Wednesday, 24 March 2010

What about Cyangugu and the Centre?

I was back in Cyangugu for 2 weeks and this time I took Aimable, a very bright Deaf student who has finished his secondary schooling and is waiting to start at University next year. It had become clear to me on my first visit that there was a serious paucity of sign language at the centre, both among the students and among the teachers who have had a few hours of instruction from the Handicap International team. What many people don't seem to realise is that Sign language is a Language and that just teaching 50 or so signs is not adequate to provide a viable interpretation service! Nor do Deaf children emerge from the womb as fully fledged signers- they have to acquire language in the same way as a hearing child by having adult role models to show them how.
Aimable was great! He drew pictures all morning while I worked with the children with learning disabilities and then in the afternoon we did English and Sign Language with the children and teachers. He also taught traditional dance so that by the end of the second week the children were able to put on a pretty reasonable show of understanding and responding to signs and dancing. Many of the support staff also picked up some signs and in our afternoon sessions we quite often had some of the other students. Aimable has said that if he does not find other work he will return to Ngwino Nawe for further teaching.
The views from around Cyangugu are absolutely beautiful- across the bright green sweep of tea and the forest which seems to go on forever to the South and to the glint of the lake in the West and as one gets closer to the town the houses, the fishing boats, the islands in the lake and just across the water the mysterious and majestic mountains of Congo which exercise an extraordinary fascination - especially at night when they really do seem like the heart of darkness; in marked contrast to the bright lights and noise of Bukavu which exudes a real flavour of vigour, activity and energy across the Rusisi river which is all that separates us.

Winding up in Kigali!

So now I'm back in Kigali, supposedly to finish the reports I've written, arrange some more meetings and plan the next phase! Well, that is kind of happening and I'm also preparing for a couple of days training that Jolanda and I are to do. One is at a centre that has Deaf and children with learning and physical disabilities not too far from Kigali. Some of the children are integrated at the primary school which is on the same site and we felt when we visited before that the teachers at the primary School might benefit from using some more participative methods of instruction and Jolanda is to do some sign language. then on Sunday we're off to Ruhengeri to help Louis, a teacher with whom I've worked before, do some training for Primary teachers so that they can better integrate the Deaf children. I'm hoping that between us we're going to do a better job than Handicap International!
I have to say that I don't really like Kigali! It's hot and crowded and expensive and full of new building going on. And now there is a really busy rush hour that seems to start at 5 pm and go on till after 7.00. Can it be that the work culture is catching on? However there are compensations like new places to get good food and plenty of buses to get you to where you want to be.
Rwanda is really moving along quite fast- English, if not actually sweeping across the country is gaining ground- certainly in the towns, there seems to be considerably less muzungu calling which makes me very happy, even in the deep South more people are wearing shoes, (at least near the road), more people have laptops, sophisticated phones and in Kigali skirts are ever shorter!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Cyangugu - Ngwino Nawe

I spent about 10 days in the South staying in a very comfortable house belonging to Rwanda Aid who support several projects in this part of Rwanda including the home/centre where I was based. There are about 60 children with varying degrees of disability including a number of Deaf children. I was astonished to find here 3 children who used to be at Butare. They had previously been at an orphanage called JAM - some South African religious based organisation but they have thrown out these wretched Deaf kids because it was claimed that they cost too much to educate in butare so the poor things were packed off to the deep South where they know no-one and this is to be their new home. I'm not impressed with Jam!
The centre is the personal project of a remarkable but terrifying woman called Therèse - hereinafter called T- Regina. She has very firm ideas on how the centre should be run and it is going to be quite a challenge to introduce any new ideas - likef or example giving children breakfast and maybe making the day a little less long - 7.30 to 5.00 with only an hour for lunch and two 20 minute breaks does seem to be rather taxing for children who already have quite a lot to contend with!
We started singing with a group of them and they were very happy to be doing the wheels on the bus and Head, shoulders, knees and toes so I'm hoping to build on this and play more games and activities when I return there next Tuesday.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Butare again!

Last weekend Jan 30th /31st I visited Butare in order to meet up with Innocent - my long -time dependant and to see Renathe and Josephine (ex-domestiques), and their families. I stayed with Renathe which was really nice - very comfortable and gave me a chance to get to know her little boy - Prince. He is very cute and is already speaking quite alot of French but displays many traits of an indulged only child- very attention seeking - throwing food and drink on the floor and constantly interrupting!
We went the next day to Josephine's house - a short walk away where her whole family were gathered. We ate corn, drank tea and then had beans and rice and had a great catch up of news and views! She is now going to work for 2 new volunteers in Butare.

Everyone complained about the difficulties of making ends meet - many items of food have become very expensive - it is claimed that a policy to grow only food and rice in the valleys rather than mixed crops has led to a shortage of many vegetables such as tomatoes which has led to an increase in prices.

Many of the familiar faces were to be seen in Butare - the deaf street boy - now a young man - completely unsurprised to see me again, the character dressed in a gass mask decorated with chains and feathers, the charming girls in the Volcano office and the lovely guys in the supermarket.

change of plan

I realise that although I've kept my Facebook entries up to date anybody following only the blog will be a bit astonished to find me going off to Cyangugu instead of to Komera. I met Father Murenzi at a 3 day workshop about Deaf education/sign Language/audiology and although he appeared to be pleased to see me he was also very evasive and it was not until the end of the second day that I forced a meeting at which he dropped his bombshell: he had suddenly been made aware that 3 of his 5 funders were coming to the end of their contracts with him and he was very uncertain about what was to happen at Komera! Thus he did not feel that it would be a good place for me to be!
Although not entirely surprised I was really disappointed for all sorts of reasons - the children and staff with whom I'd forged friendships, the beauty of the place and the work I was going to do - all pffff and here I was in Rwanda with no proper placement!
Amanda, my programme manager, rose to the challenge, and now I am calling myself a freelance disability advisor- currently working at a Centre for Special Needs Children near Cyangugu but also trying to find out what is going on in all the different centres for Deaf children. All very interesting!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Off to Cyangugu!

Well finally I have a base in Kigali - a nice house with airy light rooms, an almost stunning view, (spoilt by a VAST house just in front), a kitchen with 2 sinks, a sweet guard called Ernest and a great situation 15 minutes up hill wall to the programme office. Of course there are 1 or 2 unsurprising hiccups such as the fact that there are no curtains, only 1 key to front and back doors despite every other door in the house having 3 keys, a bathroom door that won't shut and taps that have to be turned off by an extra tap on the pipe, my matress is too big for the bed and the wooden slats are too small so I'm liable to land on the floor with a crash in the night! However I'm taking the trip South in a few minutes - 5 hours on the bus to a new short -term placement where I'm to do a needs analysis on the provision or lack of it for 20 or so Deaf children at a centre called Ngwino Nawe - Come to Us!
That will be the 9th bed I've slept in since I've arrived. But nonetheless I am so happy to be back, to be catching up with old friends and to be working and engaged again, to be eating fresh fruit and to being warm!