Life in Rwanda - First Impressions

March 3, 2012

It’s been exactly 1 month since I arrived in Kigali. It’s been a month that included lost (and then found!) baggage, 2 weeks of intensive language training as well as other cultural training with VSO Rwanda staff and volunteers, moving into a lovely (but completely empty!) new house and my first 2 weeks in a new position with a new organization.

Each of these things – from buying all the supplies necessary to set-up our house, to practicing bargaining in a new language to learning the ropes in my new office – have contributed to making the past month feel very long and very short all at the same time.

I am also aware, that it is only the first month and as such I will work to not make any blanket statements or contribute to the “single story” version of Rwanda as a country, Kigali as a city or my neighbours and colleagues as people.

During the past month I have learned many things; the first and likely the hardest for me to learn was that stress comes in all shapes and sizes and affects everyone in different ways. Me, I internalize. I think, and re-think and re-think again until I have come up with a plan. Something I can DO to solve that which is stressing me out.

Unfortunately, when the thing that is stressing you out is the fact that none of the airlines you flew with know where two of your bags are – there isn’t a lot you can do. Except change how it affects you. So Erica (my wife) and I changed our viewpoint. Instead of worrying about where my bags were and worrying about the fact that no one knew where they
may have ended up, I began envisioning my bags making their way to Kigali – the long way. Sure enough, one-by-one they arrived…safely and securely.

In the end the adventure to sort out the bags led us to connect with an incredible VSO Volunteer from the U.K. who arranged airport trips, midnight Skype calls to Canada and high-fives when the bags did arrive. It also helped us meet three wonderful people at the Kigali International Airport who all did everything they could to source the bags and get them to us. It might not have been the way we saw our first 7 days in Kigali going but it did lead us to appreciate what we do (and don’t) have control over, the new people we met and most importantly, it made us so grateful for the additional clothes and supplies that the bags contained.

While waiting and searching for bags, we also attended our In-Country Training (ICT) which began every morning at 8am with Kinyarwanda language lessons and other presentations that lasted until 5pm every day. The ICT was, without a doubt, the most well organized and supported introduction to a new country that Erica and I have ever had.

Following the ICT process, I was introduced to Norma Evans and Said Yasin at the Education Development Center (EDC). Norma and Said are my direct supervisors for the Learning, Literacy and Language (L3) Initiative that I will be working on with the Rwandan Education Board (REB). From the first meeting with these two dynamic people I understood that I was going to be a part of a fun, energized and well organized project.

I hit the ground running from my very first day, learning new jargon, methodologies and discovering exactly what I can bring to the L3 Initiative. In the role of Video Module Developer As I mentioned in my last post, I will be working to equip the REB edit suite with production equipment, train IT staff in its uses, upkeep and repair, while also producing and training staff on how to produce video modules that show the best practices in literacy and numeracy methodologies in the classroom.
Following the approval of a technical audit and the procurement of equipment in the coming weeks, the L3 Initiative and me will be off and running.

In addition to training and my first two weeks at work, Erica and I have been setting up and outfitting our house. It is rented by the VSO Rwanda staff and after much work by my amazing partner it has quickly become our new home, sanctuary and launching pad for all our adventures in Rwanda.

Setting up the house was no easy task and I’m not sure how a volunteer without an accompanying partner would go about doing it. I have been working from 8 am to 5 pm every day and arriving home from work at 6 pm exhausted – if I were here on my own, the house would simply be empty or my work would have suffered.

Being in a solid partnership, marriage and friendship with my wife Erica is the only way our house has ended up getting set up. I think the volunteers in country that have an ‘accompanying partner’ are very lucky to have them and VSO, CUSO International and all the partner organizations are better for it.

To briefly tell you about Kigali; it is a city that is clean, hilly, vibrant, and quickly becoming a home. The runners we meet on our morning training runs greet us with smiles and cheers, our neighbours invite us over for Fanta and tea, as well as visiting us to fix our doors/lights etc, and together with the other new volunteers we cook dinners and solve any new challenge we encounter.

In reviewing my first month, I have the feeling that this is going to be a good year.

I have posted before about how to make donations to CUSO International so that they can continue to send volunteers and accompanying partners to locations around the world but I would like to post the link again and request that you consider making a donation.

If anyone wants to ask me further questions about work, Kigali or CUSO International, please feel free to e-mail me at William@jwilliamhirtle.org. It may take some time to reply but I will do my best to get an answer to you.

Stay well,
William

 

CUSO International Rwanda

March 3, 2012

Welcome to the first update from my new position with CUSO International (formerly CUSO-VSO).

I have begun a placement with the Education Development Center(EDC) on a USAID-funded initiative aimed at helping the Rwandan Education Board (REB) to improve literacy and numeracy in grades P1 to P4. I am working as a video module developer and in this capacity I will am responsible for procuring video equipment, training REB staff on the upkeep and use of the purchased equipment as well as the pro...


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CUSO-VSO (Now CUSO International)

March 3, 2012
An overdue update

After working and volunteering as a multimedia consultant, photographer and videographer for several great organizations (Desmond Tutu-HIV Foundation, Save the Children, The University of Cape Town, etc.) in South Africa, I returned home to Canada in August to begin training for a Communications position with CUSO-VSO in Cambodia.


The position was a six week specialized placement in Cambodia over the course of October and November. My objective was to develop communications ma...
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South African video projects

March 3, 2012
As promised in an earlier post I have uploaded two new videos to the Cape Town, SA page of my video portfolio.

The videos are representative of work that produced with The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Emavundleni Clinic's ADAPT study and The University of Cape Town's Child Health Unit.

Working with project leaders at the ADAPT study in Emavundleni I produced a video that addressed participants concerns regarding their regular clinical visits and processes used in the study. The study aims to f...
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About me


J. William Hirtle 34 yr old travelling multimedia producer.
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