATMs are.... we take them for granted, but imagine if you had to manage your life in cash, pay all bills in cash, and wait in line for an hour or so every time to do it. Wow. I feel so lucky with my online banking.

We're going to hit the town tonight (I finally changed some money too!) and then tomorrow Joseph, his girlfriend and other friend Tony are going to take me around Kigali. We'll see the downtown and also visit the Genocide Memorial. I wonder how that will feel. The Kigali that I'm seeing is so calm and orderly, so nice, that I can't imagine that less than 15 years ago there was bloody mass genocide happening right here. It think the memorial will be pretty overpowering.

Well, related to work, I got some great great news from different colleagues today -- our Netherlands office is interested in funding the Social Change through Social Media workshop in Kenya in December; the German office wants to put the virtual visits on their website and may have possibilities of funding future work in that area; and the Japanese office is making a Japanese virtual visit this month and will post all our other VVs plus the Japanese one on their website. Very exciting!

At 2 I have to be on a conference call related to Plan's participation in the 3rd World Congress on Child Sexual Exploitation. Hoping my phone works well enough to make the connection. I'm participating on the Child and Adolescent Participation Commission (CAPC) with people from UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children in different countries. There is a lot of stuff to work out still regarding children's participation in the conference and very little time since it's happening at the end of November.... Within Plan there is a broad task force from all the different regions who are feeding into the process in different countries and regions, and the linking in to Plan's global process via the lead coordinator for it in our Swedish office. Then I'm trying to be the link between the CAPC and the Plan task force. It's a bit confusing at times with so much information and so many things happening at once and such a short time frame.

The workshop with the partners yesterday went really well, but we still have a lot to do. It was supposed to be 3 days but due to the holiday was only 2, so there's a missing 8 hours in there. We got to the point of mapping out who's doing what, but only very generally. There were different ideas of what to do about that, but most people feel that it's really important to have a precise schedule for at least the first week. Chrystel is busy today and tomorrow getting all the last supplies to take with us (stationery, first aid kit, computers, art supplies, etc.) so we agreed that I would take the draft agenda and try to put in into a grid with times/responsible people to share back with the partners. They all agreed to come in at 10 on Sunday, before we take off to Gatsibo, to finalize it. We also have to check through the equipment, make sure batteries are charged, see if anything is missing that we need, and make sure the computer software is all loaded and running.

On the home front.... Clare has decided to get her hair cut and she might do it while I'm gone (Gasp!!!). She's donating it to locks of love to make wigs for cancer survivors. I hope she at least sends me a picture of the new style so I'll know what to expect. She's developing her sense of style and stuff since she's almost 12.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

YETAM partner training, Rwanda

I couldn't sleep last night because of jetlag so was really tired today. But the workshop that we did and the partners were so so so good that it kept me energetic.

We started at 9 and went until 4.30. We had several people including Bernard, Jacques and Olivier - young guys who work with video through Maison de Jeunes; Musafiri and Patrick from PAJER which is a youth parliament organization; Nandita and Amina from Never Again which is a theater group; Chaka a painter; Genevieve and Edison from the Plan program unit office, Joseph and Jean Baptiste from the University of Rwanda as translators, and Isaac, Chrystel and me.

There was tons of discussion about the project, ways of working with youth, facilitating vs. 'training', etc. It was really clear that we are all on the same page in terms of how to work with youth and what the project can blossom into. I'm so excited. Already the partners kept saying how we think this but we should see what the youth themselves want/think. They are talking about how to keep the project alive and sustain it and support it if the youth decide to create a youth association in the district.

They are really happy that Plan is not a 'city' organization, and that we are going to the community to work there not bringing kids into the city. They were really complimentary about the project design and the fact that Plan/Nokia have general goals but are not obligating and pressuring the community to implement in a certain way -- that the partners and communities are able to find the best way for the project to work in their realities. Although when we talked about our 'hopes and fears' almost everyone had some concerns about being away from family, work, school and friends for 3 whole weeks, they were all extremely committed to follow up with the youth and to be really present during the 3 weeks training.

Now with a common vision, tomorrow we will work on who does what, when and how for the 3 weeks. We'll focus on more solid plans (though we will be flexible as the workshop goes on) for the first week and debrief each evening, and then after the first week we will re-group to take another look at the plans for the 2nd week, and the same thing for the 3rd week.
So tomorrow we'll put up flip charts on the wall, one for each week, and the partners will come with ideas for activities. We'll fill things in and make sense of it all. Well, that's the plan, at least.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

YETAM: First day of work, Rwanda

Ah, nothing like coming home from a long day of work and having a cold beer while updating your blog!

