Monday, October 24, 2011

What In The World Have I Been Up To!

I know that many of you have been asking what in the world have I been up to since my last blog post. Well I am just 6 days short of having been in Rwanda for 5 months.

Since my last post I have been busy adjusting to my new job and living in Kigali. Work wise I am still in the learning curve but running at the speed of light some days with all of the expectations of my position. But I survive being the classic over achiever many of you know me to be. Things will probably really get interesting after I make my year.

On the social front, I have made at least one friend and have several acquaintances.

So let’s see the really interesting stuff that people probably care about. I am a member of the First and Second Tour Officers group and a co-lead I hosted a reception at the Ambassador’s Residence with another colleague. Theme was “Art and Jazz” we had a local musician and displayed the art work of six local artists. The event was a huge success.

I participated as an official observer for the Rwanda National Election Committee during their Senatorial Elections. It was very interesting learning experience, especially I was in a rural part of the country and they speak no English. Fortunately for me had a colleague that is Rwandese and I speak some basic French. The process that I observed was really like the US Electoral College. I was serving at one of the western provincial district polling stations. During the general election the people in each village and town in the district had voted for their senatorial choice. So on the day I was observing, the representative from each town and its surrounding villages was voting for the Senators that were voted on by the people. The district that I was serving in had 9 candidates but they would only elect 3 senators. All in all is it was a long day and a good learning experience about the democratic process in Rwanda --- even though I still don’t quite understand it all.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!!! Well people I am talking about real football --- known as soccer to all my American family and friends. In Africa football is a really BIG deal just like American football is in the states. So needless to say is a male dominated sport, even in little league --- not like in America where lots of little girls play soccer in parks/recreations and high school leagues. So in Kigali one of my co-workers is the coach for the second girls’ football team in Kigali.  The girls range in age from 13-15. I went to their first game. They played a game against an existing team and it was very apparent that they were already use to playing together as a team where the girls I went to see where not. Sadly to say they lost and were very very disappointed but they played a good game. The highlight of the game of me was ---- before the game started all the girls from both teams lined-up and I went out on to the field and greeted each girl and wished them well in their game. I was like the on the spot guest of honor because I was the only American at the game along with my friends who were visiting from Uganda and Tanzania --- but the kids were not as fascinated by them because they were African as well. This was a big deal because parents rarely attend the games of their children and I am talking about all the boys’ teams here. So the girls were really excited that people came out to see them play.      

So most of my spare time is spent working with my ministry Barnabas International ( We now have a weekly Bible Study Group named UnNoticed Bible Study. We are having quarterly social events. I am doing Christian counseling sessions in both Rwanda and Uganda. As I write this blog I am in Kampala, Uganda for  a week ---- I have had several individual and group counseling sessions, conducted a ministers workshop, will be having a ministers retreat, planned a mission trip to China, etc. ------ I am have partners with a small church in a mountain village of Rwanda. I go there about once a month to preach. It is very interesting having to preach and someone has to translate what you are saying. Well you just have to check out the website and calendar of events to keep up with what’s going on with the ministry.   In Rwanda I have now joined a local church named Rwanda for Jesus. I will more than likely be more than just a pew member there as well.

That’s All Folks!!!

I KNOW, I KNOW but this is Africa and it takes so long to upload pictures. I will be uploading some soon I promise.    

Monday, August 15, 2011

Social Work in Rwanda

I had the opportunity to visit the National University of Rwanda; Faculty of Arts, Media and Social Sciences; Department of Social Work. The school is located in Butare, Rwanda which is the original capital city.

I met with the Dean of the Faculty, the Chair of the Social Work Department, several of the Lecturers (professors) and discussed social education and practice in Rwanda. Social Work education and profession are not on an even playing field. Social Work is new to Rwanda and most people as well as the government do not even know what it is. Currently most of the professors in the department are trained in sociology. However, several of them are working on their Masters in Social Work.

I had an opportunity to speak with the students in the Bachelors of Social Work program. There is not a Masters Program in the country but there are two other Bachelors programs at Catholic University of Rwanda and Institute Polytechnique Byumba.

