Community Service in Rwanda
Jan 5, 2010 | HUYE, RWANDA — We drive to our first community service project. Children and adults watch our huge caravan of vehicles along the way. Kids wave to us and yell Muzungu – a term that has come to mean “white person” but is exclaimed affectionately by these children.
We arrive at the village in the Huye district and quickly greeted by a group of curious children. They are cautiously interested in us and our cameras. The children are dressed in clothes worn with many uses and dirt marks their bodies and faces. It is evident that they don’t have many visitors – at least not these types of visitors.
Our goal for the day is to help clear some land with hoes, in order to make flat ground, upon which homes can be built. It’s quite the sight; to see large groups of native people working together with these outsiders. Clearly our group doesn’t really know how to do this sort of work, but the act alone speaks levels. Solidarity.
I must admit that I film while others do the work. I would like nothing more than to work alongside these people, but I think it’s important to share this place and these events with the world. The people here really seem to get a kick out of us. At one point I flip the camera LCD screen so that people can see themselves. The people are amazed by their own reflection and quickly this attracts more and more people to my camera. Mostly women, all laughing at their image; one that they probably don’t see very often. Certainly they are not as used to their reflections as we are of our own.
These women are so beautiful. Their faces filled with life. Many work while they take care of their babies; some even work with babies strapped to their back. Imagine such a sight in the U.S.?! This is a truly foreign level of work.
I go back to the children and am touched by one in particular, who is probably about 13 years old. He follows me around and we talk for a bit. He asks me what my white ONE bracelet is and I try to explain that it represents a campaign to end poverty and to help people around the world. He asks me for the bracelet and I eagerly give it to him. He is so happy with his new gift, and I feel so fortunate to share this moment with him. For the rest of the day, my friend follows me around. In his beautiful language, he tells me that he is filled with love for me. And I try to tell him that I love him too.
I suppose words cannot accurately capture my relationship with this boy. It was touching, yet painful at the same time. Natural, but somehow awkward. He is a friend – a little brother – who I will never forget.