I got into Rwanda completely on schedule with no hitches. All my luggage arrived, no issues with customs, and no late flights. Something to celebrate for sure. But I had a
little bit of a cold and was feeling a bit narcoleptic the whole trip – kept randomly dozing off.... In the cab on the way to the airport, waiting for my plane, in the plane during the day, all night, etc. And when I finally got to Rwanda (after DC, Rome, Addis Ababa stops) I was STILL exhausted. So I had a nap, some dinner, checked emails, washed out some clothes in the sink (with all the equipment in my luggage, I didn’t have much room for clothing!) and went to bed.

Woke up at 5 with only one mosquito bite, and opened the curtains to the dawn, nice and cool, Rwanda style. The weather here couldn’t be more perfect. You’re fine in
jeans or shorts, sleeves or none. Nice breeze. Small hills/mountains all around.

I have decided to nix the malaria pills because they make me nauseous. I’ll see if I need them when I get to Gatsibo, but for now it’s not worth feeling sick all evening.

Hotel Ninzi is small with excellent breakfasts (whole grain bread, fruit, cheese, strong coffee, meat for the carnivores) and big rooms. One of the guys who had been eating at a nearby table last night invited me to sit at his table. I did, and it was fine until he asked if I was married (I lied), said his dream was to marry an American woman, and kept pressing me to tell him my room number. So I clammed up at that. He said I must be new to Rwanda because I was ‘scared’. OK, whatever. I’m not giving you my room number.

At the Plan Rwanda office I met the whole team, very young and dynamic, and handed over the equipment. Then we went over the list of partners we’d be working with – a youth organization, an audio-visual organization, an artist and a theatre group. All sound amazingly right for the project so it’s looking really good.

We went over the vision for the 3 week training, and then had lunch at Chez Robert (excellent salads and vegetarian entrees, as well as a huge selection of other stuff at the lunch buffet). I am pretty amazed at how charming and lovely Kigali is. I’m
probably only seeing one part, but so far it seems like paradise given the weather, the real food for lunch, the strong coffee, good beer, and wireless internet at my hotel….

Speaking of lodging, one thing we had to decide on was lodging for the 3 weeks training in Gatsibo District. Apparently there is a nice hotel further away from the communities where we’re working, but it doesn’t have enough rooms for everyone, so the options were to book rooms for me and a few others there, and everyone else stayed at a less nice place (I heard “not good” and “pretty bad” actually to describe it), or for us all to just stay at the 'not nice' place. Which is what we decided we’d
do. I think after living in the Barrio in El Salvador, it won’t be a big deal if the electricity is on and off as well as the water, which will not be hot. Maybe I will regret it later, but I think it will be fine. I think it will be fun anyway. Hope I’m right. Chrystel said she’d book the nice place on Sat/Sun nights so we can wash clothes, access internet and have some entertainment, which sounds great to me.

In the afternoon, Isaac, the new Youth Empowerment coordinator (Chrystel is the Child Rights and Advocacy Coordinator, but Isaac wasn’t hired when we had the Dakar training so Chrystel participated but now Isaac is the main point person) and I
worked out a schedule for the partners’ training. We only have tomorrow and Thursday with them because Friday is a holiday.

We planned the training like this:
Morning 1st Day: getting to know each other and the organizations, setting ‘ways of being’ with each other as a team, team building

Afternoon 1st Day: project overview, project outputs and outcomes, general outline of the 3 week training, thinking about the first week – how to use different arts, media, etc. as tools for youth to look at themselves through different lenses (self portraits, dreams, wishes, where do they fit in the community’s/society’s expectations of them? and how do they feel about society's expectations/stereotypes of them?) and to look at the community through different lenses (what is living in the community like for a boy vs a girl? An older person vs a baby? What is the spiritual life? The
physical life? The cultural life? The community in time: what happens in the early morning? The late morning? The afternoon? The evening? What are they proud of in the community? Worried about? What are their hopes for the community? Their dreams? Their challenges and what are they doing about them? Etc)

We will close by asking the partners to think about different activities and methodologies that they have used in the past or can imagine using to help youth look at themselves from different angles and the community also from different perspectives. When possible, we will encourage the partners to co-facilitate, like if youth are doing an exercise about what their dreams are (delving into their real feelings and hopes) we can combine it with using the video cameras to record it (practice with video cameras). Or we can film a theater piece to practice using the cameras. Or the artist can work with a group of youth to create an image of the community for the community map, and look at some other aspects during the map creation. The idea is to really mix up the art forms along with the ‘work’ of pulling out the ideas and concepts on what to film/draw/paint/etc. to represent the community in the final ‘product’. We will look at the outcomes we hope to see in the youth, and
then at the different media as the tools to get there.