I have offered to be a Guest Lecturer at the NUR Department of Social Work on a monthly. If things work out it will be my first community activity outside of work.  

Inter-Faith Iftar

On the evening of Thursday August 11, 2011 I had the opportunity to attend a dinner to celebrate Ramadan at an Inter-Faith Iftar at the residence of The Charge’ d’Affairs of the United States of America Anne S. Casper in cooperation with Sheikh Abdul Karim Gahutu, Mufti of Rwanda.

Ramadan is the Islamic Month of Fasting in which practicing Muslims fast during daylight hours to learn patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to Allah (God).

 An Iftar is the evening meal that breaks the fast right after sundown and is typically done as a community.

The evening began with Islamic prayer. During the dinner I was sat at the table with the Charge’, the Mufti, the Deputy Mufti and two gentlemen from the Rwanda Ministry of Infrastructure and the Energy Water and Sanitation Authority.

The Mufti is the leader of all Muslims in Rwanda and makes decisions regarding all issues of Islamic law. The Mufti only spoke Arabic and Kinyarwandan, so I was only able to communicate with him through the Charge’ (who spoke fluent Arabic and Kinyarwandan) and the Deputy Mufti. The Deputy Mufti is only 31 years. It is quite an accomplishment for such a young man. We discussed the history and discrimination of Muslims in Rwanda pre & post genocide. We also discussed some of the commonalities of discrimination within the African Diaspora (worldwide).

The other two gentlemen and I discussed our perspective jobs, places that we have lived, traveled and languages.

It was a great evening of learning and diversity.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Celebrating Africa in Hillywood

Tonight (July 17, 2011) I attended a reception hosted by the US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission.  The reception was for the US Film Industry. I did not want to go because I thought it was going to be so boring, but I am glad that I went I met a lot of cool people from the US and Rwandan film industry.

The Rwanda Cinema Centre was founded 7 years ago to promote films in Rwanda. The majority of people living in Rwanda have never even seen a television let along a movie. In the seventh year they are finally beginning to see the real fruits of their labor of love. The founder of the centre Eric Kabera has been working tireless for years in the United Kingdom and America.  For the last few years they have been hosting the Rwanda Film Festival, but this year is really special because there will be films from Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya and some other countries. The reason this is really great is because the distribution of films in Africa is really poor. Most African filmmakers don’t have a way to allow others to see their films besides giving them away. They also don’t even know when each other make films. The Rwanda Cinema Centre is working really hard to build a network so they can help promote each other’s work. Therefore, the theme of this year’s festival is “Celebrating Africa in Hillywood.” I had a very interesting conversation with the director of the Rwanda Cinema Centre , Pierre Kayitana.

This Saturday July 23, 2011, the Kwetu Film Institute will open its doors in Kigali, Rwanda. There is an already estimated 500 people from East Africa that are seeking admission into the Institute. As I stated earlier the reception was for the US Film Industry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the people that put on the Academy Award/Oscars) heard about Eric Kabera and Hillywood through a short film on the internet about 3 years ago. So their International Outreach Committee is in the country to provide workshops in Script writing, film editing, cinematography, sound mixing, production, etc.

The irony of all this ---- there is not one movie theater in the country of Rwanda. However, the work to develop a film industry in Rwanda will be one more way to improve the economy here. There are plans underway to build a movie theatre and you can believe the day it opens I will be there.  

