Rwanda Journal: Part II
Monday I was thrown right into the action like a true photojournalist. I arrived at 8:30am (a little bit later than the average starting time in Rwanda of 8 a.m.) Timothy, a fellow photographer at the paper, and I were asked to photograph the head of the World Health Organization for Africa and to visit different medical centers around Rwanda.
Long story short, I found my self squished in the front seat of a pick-up truck a half hour later that was driving 160 kilometers per hour in a motorcade of U.N. and World Health Organization (WHO) officials. We arrived at this maternity and mental health hospital that was about 45 minutes outside of Kigali. There were flies swarming everywhere, the hospital was open-air, with women sharing hospital beds after just having undergone cea-sections. We visited the NICU and witnessed premature babies in incubators up close. It was definitely interesting hearing about the different maternity practices of Rwanda in comparison to those of the States. For example, with regard to premature babies, women are hired to sit in the NICU and hold them closely to their bare chests.
We also heard about the dire need for mental health funds in the country and in our next visit I understood why. We visited a genocide memorial site in the region of Nyamata, a church in which over 200,000 people were burned to death. Many people in the country during the genocide fled to religious institutions for refuge but many church officials ended up turning on their neighbors and congregations and handing them over to the Hutus. So at this site, you enter the church and there are over fifty long pews piled with layers of clothes that people were wearing when they died. Below ground, there is a cabinet lined with skulls. And out back, behind the church, there are open graves. This is where the WHO official laid wreaths with the words “Never Again” written on them, to pay tribute to the victims. Below the graves was a basement shelved with more bones and skulls. It hardly looked as if the place had enough space for all of the human remains that were left there.
We continued on with our visits to medical centers. We met over 200 community health workers who sang and danced at our arrival. We then visited a rural village where kids could not stop following me. There is a lot of hype around white people here, especially in rural areas. They call out “muzungu” and wave and smile. Needless to say it has been something to adjust to especially because as a photojournalist I aim to blend into the backdrop.
When we arrived in the village, all 30 people in the delegation crowded in to this obscenely small home, with clay walls and tin roofing. Catholic paraphernalia decorated the walls. A husband and wife presented on how they train local community members in health protection and awareness. They explained to us how people regularly give birth and die in their home, how they forever witness the cycle of life and death, but they have recently worked towards improving sanitation and birthing methods so survival rates are increasing. On the side of the house there was a teaching garden that the couple uses to educate the community about nutrition. At the back of the house, there was an outhouse, and right next to it was a foot-pedal controlled water tin that tilted when you pressed on it so you could wash your hands. The systems were basic but it was certainly inspiring to watch these people so motivated to build a better life for their community.
I returned home at around 7pm and crashed. The day was exhausting and with the quick exposure to just some of the issues that confront Rwanda, it was a lot to digest.Filed under TRUNK SHOWS | Comments: 0