Mamajojo's Muse

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say; here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58: 6-11

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rwanda: my third visit, this time to facilitate a Writing-for-Children workshop. As we flew to Kigali, I wondered if we could really pull this off. My writer/trainers were excellent, but I had no idea who might show up to participate, or if they all would be committed to developing books for kids in East Africa. Benjamin Nkusi, country director of ALARM in Rwanda, had lined up the participants. Would they buy into this concept? Would it be completely alien to them? Worst of all: would they nod politely as we presented and whip up some stories to please us, and then forget about it when we handed out certificates and praise and disappeared from Kigali?
Kigali, Rwanda: a busy, developing city, full of motorbike taxis, new construction,  and commerce
Our team: Pamela Schembri, Peter Catalanotto, Kristen Swanson, Guy Macdonald
20 participants gathered for group instruction led by Peter Catalanotto
From the first day, we realized that Benjamin had done his preparation with extreme care. Each participant had stories to tell and a commitment to put them in written form for children. Our group included several teachers, youth workers, two headmistresses of secondary schools, students, ministry workers, and a civil engineer who arrived with his guitar and a head full of great songs. Many of the participants had not known each other before, but from the first notes, four part harmonies and joyful dance burst out of the group. The harmony surrounded our team of trainers, as well, who meshed easily into the framework provided by Peter Catalanotto.

Each session began with a song
Coaching was provided on children's stories, personal histories, young adult novels
Individual coaching with Guy Macdonald

French... Kinyarwanda...English...Swahili... Communication happened brain to brain and heart to heart

Table groups shared stories, designing the character's "want," problems, and ending  

Our amazing group of writers
ALARM offered GREAT food, helpful and friendly staff, and another place to share stories

We stayed in ALARM's octagonal guest house: great rooms, hot showers, sitting areas and internet
Our target audience: Rwandan kids!

Thanks to all who supported the project, which will continue next year. Thanks, especially, to our Kickstarter friends and Orphans' Promise, who made this possible without even knowing the participants. I will add more stories and pictures to the blog, and soon our "Rwanda Writes" blog will be up and running. There you can see each participant and read drafts of their stories as they are submitted. Stay in touch, and see what happens next!

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