What brought more than 50 community members to the future home of the RCLLC early on a Saturday morning? Umuganda….

During Betsy and Allen’s last visit to Rwanda in November, we held a meeting with the RCLLC advisory committee. The community members who make up this committee are extremely enthusiastic about the project and are eager to help advance the project in any way possible. It was decided that the community would donate labour for the shrub fence along the perimeter of the RCLLC property.

In the middle of February, Wilson (RfRs Rwandan Architect), Hubert (Rwinkwavu’s Executive Secretary) and I decided that February 27th’s Umuganda would be a good, rainy time for planting the small trees. Umuganda is a very interesting and unique concept that has existed in Rwanda for many years. In Kinyarwanda, Umuganda literally means contribution. As a practice, Umuganda happens on the last Saturday of every month. One member of each household is expected to participate in each Umuganda. The morning starts with several hours of communal work, typically weeding, cleaning or construction, followed by a meeting to provide information to community members and gather their feedback.

On February 27th, Wilson, two of his technicians, Simon (RfRs Orphans of Rwanda intern) and I left Kigali early in the morning for Rwinkwavu. We arrived a few minutes after eight, just in time to see our volunteer crew making their way towards the site with their hoes perched on their shoulders. Wilson and his team explained that we needed holes at every blue marking on the rope that we had laid out the day before. Many of the community members work cultivating fields every day, and they made amazingly quick work of digging the 600 holes.

Community members digging holes for the shrubs.

Community members digging holes for the shrubs.

After the work was finished we gathered under a tree for the meeting. Hubert and Simon explained the project and showed sketches of what the center will look like. There was an undeniable excitement in the air as people listened to all the learning opportunities that will exist for them at the center. Umuganda is an amazing community building time, and it was very exciting to see Ready for Reading start to become a part of the Rwinkwavu community.

Katie Uher

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