Ms Rigby has the final word

While we were away the blog was written by Callum, Jack, Meave and Shannon (although admittedly there was some editing by myself). This was because it was the pupils who had the biggest story to tell – not least because they were the ones getting grubby and suntanned in fields, whereas I was observing lessons and giving presentations to teachers, which is probably much less interesting to read about. However once we arrived home on Friday I felt that there were a couple of things that had perhaps gone unsaid, and all weekend I wanted to say them. So today when we were talking about a final blog post I said I’d like to do it, and they said that would be fine, so here I am.

You will have noticed from what Callum, Jack, Meave and Shannon wrote while we were away that they were busy all the time. They were working in fields, playing with children, pouring porridge, visiting homes, sitting tests in lessons, and much much more. I am sure that some of this was difficult for them and I am positive that it was tiring – but I didn’t hear a single complaint or negative comment for the whole two weeks we were away. They embraced everything with enthusiasm and energy, and this was wonderful to see and be a part of. They were fantastic ambassadors for the school and the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and I cannot praise them highly enough. Personally, I am most proud of the relationships they formed with the Mihabura pupils; they were so happy to chat and play and fool around that it was like they had always known them. It was genuinely delightful to see. So I mainly wanted to write this to thank them for their commitment and hard work, and to let you all know (because they are too modest to say it themselves) how amazing they are.

I also wanted to let you know how much we all appreciated and enjoyed your comments on our posts (special shout out to our ‘stalker’ Mrs Eddie). We usually read them over breakfast and it was a really positive way start to start the day, which at 6am is quite an achievement. Although we all had a wonderful time in Rwanda we didn’t forget home and we all missed our family and friends, so it was nice to know you hadn’t forgotten us too.

Finally, I was in Rwanda to work with the staff of Mihabura on exchanging ideas about teaching methodologies and to develop the schools’ partnership (which is why there are no pictures of me with a hoe). As well as being full of admiration for Callum, Jack, Meave and Shannon I am also in awe of the fantastic teachers I have met who do such a good job under such difficult circumstances. I have learned a great deal from them and am looking forward to continuing to work with them in the future.

So those are the unsaid things. I am sure that the younger members of Harlaw Team Rwanda 2014 think that this post has been one big “cringe”, but seeing as they were the ones to have cured me of some of my perpetual cynicism then I think it is only fair I should get to embarrass them as revenge.

Lots of love,

Ms Rigby


Leaving Day

On our last day in Rwanda we had a long lie in in the morning! Bzzt. We had to be at the airport for 1300, so it was just really packing before lunch, then leaving.

However as a last-day treat Ms Rigby took us on our last motorbike taxi, which was as always a plus. After that we had lunch, and the nuns had baked us a special goodbye cake, which was a lovely gesture.

Sadly the worst part of the trip was still to come. We had to leave our now beloved Rwanda, and with it, the friends we had made: Fulgence, Japhet, Nehemiah (best taxi driver in the world) and many more. As we were waiting at the airport in Kamembe there was an epic thunderstorm; clearly Rwanda didn’t want us to leave. But soon we were on our way, already thinking about our return.




“Yes yes MIHABURA!”

Our last day at Mihabura was lots of fun but also very emotional. We arrived at the school early to take a test about what we learned from the school trip on Saturday. I had written extensive notes throughout the day, so I aced the test; Callum annoyingly matched my score even though he hadn’t taken any.

We were then sat in front of the whole school, teachers and parents for a ceremony dedicated to us. This involved guest speakers such as the local Head of Education, dancing, singing, riddles and even a goat impressionist. We were shocked when Japhet and some pupils emerged from the crowd with gifts for us all! After the pupils had pulled us all up to dance, it was time for our presentation which went well.

The second part of the ceremony was friendly volleyball and football games against Ryankana. The playing field was 10 minutes down the road from Mihabura so the whole school – even the tiny primary 1s – spilled out on to the main road and paraded down the middle of it. We couldn’t even imagine something like that happening at Harlaw.

