Frank Murray – Rwanda – 4 Months and a Day in the Land of a Thousand Hills
Frank Murray from Co. Clare, an experienced carpenter and community development facilitator, went on assignment in May 2016 as a Vocational Trainer in Carpentry / Joinery to the Franciscan run Padri Vjeko Centre C.F.J (Vocational Technical Centre and Technical Secondary School) in Kivumu, Rwanda
It seems strange, in the circumstances, not to have found it much easier to burst into columns of ‘first impressions and ‘tails of the unexpected’. When I say, ‘in the circumstances’, there could hardly be a more inviting blank sheet of paper than to find yourself, from your own travelling experience, as a volunteer on a new continent and in a new country and yet, even as one who enjoys a bit of writing from time to time, I still have found it unusually difficult to assemble my thoughts in any kind of order or even simply to be able to choose some kind of starting point.
I wonder is this ‘frozen pen’ phenomenon common to this kind of experience also felt by other volunteers or is it something to do with particular circumstances ? Maybe, I consider to myself, that in hindsight, this mini literary paralysis will make it itself perfectly clear or maybe as I start to oil the wheels of gathered impressions, it will all unfold as it should.
I sit here closed off to the usual chorus of Rwandan nature by the battering of the rain on the corrugated tin roof. It’s much better than silence. It reminds me of my life in the Burren National Park in the beautiful county of Clare where I had no double-glazing or thick brick walls to separate me from the beautiful noise of nature.
The eagerly awaited rainy season is finally upon us. After 15 years in the West of Ireland I didn’t think it possible that I could ever really welcome the sight of incessant rain again… but I do and so do the local people for sure. The connection between rain and access to education has perhaps never been so obvious and yet so fragile. Climate change is not just a ‘debate’ here in Rwanda but more a defining element in the ability to afford the very basic minimum and, for some, already heavily subsidised school fees which will in turn be the gateway to gaining a trade and a sustainable livelihood.
The rain didn’t arrive last year in enough quantities or at the right time to plant and grow sufficient crops to afford that little bit extra needed to pay the technical school fees for all those who might have wanted to avail of an education in the trades. The hurdle of creating a communal appreciation of the value of learning a useful trade as a means to sustainable employment has already been overcome in this particular community.
The benefits of this particular Technical School do not have to be sold to the local population. In the 13 years since the start up of the Padre Vjeko Training Centre, families from far and wide have come to value the future work opportunities it affords their children. The employment it has been able to offer to the local community through its continuing construction and education expansion projects and all the staff it requires from night watchmen to cleaning and cooking staff to careers in teaching, coupled with invaluable overseas training opportunities in the trades for local teachers is hugely understood and valued also within the more local community.
But back to the rain, which is still hammering down…thank God ! It comes down mostly from late afternoon and through the night. Very courteous of it don’t you think ? Softening up the bone hard soil for the hoe-carrying men and women to churn up the land and get those precious ‘fee-paying’ seeds into the ground. I’m prejudiced of course. I want a full intake of students in January, not like the lower numbers hampered by last year’s lack of rain.
So my sincere apologies, especially to Irish ears but…let it pour…let it pour !!
HI HOE, HI HOE…IT’S OFF TO WORK ( and School ) WE GO !
Greetings from the wet and wonderful Rwanda ! Frank
P.S I’ve just realised that it was water not oil that I needed to get those wheels of thought moving !