Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Those words have rung true these past few weeks, as things have gotten surprisingly busy here. The primary culprit is my very exciting but consuming job with a new government institution called the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The RDB was created this past fall to "fast-track" Rwanda's development efforts. If that sounds like a broad charge, it's because it is! We report directly to the President and are responsible for solving problems hindering the country's strategic growth and development--everything from big infrastructure projects to education and workforce development to private investment, building a better business climate, and more. We should create the conditions for the private sector to grow, creating more jobs and expanding opportunities for all Rwandans. The RDB is modeled after a similar entity that proved successful in Singapore.
President Kagame has asked an enormously successful American businessman named Joe Ritchie to serve as the CEO. Joe has been involved in Rwanda for the past five years, serving on the President's Advisory Council and pitching the country to private sector leaders around the world. He's hard-charging and eccentric, with a brilliant business mind; I've already learned a lot from him.
Perhaps more exciting though, is the opportunity I have to work with a young Rwandese leader named Francis Gatare, who is the #2 at the RDB. Because Joe is not yet living in Rwanda full time, Francis is the guy really running the show day to day. He is smart, humble, and committed to his country; he could very well be President of Rwanda in 10 years. He's also totally overwhelmed. Like most organizations here in Rwanda, the RDB has a few very capable people at the top of the organization, then the talent pool and staff capacity drops off dramatically below them. So a guy like Francis always has more work than anyone could handle.
It's really been great fun working in a Chief of Staff/Senior Advisor role for the RDB: trying to take things off Francis and Joe's plate, helping with policy strategy and research, interfacing with Western investors, and generally trying to keep the trains running on time. Campbell and I even got to help host a dinner for Tony Blair, who has committed to support Rwanda! My experiences in DC and New Orleans are actually serving me very well, and I feel like I'm making a difference.
Campbell and I are here in Rwanda because of Christ's call to love and serve the poor. I'm not working in a slum or among the rural poor, but I have the privilege of helping to tackle some of the country's BIG strategic challenges. Challenges, that if met, can further transform this country and improve the lives of millions of its poorest citizens. How cool is that?!?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Today marks three years of marriage for Campbell and me. Remarkably, our anniversary has sparked a huge celebration across the country! The entire country has declared a holiday, and people everywhere have taken to the streets to observe our special day with singing, chanting, and whistles! It’s quite an honor really.
Okay, so they are actually out protesting the ongoing controversy surrounding the arrest of Rose Kabuye. All the businesses are closed, and thousands of people are marching through the streets across the city. The U.S. Embassy has advised that we generally keep a low profile, but everything is very orderly and peaceful. (Don’t worry, Mom…there’s no danger). The emotions around this case are deep-seated. These protests have provided an interesting window into the deep, strong feelings that persist from the genocide, lurking beneath the surface.
The whole Rose incident actually deserves a more thorough post (as does the story of my participation in the protests, which is really very funny). I’m sorry that our computer problems have prevented me from sharing more information, but the following article captures many of the key details and why it matters:
Campbell shared a bit about our trip up to the Northern Province of Rwanda. Musanze may well be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been (click on the pictures for more amazing views). We spent the afternoon at the Virunga lodge, a super high-end retreat ($1,000/night!) that is perched on top of a mountain. One side of the mountain looks down onto a huge crystal lake, while the other side faces a series of volcanic mountains. It is truly spectacular. We hiked for a few hours (I kept waiting to find Frodo, Gandalf, and co. coming around the bend) before enjoying dinner in this magical spot.The drive up to Virunga took us through several rural villages where we encountered waves of children that would run after our car, laughing and calling out, “Muzungu, muzungu!” I don’t think this will ever get old; just thinking about it makes me smile!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
So Dan and I continue to play like sponges and soak up the beautiful music, smiles, weather, and overall warmth of Rwanda. We're learning new Kinyarwandan words each day--I learned "murabeho" yesterday: "goodbye."
Sunday we went to an Anglican church for worship and it was wonderful! Our days are filled with meetings, site visits, good conversations, and lots of de-briefing at night.
Yesterday was quite a day for Dan and me. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be drafting the Administrator's speech for an upcoming USAID conference, and was in desperate need of some "material." Many of you will know that I dread drafting these things, and I actually really stink at anything verbal except for talking too much. I got my first C in Reading Comprehension in the second grade. So yesterday I needed all the help I could get.
Dan, I, Tom Allen, Glen, a USAID colleague, and another new friend, Elizabeth, went to visit Nicholas Hitimana's for-profit venture called Ikirezi. Ikirezi is much more than the organic-geranium-plant-growing, essential-oils-for-export venture it appears. Through growing cooperatives, 830 widows of the genocide work alongside each other to cultivate their eight rows each of geraniums just as they do their relationships with one another. But it's not that easy. Many times, widows of genocidaires work directly with women whose husbands were brutally killed by those same men.
After Dan and the rest peeled off to visit another site, I had the privilege to speak with Odette.
Everyone in Odette's family except for two of her five children were killed in the war. Her parents, three children, and siblings died in a church up the road where Hutus and Tutsis were ordered by Hutu extremists to separate, so that they could execute the Tutsis. When the Hutus refused to leave their neighbors', spouses', and friends' sides, thousands died.
Odette and some of her family had retreated to Uganda, where her husband died fighting for the RPF, the rebel army which would come to take back Rwanda from Hutu extremists and put President Kagame into office. Odette had nothing.
She came to Links Ministry, Ikirezi's sister organization, looking for enough income to buy soap to bathe herself and her children. Today she's the treasurer of her geranium-growing cooperative at Ikirezi; she's generated 4 seasons' worth of money, her remaining children are in school, and she can buy them clothes and food.
After telling me all of this, Odette asked if she could explain to me (through Nicholas) how she "came about really forgiving those who killed her family, and not having anything left in the back of my heart." She explained that she hated westerners and Hutus for what they'd done to her family and her friends. But one day, during a meeting with the women of her co-op, a Hutu from the North came, knelt down before this group of women, and, weeping, begged forgiveness for what his people had done to theirs. She continued to forgive those Hutus around her, and she says God's since replaced the fear she had of them with love.
She just has one last "test" for this healing, she told me. She has to go to that church up the road...and she's so afraid. But she'll go--she says that forgiveness hasn't been easy, but when one gets healed by God, that "it's real." I'll say.
Pray for Odette and for this country.
All for now! Murabeho.