First was the volleyball game which unfortunately Mihabura lost, probably because Shannon and I were added to the team. The football game was next. The team had a brand-new kit, kindly donated by catering company EntiΓ©r, and looked fantastic. Fulgence was extremely pleased with his referee outfit (technically the goalie’s kit) and Simon and Jallum were new additions to the team. This was a good idea as they all scored, what I’m told were spectacular, goals (for detailed commentary, see Callum). There was a pitch invasion after each goal; they all got totally mobbed. Unfortunately, Shannon and I missed both of the goals as we spent the entire game surrounded by small children teaching us hand claps. We also managed to get a massive conga line going and as Mihabura won the match 3-1 I started a “Yes yes MIHABURA” chant, which spread until the entire school had flooded onto the pitch chanting with such enthusiasm. We had to wade through the small chanting children to get to our taxis back to the school. It was pandemonium!

Back at Mihabura, it was time to say goodbye to everyone. This was very emotional as we have become great friends with the pupils and teachers, and although we were promising to come back to Rwanda, we weren’t sure if we would ever see all of these people again.

For our last evening meal in Rwanda we went to a fairly fancy hotel which Simon and Fulgence rocked up to still in their muddy football kits. We got to sit out on the balcony with a view of the lights of DRC over Lake Kivu.

Lots of love
Meave, Jack, Callum and Shannon


(And Ms Rigby)





Fulgence the Builder

This morning we helped build a house for a genocide survivor. When we arrived in the community we could see a definite improvement in the quality of the houses compared to others we have seen. We were told the other people building were not getting paid, they were just doing all they could to help others less fortunate. It’s nice to see a whole community working so well together. Even Fulgence and Ms Rigby mucked in (literally – building houses out of mud is a pretty grubby task). We all tried to carry bricks on our heads to take them to another house that was being built; everyone but me managed to successfully transport the bricks. I wasn’t really sure if carrying bricks on our heads was in the risk assessment, but when I dropped one on my toe Ms Rigby swiftly put a stop to it. All the kids in the area obviously did not think we were capable of doing it because they were all laughing at us.

After this we went to the border of Rwanda and Burundi. The security guards let us go through the gates, which meant we were no longer in Rwanda but we weren’t in Burundi, so technically we were in no-man’s land. Meave and I took some photos of the border, but we were asked to delete them by the guards as no photos were allowed.

Once we had had lunch (for the second last time!) at Mihabura we headed towards the football pitch to mark the lines for the match tomorrow against Ryankana. To get to the football pitch we started walking but then slowly got surrounded by bicycle taxis, so we decided to hop on. There was one fewer bike than there were people so Simon decided to throw one of the taxi drivers off his bike so he could cycle Radjab himself! They were a lot comfier than I expected, slower than motorbike taxis obviously, but better than walking.

Lots of love
Shannon, Meave, Callum & Jack

(And Ms Rigby)



A Different Kind of ‘Kid’

We woke up this morning trembling with excitement with the thought in our minds of going to the Bugarama market to buy some goats for the sponsored children’s families. However, when we got to Mihabura we were told that if a group of ‘muzungos’ were seen the prices would be bumped up. So we had to go and hide while Samson the ‘ne-goat-iator’ bought the goats for us. The goats were named Michael, Patch, Aileen (the most expensive one!), Yola, Goat, Sass, Fulgence and Japhet. It turned out that Sass really did live up to his name as he refused to go to his new owner. The parents who were given the goats were really touched and appreciative.

We then went to visit the hot springs. The road was absolutely horrendous and it took us almost an hour to drive 13km. The water was surprisingly hot but unfortunately it was not clean so we could not paddle in it.

After that we went to visit Emmanuel (Victoria’s sponsored pupil) at his school. He was incredibly nice and funny and he is so grateful for his second chance. He has certainly completely changed his attitude and we all think that it was the right decision by Victoria to continue to sponsor him.

We then went back to Mihabura to drop off Japhet (the human!) intending to go straight back to St Francois, but then Fulgence disappeared so Jack and I joined in the P6’s football match which was great fun. Shannon and Meave did some clapping games with the P6 girls, then Meave taught them a ‘Go Shannon’ chant while Shannon played volleyball, and she also managed to get a conga line going.

Before signing off we would also like to congratulate Simon and his family, as today they welcomed a baby girl into the world. We are all delighted for you Simon!

