A Letter From Rwanda

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Kayla Wirt to our blog. Her and her husband just recently moved to Rwanda, and we are thrilled to know them and for their involvement in helping get our program off the ground!

Below, Kayla will share about her heart for Rwanda and share insights into a bit more of what life is like on the Island and what we will be doing there! Follow their journey on their blog!

My husband and I moved to Rwanda over a month ago and we can hardly believe it. It simultaneously feels like we’ve been here a few weeks and a few years.

Things are beginning to flow, in a new sort of rhythm. We wake up with the sun, thanks to the bell at the Catholic church, which begins ringing at 5:59 and continues until 6:01. We tie up our mosquito net and open our windows to the already well-lit morning. Boil water. Grind coffee. Release the geckos that fell into the shower basin during the night and head to work. We have been joking that we moved to Africa to live the "American Dream." We both work desk jobs (which we swore we never would) and live in a huge house (which we’ve never wanted) that overlooks Lake Kivu and Congo (which is a view to die for).

My husband, Sutton, is the Headmaster at St. Peter Technical Secondary School and I am the General Manager of the Peace Guest House, a hotel which generates all of the money for the church association we are working in. Besides paying many salaries, the money goes toward church building projects in rural areas, feeding programs, micro-finance groups, and a host of other projects. Our first month has been mostly learning. We’ve been learning things like how much a kilo of potatoes should actually cost, the difference between a bottle of real shampoo and one that has been filled up with cheap soap from Congo, and the sad reality that you have to iron all of your clothes because bugs lay eggs in them as they’re hanging out to dry.

We’ve made some sweet friends! Since we moved into our house, it has rarely been empty. Our new motto is “cook too much food, invite too many friends.” Every Friday evening is spent at a dumpy hotel by the border where we have beer and brochettes with all of the muzungus (white people) in our town.

Not long after arriving in Cyangugu, my friend and yours, Rebecca, asked me to be a partner in starting up Hands Producing Hope in Rwanda! HPH will be working on Nkombo Island, about thirty minutes from the town I live in. My first lesson was trying to pronounce the name. Rwandans say it something like this: InHomeBo. A few weeks ago, I went for my first visit to the island and got to meet some women who may potentially work with us.

A bit of off roadin', a boat ride and a hike took my friends Bertha, Zibrie and I to the EAR* church where the pastor's wife was teaching crafts to a group of about 25 women in the yard. As the providers of sometimes up to 15 children, the women are desperate to learn and possess a craft. There are very few men on the island and those men are married to multiple women (I was told one man could have as many as 40 children). The men leave for months at a time on fishing trips (the only form of income for the islanders, as there is not room to grow crops to sell and there are no businesses), but even when the men are home, the women are expected to do all of the manual labor.

Bertha estimated that over 80% of the island does not have a steady income. Most women are not able to read or write, as less than 25% (again, a Bertha estimate) of children go to school and of those, almost none finish. Primary school in Rwanda is free, but even the price of uniforms (about 20 USD) is too much for women on the island to pay. Even if they could afford uniforms and books, the children need to be working.

The women and their “sister wives” live on a single plot of land belonging to the man they are married to. They are caught in a cycle of having to obey their husband by doing extreme labor and being pregnant yearly and not having the ability to support another child! When women have the money to buy their own land, they are freed from the bondage they wrongly call marriage.

We want to partner with these particular women to teach them crafts such as basket making, sewing, and jewelry making. Fortuneé, the island pastor’s wife, said that her hope for the project is that women would be able to be with their kids. Because the women are responsible for so much, the children often raise themselves while the women are busy scrounging up work and food. Partnering with these women will create more stability for healthy families while offering the women a way out of the poverty that they are taught in. Please partner with us to bring stability and love to an island of 20,000 in need.

Written October 13, 2015