Into Africa : A wedding, a funeral and a witch doctor?
Gavin and Bronwen Ryalls left Dunfermline in 2009 to take up voluntary charity work in Rwanda. The Royal Wedding is big news but amidst humbling generosity, what's the truth of the 'magic' powder and the witch doctor?
This is their story:
"The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft a-gley... Burn's words have rung especially true for us recently in Rwanda.
We had set up three income earning projects and were beginning to see some encouraging progress when a family bereavement sent us five thousand miles north and back to living out of suitcases for a month in Scotland's less than balmy springtime.
We returned to the heat of the tropics, geographically disorientated, but
nevertheless reinvigorated and ready to pick up life again where we had
Shortly after our return, a certain social event at home overtook us in the shape of the royal wedding.
Even our local Rwandan friends had heard of 'the wedding'. We had received a very gracious invitation from His Excellency the High Commissioner to an evening reception in celebration of the great event.
Given the acres of press coverage that had been devoted to the day it would have been churlish to refuse an RSVP from the consulate.
Not that we brush shoulders with the great and the good very often it has to be understood - we don't brush shoulders with the great and the good at all.
So an email invitation to everyone on the consulate's mailing list found its way into even our humble mail box. So we donned our glad-rags and headed off to the High Commissioner's residence to mingle with 300 or so ex-pats from all sectors of the white community.
The 'smart' dress code bothered us a bit. After almost two years in the dust, smart isn't something we do too often.
We needn't have bothered. Medals on blazers mingled happily with charity chinos and embassy suits.
Not at all posh, and a good time was had by all.
After all the excitement it was time to gather our thoughts, pick up our various contacts and head back to work. We had obviously been missed.
The teachers at Kinamba school had a collection waiting for us. It is tradition in Rwanda for contributions to be made towards the funeral arrangements when someone dies.
Usually this is charcoal for the cooking or perhaps some food. In our case, they thought money was best and gave us 5000 francs - around £5.
This was truly humbling. This is a princely sum to these people and it says something of their appreciation for these two musumgos in their midst.
At our street children project we had reluctantly left the mothers running their three income-generation initiatives. These had been set up with the aim of enabling the women to support their families from their own efforts.
Until our interlude at home we had been keeping as close an eye as we could on the start-up businesses and were aware of one or two difficulties which the women may have had to face while we were away.
So we were relieved on our return to find that after three months, the restaurant had covered its rent and was still doing a steady trade eachday.
The charcoal shop had diversified into selling vegetables, which was something of a surprise, but was starting to contribute to the upkeep of the children's house. So things were looking positive.
The news from the third project making banana juice wasn't so encouraging. We had known that the woman running this initiative hadn't been well and had eventually moved away from Kigali.
Her story was a little curious though. This was a fit lady with a big smile when we first met her.
But on our last visit, she had been reduced to a bent and stiff shadow of her former self. It seems that her neighbours had become jealous of the help she was receiving and had sprinkled some 'powder' along her garden path to make her ill.
Questions as to what kind of powder this might have been were met with a shrug of the shoulders. There was, however, a doctor she knew who would be able to make her better after six months if she paid him.
We smelled a rat, but making sense of what was going on wasn't easy.
Even our trusted friends who knew this woman looked a little awkward and gave us the impression that there was something happening that wasn't for us to hear.
We had thought that the days of the witch doctor had gone in this part of Africa, although we have read reports of strange goings-on in Kenya and Uganda.
It seems we were wrong.
We try to manage the projects with at least some effort towards organisation and planning although we have learnt that expectations are easily upset, especially when there are people with magic powder about.
Each month we ask ourselves what we have achieved, and each month we could list several things that probably take us closer to where we want to go, but certainly weren't on the list of things we had intended.
Planning in Rwanda is something ethereal and nebulous and if something turns out the way it was intended, it was probably just coincidence.
Paths are seldom straight in this country and not just because of the mountainous terrain.
So in the midst of funerals, weddings and strange illnesses, our projects are evolving in the right direction.
The women running the businesses are being taught to look after their cash and to work out what they need to buy new stock.
The rains have come and gone for another season and our focus now is having our visas extended for another year. We need to find someone that knows how to make banana juice, but there is also a recipe for making soap that might be an opportunity for one of our women.
As for the street children, our main aim is to have their mothers earning an income and paying for their upkeep rather than depend on the white man's
We are tantalizingly close, but there is work to be done yet."
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Jun 2, 17:39
Gavin and Bronwyn, I salute you. I know your efforts are not appreciated in some ignorant quarters, but I enjoy your diaries and think your reports candid and unbiased. Keep up the good work and ignore the doubting Thomas's who have never stepped foot on African soil, or those that have fled Rwanda and now enjoy Western life.
Recommend? Yes 8 No 3
Jun 3, 12:56
I have been to Africa and middle-class do-gooders do more damage than good. More about their 'experience' of the 'real africa' than actually helping people.
Why are people from Rwanda fleeing to the 'West'? From my experience all refugees move to areas either within their country or to the immediate enighbours. No western country is close...all the people 'fleeing Rwanda' are economic migrants with a sob story, that idiots like you Elspeth, fall for.
Recommend? Yes 5 No 7
Jun 3, 15:06
Why are you of the opinion that I have "fallen" for anything. I think that you need to look at the idiot in the mirror before commenting on other people's opinions. So, you've been to Africa, have a medal, that is the equivalent of saying "I've been to America" and therefore you're an expert on what exactly?
Recommend? Yes 7 No 3
Jun 3, 22:36
Elspeth, you are a pathetic leftish troll who falls for any sob story or line than anyone tells you. You get lots of post saying that you have won things and emails from Nigerian royalty?
It is people like you, idiots, that have ruined a once great country.
Recommend? Yes 2 No 6
Jun 4, 10:02
I'll ask again, why are you of the opinion that I have "fallen" for anything. Did you take a look at the idiot in the mirror. From your reaction to this, it would seem that you have fallen victim to something that has instilled a sense of shame in yourself.
Good grief man, get a grip, read my posts properly, try and see above the chip on your shoulder. This article is about two people doing their best to help where they can, they are not Rwandan and there isn't any mention of any "sob stories" or "Nigerian e-mails". Nigeria? I thought this article was about Rwanda.
Recommend? Yes 5 No 1
Jun 8, 11:29
ThomasDeBois the idiot you are pathetic.....The latest from the BBC news states :-
The world's worst food security crisis is continuing in the eastern Horn of Africa, a US agency has warned.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said areas of particular concern were in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
It said large-scale emergency assistance was urgently needed "to save lives and treat acute malnutrition" in the region.
It also stressed that the current humanitarian response was "inadequate" the eastern Horn of Africa "has experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in one of the driest years since 1995".
It said that crops had failed and local cereal prices remained very high.
"This is the most severe food security emergency in the world today," the statement said.
In southern Ethiopia and some pastoral areas of Somalia, the agency said, "poor households are unable to access the basic food supplies needed for survival".
Recommend? Yes 7 No 1
Jul 8, 22:26
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Aug 22, 08:48
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