Love from,
Callum, Jack, Meave and Shannon

(And Ms Rigby)




Espoir FC

Yesterday the group was invited to Bugarama church, where we yet again saw a very different service from that which you would see in the UK. The service consisted of a lot of praying, preaching, playing music and reading blessings. We read the blessing that we read last week, and Jack played drums with the choir; but with sticks off the trees instead of real drumsticks.

Half way through the service Mrs Hunter had to leave. It made us all sad to see her go and she seemed upset too, but that was maybe just the thought of going back to work! At the end of the service the whole congregation waved at us, and the Pastor asked us to pass the greetings of everyone present on to everyone back in Aberdeen.

After refreshments and a brief chat with the Pastor, we went for lunch at a hotel opposite the school. The food was very good, and for 5 meals with drinks it was only Β£9! We then went to see Meave’s sponsored children’s parents. Although at first we felt guilty turning up, shaking hands, taking pictures and leaving; when we thought about it, we realised that Meave’s family has changed their children’s lives, and the families were probably really pleased to meet her.

The visits were very emotional, so afterwards it was good to unwind at a football match. We went to Stade Rusizi and saw Espoir FC, a team from Rwanda’s equivalent of the Premiership, beat Bukavu-Dawa from DRC. It was a very different stadium from the likes of Pittodrie, the pitch was very bobbly and there were no seats for the crowd. The game finished with a win for the home side, and we headed back to St Francois through a thunderstorm that had sprung up out of nowhere as the final whistle went.

Today we go to buy goats for the families of our sponsored children. These only cost about Β£20 each but can make a massive difference to a family’s life. If you would like to help towards the cost of this you can donate using our PayPal page.
Lots of love from Team Rwanda 2014

Jack, Callum, Meave, Shannon


(And Ms Rigby)




Video Killed the Radio Star

On Friday night, thankfully after we uploaded the blog, there was a power cut. This meant no light, plug sockets or wifi. Needless to say, Callum still managed to spend 5 minutes trying to charge his phone!

When we woke up on Saturday morning the power was back on so we could get ready for our school trip with the Primary 6s from Mihabura. Our first stop was Shagasha Tea Company, where we were shown the tea manufacturing process. Everyone found it really interesting and we even got to touch the tea at different stages of the production. We also found out that the Wood Family Trust grows some of the tea the factory processes. It was great when we could show them the back of our polo shirts and say that they had also helped us to get to Rwanda. While waiting around outside the factory, I taught some of the kids to sing Flower of Scotland, while one of the older pupils – Sam – very accurately impersonated how all his teachers (and Shallum) walked.

The next stop on our road trip was lunch. We had an ‘all you can eat’ buffet and as the kids returned to the tables with volcanoes of food on their plates we assumed their eyes were bigger than their stomachs, but soon enough every single plate was scraped clean.

We headed to the hospital where the children were given a presentation on HIV and how to avoid it and then it was on to the radio station: Radio Rusizi. A tour of the studios revealed a small newsroom, a recording studio and a broadcasting studio (which was live!) Again there was some waiting outside but when one of us produced a camera this caused pandemonium and before we knew it we were celebrities with a queue of children waiting to take photos with us. You would think it was over when another kid would ask, “and me next?” During our moment of fame, three pupils – David and Sam and a girl whose name I don’t know – were chosen to speak on the radio. They were asked about the school trip and their thoughts on the radio station and even had the chance to thank Simon and RSVP charity. When they appeared from the studio they were greeted like heroes, everyone swarmed around them, chanting and cheering with such energy.

To top it all off, at the very last minute Mrs Hunter was dragged in to be interviewed as well. She was asked about the impact and the benefits to the kids that the trip would have. We are not speaking to her as she didn’t give us a shoutout.

All in all it has been an extremely surreal day that has probably boosted our egos more than needed.

Lots of love,
Meave, Jack, Callum and Shannon


(And Mrs Hunter and Ms Rigby)




Today was the first day we got to sleep in. After the long lie we were given a guided tour around Cyangugu by the man himself, Fulgence. We were shown the Cathedral and also the football stadium, Stadrusizi. The views from the top of the hill were sensational!

