The final day in Gashora!

We began the day extremely early as we realized that we had numerous tasks to complete as a team to ensure that our projects were a success. There were a million thoughts and emotions going through our minds that morning as we prepared for such an important day. How will the people react to the unveiling of the computer lab? How will they react to the ceremony at their new basketball court? Will the projects be a success after we leave? How will we be able to say goodbye to these people that we have become so attached too? The plan was to divide and conquer. There was a team that was focused on ensuring that the final donations were given to the community leaders with an explanation that we wanted those most in need to receive them. I never knew giving could be such a difficult task to perform. We had many donations given to us by our friends and family, but it was not enough for every person in the Gashora community. It is extremely difficult to say no to these people as they all need so much but we recognized that it was a necessary action.
The second team was focused on the final touches of the computer lab. Late the night before we were able to get the satellite installed at the computer lab and we got the internet up and running. It was a major milestone and one that we had been waiting for since the day we arrived. In just a few hours we had to teach the teachers how to start up the satellite and get the internet up and how to troubleshoot connectivity issues. We also wanted to give a lesson on how to use the internet. They picked everything up very quickly and took incredible notes for the future. Once we had the people up and running and surfing the web it was miraculous! They were amazed by how much information was at their fingertips! The principle Janvier was able to follow his favorite football teams online! Martin was saving pages of lessons that he found for computer training in Kinyarwandan by searching on Google Rwanda and Dancille was reading the news on BBC. I soon realized that we took the internet for granted in North America. What we had given these people is a window to a world of information that they have never had. The opportunity for learning, for communicating and for personal development was endless. We had given these people hope for a bright future! What a great feeling!
This blog post will continue as the power keeps shutting down in our Kigali hotel!

The day the internet arrived

On October 21st 2009, the day the Internet arrived in Gashora!  After several “guarantees” of installation and a couple different companies, the satellite installation truck rolled into the primary school grounds midday.  Think of the satellite dishes that we had in the 80’s.  Very big, and it had to be pointed in the right direction to pick up the signal.  Looks don’t matter here.  After 6 hours of installation, the Gashora Primary School was connected.  It’s hard to comprehend how much the Internet will change the school and the community, but it’s going to be significant.  The community doesn’t have electricity, so the lab is running off a generator until electricity arrives (supposedly by the end of 2009).  To put it into perspective, our meeting this afternoon with community leaders ran long.  The sun set 30 minutes earlier and the only light was coming from cell phones.  We have been riding our bikes to and from work everyday.  The unpaved, weather eroded roads are tricky to nagivate during the day.  Without light, it’s impossible.  To get back to our hotel, we had a motorcycle and truck escort that provided light while we rode our bikes.  Oh yea, it took us about 30 minutes to figure out how we were going to get home..  Have you tried riding your bike in the dark? 
Tomorrow is our last day in Gashora.  To celebrate the completion of the computer lab and the sports facilities, we invited print and tv media to the festivities, or so we thought.  Peter and I worked with Lama this afternoon putting together a media release.  Considering it was everyone’s first attempt at a media release, I thought we did a good job. When we finished the release, we talked about who we were going to send it to, and how.  We only have access to Internet and power a few hours a day at night when the generator is running.  It’s tough to send out a media release midday when you don’t have the Internet.  It turns out that even if we had access to power and the Internet, the media outlets don’t.  🙂 
It’s going to be tough to leave, but we have done some incredible work.  Our last update from Gashora..   🙁

Thursday in Rwanda

Good evening from Rwanda!  Today was another incredible day in The Land of 1,000 Hills.  We have been in Gashora for 4 days now, but every time we ride into town (twice a day), the kids coming running from their houses to the side of the road yelling “Muzungu!”  In Kinyarwanda, it means white person.  I suspect we have ridden past the same kids several times, but it never gets old for them or us.  5 of us spent the day in the classroom, myself included.  We continued teaching the teachers how to use Word and Excel.  The math teachers and the principal were particularly interested in Excel.  The thought of using “tables” to document students “marks” and to maintain budgets is fascinating to them.  Who would have thought we would be using a true slate chalkboard to demonstrate tables and formulas for Excel.  Oh yea, the teachers don’t speak a lot of English.  Their main language is Kinyarwanda, a few speak French.  It’s difficult teaching technology in English, but when you share a limited common language, it adds another level of excitement!  The other 6 members of the group spent the day at the construction site working on the “foundation” for the basketball court.  We will hopefully mix the concrete tomorrow, meaning the court will be ready for a grand opening next Thursday.  In Africa, pouring the concrete doesn’t mean backing in a big cement truck mixer.  It’s all by hand, every last bit.  It will be a fun and exciting experience! 
The lights in the dining area are starting to flicker, so our time with electricity and Internet is running out.    Till next time!