So now on to the really cool people that I met. Of course you know I already talked with Eric Kabera and his wife Alice (a very nice couple). I met Cleophas Kabasiita, she is a Rwanda film actress staring in film entitled “Kinyarwandan” which won a Sundance Film award and was nominated for a 2011 Oscar; it will be in theaters this November --- make sure ya’ll go out and support the movie. I met Edward a Rwandan film maker who won an award at last year’s Canne Film Festival. Philippe had the “honor” of attending this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. A film maker named Christian Gakombe I met actually said he would like to make a documentary on the work that I am doing here.  I met Phil Robinson who directed the movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner, Willie Burton (a sound mixer), Wynn Thomas (a production designer), Carol Littlejohn (a film editor) and Stephanie Allain a producer. She told me she is producing a movie with Tyler Perry. The director of the film they are producing is the young lady who wrote the screenplay for “Drumline.” The most amazing person that I met was the actor Alfre Woodard, star of such films as Miss Firecracker, Down in the Delta, Crooklyn, Love and Basketball and The Family that Preys Together. I really did not have an opportunity to say more than hello because she was really there to talk with the Rwandans who are trying to make a living in the film industry but I was still grateful for the opportunity to say hello and shake her hand.  

So! for an event that I did not want to attend, it turned out to be a great evening. I will try to post a blog on any of the films that I will attend.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Africa Light

Since I have been in Rwanda a lot of people’s conversations have centered around what is it really like to be there. I have found it be a place of paradoxical juxtaposition. For all of their outward political progressiveness --- they are a very conservative country and people with all the undercurrents that come with socio-economic status, the ills of society and the people that are regulated to the invisible sub-populations --- that are not talked about in the “company of decent folks.”


 Most Americans concept of Rwanda is the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” The citizens of Rwanda are working really hard to put the 1994 genocide behind them. The 100-day genocide was the culmination of years of hatred and violence between members the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Not unlike the hatred and violence between Black and White America from Slavery to the Civil Rights Movement. Just like in America there is a true Spirit of Reconciliation among a majority of Rwandans; however, just like in America there is still that segment of the population who wishes to continue to propagate that hatred and violence. 

Rwanda is positioning itself to be what is termed “Africa Light.”  They are seeking to be a “Beacon of Light” among and within the East African Community. They are working feverously to advance and improve their health sector as well as their technological sector by partnering with other institutions from around the world. They want to become a shining example, model as well as their “Brother’s Keeper” to their citizens and brothers in sisters in their neighboring countries

I solicit your prayers of support and encouragement as they continue this journey. I also ask your prayers for the victims and families of the violent uprising in the Congo, near the Rwandan and Ugandan borders. Lastly pray for the continued success of the newest African country ---  SouthernSundan --- as they separate from Sundan .       

Kwita Izina

Kwita Izina and it means “To give a name,” it is a joyous event and occassion to welcome a child into the family and community. This tradition was adapted to the endangered gorillas in 2004.
I had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual gorilla naming ceremony at the National Volcano Park in Kinigi, Rwanda.  This year’s theme was “Every name has a story….” At this event each year they official name all of the baby gorillas that were born during the past year. This year they named 21 babies.

This event is a really big deal because of the conservation efforts to bring attention of the need to preserve the natural habitats of the Sliver Back gorillas in rain forests and volcanic area of the East Africa region. The event was attended by major heads of international corporations, Ambassadors and other local political leaders.

The only disappointment of the event for me is that you do not see the actual baby gorillas that are being named, because that would be harmful to remove them from their mothers and natural habitat. So what you get are children in gorilla suits. You know I had to work that issue. All in all is was a pretty good way to spend a Saturday. A four hour drive in the mountains (round trip), a local cultural fundraising event and some local food at one of the local hotels on the way home.

When I get the money I guess I will go on one of the gorilla trekking expeditions.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Today is Umugand in Rwanda. Umuganda means "working together" or "community work." On the last Saturday of each month from 7:00am until 12noon all business are closed and there are very few people traveling on the streets. The purpose of this day and time is for communities to come together and work on cleaning their neighborhoods or community, to work on a beautifulication project, or hold community meetings to discuss things of general importance to the community. This practice was started in 1995 after the rebuilding of the country began.

So if you do not want to participate, you have to stay at home until after the alloted time. Now, Rwanda is the cleaning place that I have every been to. There is literally no paper or trash on the ground anywhere. However, in my section of time I do see some people out working in their yards.

I wonder if this concept would ever occur in America. A National Day of Community Togetherness. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm!!! What do you think?