As some of you might know, my birthday was March 5th. I celebrated it with close friends and at a benefit concert in Kigali. The concert was planned by fellow PCV's to raise money for the Books for Africa project they had started a while back. It's a big project to bring tens of thousands of books to Rwanda for schools and libraries around the country. For the concert, many top Rwandan artists volunteered their time to play free of charge. I was very happy to be a part of it. Unfortunately, a rumor spread around Kigali that there were three grenade attacks that night (f.y.i. Kigali has been the site of several grenade attacks in the past several months that have killed several and injured dozens more. It's thought that the attacks are related to the presidential elections that are planned for this August.). The rumor had no factual basis but it was enough to prevent many people from coming to the concert. Luckily, the concert was still a success.
Also in March, I attended a training of peer educators in Rwamagana for one week. At the meetings I gave presentations on the transmission of HIV, reproductive health and other topics. I also had the youth (ages 14-18) put anonymous questions in a bag for me to answer the next day. The questions revealed a lot about what information, misinformation, or lack of information Rwandan youth receive. In the first round of questions, over half concerned the proper use of condoms! This was quite revealing. Rwanda, along with many African nations, still shy away from the use of modern contraception and especially condoms. Just the Kinyarwanda words for penis and vagina can cause a room full of people to laugh hysterically. This is changing little by little. When it comes to a persons health, people must be serious. HIV is no joke. Over 28 million people are infected and Rwanda is no exception. So, the next day I paid a visit to my good friend Justine who is the head of community health in my sector. She gave me a wooden penis and a box full of condoms (a few female condoms too). I gave demonstrations on the proper use of the male condoms. I was facilitated by my counterpart Jules and a guest. I also had a stockpile of condom flyers that PSI (Population Services International) gave to me a while back. It went well and I felt accomplished.
I later learned that all 32 of the youth at the meeting are out of school! I was appalled. Many expressed interest in continuing school but they just don't have enough money! This is outrageous. Honestly, I saw 32 kids... most of them survivors of one of the worst conflicts the world has seen... denied of what I consider in unalienable right has a human. The right to a decent education. Most of them have only completed some elementary school.
The month passed as other have in the past. With plenty of peaceful interactions with my community, a few rocks in my rice and as always the constant reminder that I'm a muzungu... thanks kids. All in all, I'm still loving it here. Sometimes things may bring me down but every morning, as I am drinking my tea or coffee... my tiny 1 year old neighbor waves and calls out, "Mwaramutse Blandoni!" (good morning Brandon!), waving both of her tiny hands at me and standing in a worn out pink dress... I then realize why I'm here and why I've chosen this life.