After this we had some lunch and then went to Mihabura. We took several suitcases full of English textbooks, volleyballs and football equipment. All the pupils and teachers were so happy when they saw the footballs and volleyballs, they cheered unbelievably loudly. We had about 30 minutes before we left to go to the clinic for malnourished children, so we played some games of football and volleyball.

We walked to the clinic and we were followed by a lot of kids who all said hello and shouted, “Muzungo!” at us. When we arrived at the clinic we were taken through the village to meet the mothers and children that were part of the porridge/milk programme. We all felt very welcomed in to the community. I was very happy to hear that the programme has been so successful. There are 2 categories, green and red: the green category is the children that are no longer malnourished and the red category is children that haven’t been cleared. We were told that of the 40 children, 37 of them were in the green category. It was quite an upsetting experience, but there was also a lot of happiness hearing about the results.

While we were driving back to St Francois the sun was setting, it was a beautiful end to the day.

Lots of love from Team Rwanda 2014
Shannon, Callum, Jack and Meave

(And Mrs Hunter and Ms Rigby)





Today we set off to do field work with the mother of Simeon, Waverley’s sponsored pupil. We discovered that we faced a grim hour and fifteen minute walk to the field. However our mood was lightened when we successfully forced Japhet, the Head Teacher of Mihabura, to come with us. Unfortunately though he is quite the skiver as the amount of time he worked totalled up to a paltry five minutes, although he did take lots of pictures.

The walk to the fields was beautiful. We trekked upriver beside the Rusizi and the view of the mountains was breathtaking. The field was unlike any field I’d ever seen. It was placed on a very steep hill with many massive, strange alien egg vegetables which made it very difficult. It was so difficult that I broke my hoe.

On the walk back a boy called Eric, who had helped us in the fields, decided he had had enough of simply walking back so he stripped off his t-shirt and jumped in the river. We watched him float gracefully down the raging torrent of the Rusizi and met him again at the end. We were dying to follow suit but Mrs Hunter pulled rank.

After that we went to visit Simeon at his school. He was such a nice, confident guy and he remembered the names of all the people who visited last year. He was so grateful for his sponsorship and was shocked that all the gifts we had were for him. We then met Drocelle, a girl who is sponsored by Catriona Young. She emotionally expressed her thanks to Catriona for her help and promised that she will study hard.

Tomorrow we are getting a long lie with breakfast at 8am, so we are going to particularly enjoy this evening. We are helping at the malnourished baby clinic in the afternoon, so it will be another emotional day.

Love Callum, Jack, Meave and Shannon


(And Mrs Hunter and Ms Rigby)




Sticks, Pigs and a Mayor

Today was a day filled with field work, taxis, a boarding school and the Mayor of Bugarama.

The field work was much like yesterday, very tiring and difficult. We worked for around 3 hours again, and got to see Giselle’s mum. Their house was a little bigger than Jean-Pierre’s, but was still much smaller than any I have seen in the UK. While in the fields Meave and Callum carried bundles of sticks on their heads. They said they were really heavy and once again we appreciated how easy our lives are compared to ordinary people’s lives here. A highlight of the day was being able to see three countries at once from the field: Burundi, DRC and of course Rwanda.

After the field work we headed over to Mihabura primary school to have lunch, and then to Gishoma boarding school, where we met Giselle, Jeremy and a few of our personal sponsored pupils. They were very grateful for the presents, and yet again showed their appreciation. Unlike Gihundwe, Gishoma did not have an office for their Head Boy and Girl. I look forward to moving into Mrs Hunter’s office when I return πŸ˜‰ However like Gihundwe Gishoma had pigs. Ms Rigby decided Harlaw should have its own pig but Shannon shot her idea down. In all seriousness, it was a great chance to see the pupils really appreciate their learning, with the little amount of resources they have.

After we left the boarding school we came back to St Francois, where the Mayor of Bugarama met us. He sent out a personal message thanking anyone involved with RSVP charity, including the pupils of Harlaw.

Overall, it was a very good day, and as usual very inspiring.

From Team Rwanda 2014
Jack, Callum, Meave and Shannon


(And Mrs Hunter and Ms Rigby)