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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….

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