Happy Birthday, Darrell!! Wish you were here to celebrate in Rwanda! I'll make a cake when we get home...
Yesterday was very busy, but very productive. The night before I met with Nathan, the head of the ALARM office here in Rwanda. I know that contributions from the US must be down, with our recession, and we talked about ways to make a profit at the office here, so that they can become self-sufficient in their day to day expenses, which must be high. There is the beginning of a two story building here, that is stopped until funds come in, and other spaces that are not used efficiently, so Nathan would like to expand the one meeting room in a large all-purpose building, and rent it out when ALARM is not using it for its ministry gatherings. Part of it is unused smaller storage spaces and rooms, that could make it better for large groups.
I suggested a shop for ALARM visitors and embassy and AID personnel to buy gifts etc, and also a used book swap, in this town that doesn't yet have Barnes and Noble. Just last week, a visitor had wished for the same shop, so Nathan and Bosco and I brainstormed some ideas. Diane had wished that she could buy a traditional dress in Rwanda,but had to leave for the airport right after our time in IWE. I think many visitors don't have time to go to the market, and may be intimidated by that atmosphere, and so clothing, tee shirts, jewelry, maps of Rwanda, etc. would be a good business. They could open it to other groups on "market days," maybe 2 Saturdays every month, and invite local craftsmen and even furniture makers and plant providers to come sell. it would bring in the community to ALARM. Nathan suggested not just an adult used book stall for adults, but a library for local kids to come, sit and read if they want. That would also welcome in the community. All the book project would take would be spreading the word to visitors to bring high-interest English books in each suitcase. The schools have recently switched to English, rather than French, for all instruction, so more English books would be in demand.
Then it dawned on me that writing picture books about every day Rwandan life would be good too, as tourist gifts for kids back home, and for English practice here. So yesterday afternoon we went to a coupled of publishing offices to see what it would involve to produce ALARM's own kids' books for sale. I made contact with a lovely young woman at one office, and also told her about Highlights' Foundation, that supports new writers and invites internationals to their wonderful conference in Chautauqua. She was very interested. Maybe I could get a couple of people from Highlights to do a conference here?! Valerie spoke only French and Kinyarwanda, but explained through Bosco's interpretation that there is no culture of reading here and that their company, started by a Swiss/Rwandan couple, is trying to inject that reading culture here starting with children. What a great movement to get involved with!
Yesterday we also visited a tiny Vocational school about half an hour from here, that Joanna and I had seen 4 years ago when we were here. They teach electricity, welding, masonry, engine repair, and driver's ed, for people who then can pass an exam and get a learners' permit, for a job as a driver. But they need some basic equipment like a big power saw, a bigger better welding machine, and about $300 worth of wiring and electrical supplies that would hold up for three years of practice electrical work. I want to try to help them apply for the same Ambassador's special self-help fund that bought a generator for our project back in Tanzania. One grant would change the whole nature of their school and the number of street kids they can serve. They give free vocational ed to the very neediest kids, who are identified by local churches, local government, and their own graduates recommendations. But they can't serve as many as need this training. They also need a used car that they estimate would cost about $2,600. That would be worked on by the students, and serve as a profit making taxi for the community, for emergency runs to the hospital, etc. Right now the engine repair students work on old engines in the yard of the one room school!
I also spent precious time translating the story of Emmanuel, who came from Burundi to see me. Many of you have contributed to his education, and he will graduate from college in January, with a degree in Sociology and the desire to counsel those who were hurt by genocide, war, and even slavery to rebel groups, as he was for 8 years. He has a miraculous story that I hope to turn into a book!
Time to go to market. Amy and I want to scope out products for the new ALARM shop... and do some shopping of our own!
I have been reading The Lord of the Rings again, and feel like we are on our own "quest" here. I fall asleep in the glow of my ipad, with Tolkien's hobbits in my dreams!