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Report from Suzanne Connolly and Caroline Sakai

We are now in the Northern Province in the town of Byumbain Rwanda.

Caroline and I are happy to be working in Rwanda once again. The group we are working with is amazing. Everything is going well. The countryside is beautiful. High mountains with terraced hills growing bananas, sugar cane, cassava, corn, potatoes and other crops.

It’s lush and green with roads lined with pine trees and Eucalyptus. Women in traditional dress, line the roads with baskets balanced on heads, children wrapped tightly on their back. Men push wooden wheelbarrows, or bicycles carrying heavy loads of bananas, firewood, potatoes, cassava leaves, potatoes and everything you can think of.

On our most recent trip from Byumba, our new home, to the Izere Center in Nyinawimana, where we are working, we saw a large desk being wheeled downhill on a bicycle.

Nothing is impossible here in Rwanda.

We were picked up at the Kigali Airport by Brother Augustine, Father Jean Marie, Vianey and a group of others. Unfortunately, Cyndie and Gary were not with us as there had been a mix up with Ethiopian Airlines and they had to fly out from Belgium a day later than planned. We were treated to a late night dinner at a local restraint on the way home. The Bishop has provided us with a car and driver to go back and forth from Byumba to Nyinawimana.

So, the day after our arrival, the team returned to Kigali to pick up Gary and Cyndie. While the rest of the team waited at the airport, Suzanne, along with Brother Augustine and interpreters Joseph and Chris, went to change money and print the French training manuals. It was a difficult to get a printer to print the manual, nothing seemed to go right, but a printer related to Brother Augustine saved the day. He even had to purchase a new program to print our manual but he stayed late past business hours and got the job done. Another of Brother Augustine’s relatives gave us an outstanding exchange rate on our donated American dollars.

We were treated to a reception to launch the study on August 6th. We sat at a table at the front of the room with the Bishop, Father Jon Marie Vianey the parish priest of Nyinawimana and the local organizer and contact person for the study.

Also up front with us was a Major in the Rwandan Army who spoke of how needed this treatment was for the soldiers of Rwanda. He stated that once, people were afraid when they saw a soldier but now soldiers are seen as the ones who are working for peace. A Police Officer from the military also attended as well as a top Government official.

The Bishop gave a welcoming speech and expressed his deepest gratitude for our coming such a long way to help. The Government official did the same.

Even Suzanne was asked to speak, and, after introducing the rest of the team she told the story from the Hassidic Jewish tradition which she had recently heard during a homily at Sunday Mass. The Rabbi asked a group of young students: “When is the exact moment in time, when night becomes day; when darkness becomes light?” The children guessed many things such as “When you can tell the difference between an olive tree and a fig tree?” But the Rabbi answered “No. The exact moment in time, when night becomes day and day becomes night, is the moment in time when you look into the face of a stranger and see your brother and sister.”

Suzanne thanked everyone present for their warm hospitability, for having looking into the eyes of these six strangers and welcoming them as brothers and sisters. A magnificent dance troupe entertained with several dances. During the last dance, the team was invited to join in.

The road from Byumba to Nyinawimana each day is a little scary. It is narrow and very bumpy. Our driver Effran skillfully dodges the biggest bumps, and avoids running into men, women, and children along the road. He also avoids dropping us all over the edge of the road in places where the edge of the road has disappeared and the drop over the edge measured in kilometers. He does this without slowing down and miraculously without killing anyone. Our three seated van is often so packed that almost everyone has someone sitting on their lap.

We were a happy group as we head to the training and also as we head home for a warm meal and a good night’s sleep. When we finally arrive home, Gary says “Okay everyone: “One two three” and we all say in unison “Murakoze Effran!”, thankful to have arrived safely to our new home once again.

It is surprising how quickly we all adapted to situations such as, having a toilet, a shower and bathroom sink in each room but no running water. In this area, even at the Bishops compound, one has a large yellow jerry- can in the bathroom and a bucket. You flush to toilet by pouring water into the bowl directly from the jerry can if you’re really strong and can lift it that high, or by tilting the jerry can when it’s full and filling the bucket with water and then flushing by poring the water from the bucket. When you want hot water, really hot water, you simply set the bucket outside your door. Someone picks it up and brings it back almost immediately. You then use the hot water to bathe. When finished bathing you can do laundry in it.

To most of the group, all seasoned travelers, the availability of water and especially hot water, is an unexpected luxury.

The two- day training went well. We trained 35 in all, including three interpreters. Caroline and Suzanne were the main instructors with loads of help from Carmen, Cyndie, and Gordon. Caroline has arranged for Gary to do video and Gary was busy during the training catching some great moments on tape. He even prepared a short show for the trainees to watch during the last break. Father Jean Marie Vianey did a wonderful job of selecting participants. Most were priests, nuns, teachers, police, social workers, business men who want to help, and orphanage administrators.

The last day of the training ended with Suzanne asking for a large round of applause for the trainees who are now the “best therapists in Rwanda!” and Caroline asking Father Jean Marie Vianey to pray for the success of the study. He gladly agreed and burst out into prayerful song with the whole group joining in with clapping and singing. It was, thanks to Caroline, a magical ending to a great training.

The trainees are enthusiastic about the study and most expressed a desire to participate each of the nine days dedicated to the study.

Today is a catch up day. The Bishop and Chancellor left their door open so we could all use the internet today in the reception area where they meet with the poor on a daily basis.

Tomorrow we begin the actual study with two days of testing 200 people who are participating in the study, followed by two days of treating participants who have been randomly assigned to Group A (100 persons) by being handed a blue folder. The blue folders are alternated with red folders so every other person gets a blue folder and the next a red folder.

We will keep you all posted.

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Suzanne and the rest of the team

Creative Commons License photo credit: sdpurtill

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