Hey everybody, Sully here, and I am back from Rwanda with a bittersweet feeling. Bitter for the leaving, and sweet for everything else pretty much. I'll try to tell you everything without writing a novel. For all of our supporters, I hope you enjoy the work done thus far over there because of our efforts.
Ubaka U Rwanda is name of our newly formed U.S. Non-profit for those who didn't know. The name is in Kinyarwanda and it means "To build Rwanda." The "building" refers to building Rwanda up by helping the street kids off the streets and contributing positively to themselves and their country. That mission started in 2001 with Evode, and hasn't stopped since. However, I'm really happy to be able to tell you we have also begun to physically build as well!
There is a lot of great things to talk about but we have worked so hard for so long and waited patiently to begin building that I am going to just start off with that. On January 28th, we officially broke ground on our land. The digging of the foundation of the wall was first. However we had thirty plus workers arrive on the second day and the jobs of digging, foundation building, and brickwork began happening simultaneously. Evode told me it would take two weeks for the main wall building to finish, and I guessed three. I was wrong.
Before I continue, some may be asking about why we began with a wall, and why a wall would be important. There are a few answers to that. The simplest answer is the fact that it is the law in Rwanda to have a wall around your land. That by itself is reason enough to get it started but we also need it for the security of our land and our materials we will use in the future building. A wall, though seemingly simple, shows the government and anyone walking by that we are serious about our land and the project we are beginning. The city of Kigali is growing fast every day, and if we don't abide by the laws and fit their future view of the city, we could find problems. Luckily, we built a very beautiful and big wall.
I was personally there everyday working alongside with the Rwandans. I think at first, they didn't think I would be around for long. Personally, I was afraid to get in their way and be more of a problem than a helper. We quickly became friends though and I knew how to stay busy and helpful, and they were no longer surprised of the foreigner working with them. They are extremely strong physically, and maybe more so mentally. I chose my hours depending on how I wanted to spend my time with the kids each day. Meanwhile, they never stopped during the week and Saturdays. From sunrise and past sunset they worked. I have a special place in my heart reserved for the men who dig the trenches. They were very kind, very strong, and their job is extremely monotonous and demanding. I can say I have left my blood, sweat, and tears on the land and I can thank the diggers for helping out with the blood part of that statement. My hands ripped up quite well.
I have more good news about building. Not only did we finish the wall, but we also began and finished our annex. The annex is a separate building next to the proposed house. It has six rooms. The biggest room will serve as the dining hall/film room/ meeting room/etc. The kitchen is next to it, and a bathroom as well. The other three rooms will be TBA for now. I can't tell you how happy I was to continue building and get more done than just the wall.
The reason this was possible (besides you reading this) is because of Evode. For those reading who do not know who Evode is; the simple explanation is Evode is the one who started Ubaka U Rwanda, brings the kids home and helps rehabilitate and reintegrate them again. If that's not possible, he takes them in as his own. So anyways, Evode had told us that he would cut down on our costs by following everything and he didn't lie. Evode was extremely busy following the building, buying the bricks, stones, cement and coordinating the deliveries, paying the workers, coordinating water connection and future electricity connections, purchasing the steel rebar, roofing slabs, wood and so many other things. Evode did all of that and more and because of that, was able to stretch the money enough to finish the annex. He proved himself clever as well like when he decided to use the back portion of the outside wall to serve as one wall for the annex as well. The annex i long and rectangular. It reaches the width of the land, using the back wall and the side walls already made so that we drastically cut down the cost of the annex. The pictures will show this better.
Needless to say, both of us were really energized and tired at the same time. The progression of my jobs kept me busy. I started out digging. I then began moving stones. When I was moving by myself, I would grab the biggest one i could and rest it on my shoulders and back as I walked to where it was needed. Sometimes I would team up with someone and we would carry a makeshift stretcher. We would have to load the big stone on it and walk it over to where it was needed. Once the foundation was officially done, then it was all bricks for me. I would carry 10 stacked in front of me, or throw as many as i could in an old cement bag and carry it over my back like Santa Claus would I assume. Now and again, I would mix cement or move the dirt piles closer to where they were most needed, or dig out dirt from the rooms in the annex to make the floors ready for cement one day. As my time wound down in Rwanda, so did the building money. We had 15 workers usually and no bricks or stones to move. It was then I took on the job of filling in the grooves between bricks with cement in a way that would protect them and make them look nice. the only other job was to do the serious cement work being done and I didn't want to screw things up. So with a bent, dull knife and a flat rock to hold a handful of cement on, the older women tasked with this job taught me to how to do it. It was a dauntingly slow task but I found it really peaceful actually. Those elderly ladies sung beautifully while we did it too. When the sun set, I was in pure heaven.
Fellow supporters and friends Ali and Doc came to visit me while I was in Rwanda. Among many things they did, they both put in a day on the land. Both of them got the simultaneous boring/exciting feeling that comes with moving brick after brick for hours but to build a dream home for street kids in Rwanda. The workers were amazed to see a foreign girl like Ali covered in dust from the bricks and a foreign older dude like Doc lifting huge stones to help them. When it was time for me to leave Rwanda, I had gotten very close with all of the workers. The only thing I could do to show my appreciation was to buy a round of drinks for us. As the sun set, we all toasted to us. We joked and laughed a bit. I gave them my thanks as they sent some my way too. Then I walked around the land like I did most of the time at the end of the day. I would sit around at different views, run my hands over the wall, climb the roof of the annex, and look out over the hills surrounding us. I would think about where we came from, where we are, and where were going. I'd think about how grateful I am and about all of the things we may be bale to do in the future. And dare I say I felt a little proud too. I felt proud that we were contributing something lasting to the beautiful country of Rwanda and it's youth.