Rwanda Journal: Part I
Same Sky supporter and friend, Robyn Spector, is currently on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda where she will be spending the summer as a photojournalist. Thus far, she has settled into a home with her host Safari, and has had enough Internet access to send us her initial thoughts on her time in Rwanda. We will continue posting her experiences as summer heats up in Rwanda.
I am staying in an outskirt of the main city called Kibagabaga — about 30 minutes away from the center of town. An interesting fact about Rwanda is that it actually has no street signs and addresses so people give directions according to the first tree on the left, etc. It is definitely a lot to adjust to. It’s hard to go out and explore on my own, as I can’t use streets to guide me back but the neighborhood is developing and that means that for the moment anyway there aren’t many people nearby, only construction sites. Plus, I literally live on a dirt road so you definitely need traction in those tires to even get near my house.
Continuing on, last Friday, when I woke up (completely jetlagged might I add) I had a special visitor waiting for me. She was wearing a striped mini skirt with leggings, sparkly sneakers, and multicolored bangles around her tiny 5-year-old wrist. Her name is Husna and she is the niece of the housekeeper/cook here, Firidaus. Husna was recently diagnosed with juvenile Leukemia. When it comes to disease in Africa you often think of malaria, typhoid, TB, HIV/AIDS, but unfortunately in Rwanda, about 150-200 children die per year due to cancer. There is very little access to treatment here, and even if there was, most people would not have the means to finance it. Not a single child who has been diagnosed has survived as of yet. But miraculously, my friend Liana, whose parents’ I’m staying with, works for Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and she approached the head of the organization about helping out in some way. Not only did the Institute agree to help Husna but they are actually establishing a clinic in Rwanda come mid-July, their first venture in Africa. It’s a pretty amazing story.
Firidaus, a heavy-set, deeply devout Muslim woman, has been through a lot before this too. At the moment, she earns about $2 per day. She lost 15 family members including her husband and all of her siblings during the genocide. She was 8 months pregnant at the time. After the genocide, she needed a change of faith, so she converted to Islam and wears a brightly colored hijab every day to work.
I went to the genocide memorial in Kigali that day as well. It was designed by the same people who also supported the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Israel. I went with Safari and the most powerful moment was walking in, seeing family photos of many of the victims and Safari walking right up to one and saying “here’s my brother, my sister, and my nieces and nephews.” It is true that in Rwanda everyone was affected and everyone has a story to tell.Filed under TRUNK SHOWS | Comments: 0