HELPING RWANDA DURING THE PANDEMIC

Life for us all has been changing and challenging of late – and it has been the same in Rwanda – although perhaps for differing reasons. In early March the first case of Covid 19 in Rwanda came from a person of Indian origin who had returned from a recent trip to India. As short time after his return he showed coronavirus symptoms and reported to a Hospital, where he received a positive test. The passengers who have travelled back into the country on the same aircraft were traced and the following day the Government put an immediate lockdown on the country very similar to the one we have had imposed in the UK for the past few months, including the closure of schools and borders with other countries.

To date the reported cases are 288 with 92 recovered and just one death. However, the lockdown has had a serious effect on certain regions near the various borders, who often rely on their food supply coming from their neighbouring countries. This has been very much the case for our friends in the Western Province where we do much of our work with some of the poorest communities in the country and where we have built two recent Health Posts and the new Reconciliation Centre.

Whilst 2019 was a good year for our various fundraising activities, and prior to lockdown we were about to transfer a substantial sum of money to start work on some new identified projects – including the building of a new Health Post in an area to where we have not previously worked – but within a community we visited and identified a great need some two years ago. We now have enough money to get this project off the ground – but when the pandemic started we felt it wise to hold the money here in the UK until we saw how things would pan out.

We have since, however, send some of that money to identify the needs outlined above. Projects can wait – but we cannot allow our friends to starve - or risk losing some of the already established projects and equipment which help so many.

Of course, the current pandemic has hit all our usual fundraising activities very hard. A number of talks to groups have had to be cancelled – and our monthly Café Rwanda in Bakewell Town Hall has not met since February – and with these two things alone we are noticing a big difference. We also had a summer Band Concert and a Quiz Evening which are not now likely to take place because large numbers of people would usually be present at both events.

However, we are still thankfully supported by those who choose to give either a one-off donation or a regular donation through our PayPal Account – and this will enable us to carry on supporting where we feel there is an urgent need – and I have no doubt that this may happen again in the coming months.

We all hope that the diligence and commitment of our friends in Rwanda will mean that they may ride out the pandemic better than we have fared in the UK. I would imagine that if there are 20 ventilators in the whole country that would probably be a fairly accurate figure, and we know that the incidence of deaths amongst the black communities could be disastrous if the pandemic takes hold in a country like Rwanda.

I know many of you think about our friends in Rwanda – so I thank you for that – and I wanted to share with you how we have been able to help them at this particular time.

Our friends in Rwanda rarely ask us for help – they are just more than grateful when we have money to offer to them for projects – but when I asked our partners if they had any immediate needs, I found they had. Food is in very short supply and some of the families we have got to know quite well over the years are really struggling. As ever, the need goes far beyond what we as a small charity can meet, but we have done our best to get money for food to the communities we regularly work with to improve their quality of life.

The photo shows one of the communities we have been able to help by supplying bags of maize and beans. This photo was taken outside one of our two Health Posts. Another community collected food from the Reconciliation Centre in Gitsimbwe – where we also support a large primary school and whose children will be among those who benefit.

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Anastase Rugirangoga, our partner who runs the charity PHARP with whom we work in providing much of the livestock and sewing schools, said he was struggling to meet the rental for two of the units which house Sewing Schools in the North East of the country – and he needed to pay a small retainer to two sewing teachers who were struggling to find food and to employ two watchmen who could keep an eye on the sewing machines which are housed in the units not currently being used. Again, we have been able to give funding to help this need.

Our aim at Goboka is the meet the needs of the communities we work with – and the Trustees therefore felt that we should use some of our funds to meet these two needs – and are delighted that we have been able to do that.

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