Our final day in Kivuruga was another memorable one, although Shannon was sick and not able to be part of any activities. She is feeling better now and ready for the gorillas.
After breakfast we drove to the new Kivuruga Area Development Project headquarters, which serves a total of three ADP’s. It’s a wonderful area with room for offices and a couple separate buildings. It was really nice to visit the ADP and get to use modern plumbing. The staff are fantastic; they are led by Aimable, who was with us much of the trip and is a master encourager. He led us in song and a lesson which sparked some good discussion. We discussed ADP strategy and many other things before giving gifts and saying goodbye. We had a chance to share the history and impact of Our Response, which was critical for the new leadership and staff to hear. They encouraged us to continue uniting churches and coming alongside them in financial support of this work.
We gave the ADP staff the little dresses and remaining boots and balls as part of our visit. The dresses (and some boys shorts) were made with love and donated by a number of East Central MN women, an effort coordinated by Ellen Lance (my momma!). The staff were so excited and already planning how to get these items to the people of Kivuruga; there was also talk of using them as incentives for scoring well on test scores. The people of Kivuruga loved everything we gave them and were so grateful to Our Response.
We then travelled to an absolutely amazing farming co-op. These guys have managed to move people from survival farming into large scale farming, which has transformed so many lives. They now have 150 farmers working together in vast fields of corn, bananas and other crops. Approximately 1,500 farmers work for the co-op as part of the effort, turning the unemployed into the employed. Owners in this co-operative now have more money and participate in savings groups. As one of the co-op leaders said, “We used to farm for survival. Now we farm for a purpose”. They have extra income and are able to buy food and pay school fees with no problem.
The farmers also leaned to grow a different banana. Rather than small bananas, the co-op now grows bananas that are much larger in size, causing the growers to make about four times the amount of money. These practical changes are part of what makes this co-op so powerful.
A high ranking government official, upon touring the operation, has requested World Vision to help secure the equipment needed to open a mill as part of the operation. Being able to produce flour right at this co-operative will create an even greater economic boom. The co-op members have received so many awards and have such a clear vision of their future. These were uneducated farmers engaged in subsistence farming, but given the right training and support, combined with their own determination, they are now business men who are changing the economic viability of their families and community. They are so proud of their work—and should be. This was an amazing feat of transformation.
We then said goodbye to our new friends, including Aimable, before driving back for lunch. After eating, we said goodbye to two of our drivers and to Lorraine, who was with us representing World Vision U.S.
It was time to head north to let loose at the Cultural Village up near the Volcanoes. We had fun with our King Shane and Queen Terri, although Jimmy snuck in to be a second king. We had a great time with the King’s hut, medicine man, blacksmith, sorghum grinding, and archery. We also watched native dancing and joined in on the drums. This center employs former gorilla poachers who now participate here in exchange for a commitment to no longer poach.
After a brief stop for souvenirs, we returned to the hotel, had dinner, and said goodbye to Jimmy, our World Vision Rwanda host. Jimmy was an important part of the trip and we wish him well as he continues to plan his sister’s wedding on Saturday (they are expecting 600 people).
I had a chance to chat with our driver, Claude, for the next few hours. He seems fantastic and we got our plans all figured out for tomorrow. We are leaving the hotel at 6:20am to go track and hang out with gorillas. We will then drive about five hours to Akagera National Park and prepare ourselves for some safari time. Bring on the gorillas!