We will try to do the technical training for the equipment in small doses along with the other more broad exercises in the first week so that we don’t have to stop the process for a day to do dry and boring ‘training’ on the equipment, and so that the youth can see which area they want to focus on in the 2nd and 3rd week (video, photography, visual art, theatre, music). Hopefully in the process we will come closer and deeper to knowing what would help the youth have better presents and futures and this can be worked into Plan’s program planning.

Morning 2nd day: we will come back to yesterday’s discussion and see what the partners come up with for possible activities to build trust, environment of participation, and methodologies for looking at things from various angles.

Afternoon 2nd day: we will make a big flip chart for each week, define what we should have achieved by which point (by day 4 week 1 we should have some ideas for videos, by day 3 week 2 we should have shot some video footage, etc.) and together with the partners we will fill in the activities for the week.

I’m excited to meet the partners tomorrow and to put things together. The youth who will participate in the training number around 30, and they are ages 12-18 and
out-of-school youth. Most have up to a 6th grade education but were not able to continue due to financial reasons. They are from 2 different communities in Gatsibo district.

OK more later….

Sunday, August 10, 2008

on my way to Rwanda

So it's my last day in the States for awhile. I'm in a hotel near the airport in DC finishing up last minute things before I'm out till Aug 31 supporting the training in Gatsibo, Rwanda. Had a nice few days with my parents and kids in between work -- flew into Indianapolis on Tues night and spent a few days there and in my home town Ft Wayne. The kids will stay there until the last week of August when they go back home to start school. I hate being gone for their first week of school, but with the crazy schedule there wasn't much choice this time. There has been so much to do this past week that I was really stressed. It will be good to be able to focus on one thing for the next few weeks.

Julie wrote up a long report on how things have been going in Senegal that Chrystel (Rwanda coordinator) and I will use to shape the training in Rwanda. There are lots of experiences with Senegal as well as with the trainings I've been involved in to keep learning and improving with each time we do it. So I'm getting excited as well as anxious as I always do before starting something really important. It always takes a few days for everyone to settle into the routine, which is stressful.

Hopefully I'll have some pictures and short videos to post in the next week or so. I get into Rwanda on Monday after flying from DC to Rome to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Kigali, so long flights and lots of stop overs. Think I'll be exhausted but have to go straight into the office for a meeting. Then Tues Chrystel and I will get ready for the partners training that takes place on Wed-Fri. Sunday we go to Gatsibo for the training with the community and youth which will start on Monday. I also have a few meetings/conference calls on other things I have to do this coming week, but after that I will be free from phone/internet for a couple of weeks which will be nice!

More later....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

off to Rwanda!

I’m off again! This time to Rwanda with a mini stop in Indiana to see my folks and drop the kids there on the way.

Training is underway in Senegal already, and Julie has been posting brief updates so that the rest of the team in the other countries can learn from what is happening there. Over the past few weeks mainly I’ve been catching up on things that were on hold while I was in Dakar, like….

Getting all the equipment for the next two countries, and finalizing training dates. We now have all the equipment for Rwanda and Mali. I’ll take it with me to Rwanda to hand off to Julie. I’ll be there for a total of 3 weeks and Julie will overlap with me for the last week and stay a little longer for a debrief. It will be good to both be there for a part of the training together. I think Julie’s going to be there for the Mali training and I’ll focus on other things during that time.

I’m also working hard to find some additional funding for the Social Change through Social Media workshop that we want to have in Kenya in December. We have a really good outline of what we want to accomplish, now we are just waiting to hear back from a couple of offices to see if they can help fund it so we can actually do it.

We’re getting in proposals for the company that will do the web design for the YETAM project also. We have 3 so far and now we need to hand the proposals over to a committee that will decide which one to actually contract depending on things like the best design, best price, etc. Figuring out the web part has been a challenge because we want to integrate what we are doing into a broader web strategy, but there are a few different websites in existence already, so we’ve been trying to find a solution where we are doing what we want to do with the YETAM site, but also building something that can integrate well with all the other sites out there at the different Plan offices. I think we have it now though, so I’m excited.

We've also almost finished the Dominican Republic virtual visit -- I'll post the link when it's ready. Now just finishing El Salvador and we can make the curriculum DVD that goes with it and send it out to schools and teachers!

Today it’s catching up on last minute stuff and packing. Flights out to Indiana at 7, and then working from there until I leave on Saturday night for DC, and Sunday out to Kigali…. Hopefully I’ll have some web access there but I’m not counting on it.

Till next time….