Rwanda: My First Time in Africa

Hello! I've spent ten days in Rwanda this August. If you don't know where that is, it's a tiny little country in the very centre of Africa (I say tiny but it's actually twice the size of Northern Ireland). I've travelled a lot around Europe but this was my first time ever venturing into Africa and similar to my Naples post I thought I'd do a little travel diary of this trip as well.





Travel and Arrival

We left Belfast at 12.30am. Yes, 12.30am! I was very conflicted as to whether I should sleep or just pull the all-nighter... I pulled the all-nighter. We grabbed an Aircoach to take us to Dublin Airport so we could catch our flight at 5.55am. We flew with KLM via Amsterdam. Then hopped on another KLM plane to Kigali. I love long-haul flights because it gives me an opportunity to catch up on the movies I ended up not watching at the cinema and it's generally just an all-round fun experience. The way home was a completely different story!

Here is our team, somehow still smiling after a 19-hour journey



What we did


We were on the trip in partnership with an organisation called Africa New Life MissionsAfrica New Life exists to transform lives and communities through Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Acts of Compassion. Currently, there are over 10,000 children sponsored through Africa New Life and it is also founded and run by Rwandans and operates in the best interests of Rwandans.




On our first day we had a tour around the Africa New Life headquarters as well as paying a visit to the family centre where they have a beauty school and a sewing centre. The girls even danced for us when we arrived.






Home Visits
As we were here on a sponsors trip, each member of the team sponsors a child through Africa New Life Ministries. The core part of the trip was us getting to visit the children that we sponsor in their homes and get to spend time with them.




While visiting the sponsored families some of our team stayed outside and played with the kids in the local area who were all ever so excited to see the Muzungu (white people) suddenly appear in their village. They loved bubbles.





And here are two cute photos of babies that we met because who doesn't want to look at cute photos of babies


We were able to throw parties for the children that were sponsored in the different areas, we had 10 children in the Kayonza region so we hired an outdoor space in a local hotel and had some food and played with them.





Hope Visits
Hope visits are visits to families not currently undergoing sponsorship but who the local churches and community workers have identified as vulnerable and in need.



School Visit
We had the opportunity to visit a school in Kageyo. Kageyo was originally set up for refugees. It is one of the poorest regions in Rwanda. They get very little rain and have no electricity. The Rwandan government built homes for many of these families, but food is scarce and jobs are non-existent.



We had the opportunity to sit in a P6 class to see first hand what schools in Rwanda are like. There were 45 kids in the class and that was considered a small class.


Schools operate on a morning and afternoon system. One-half of the students will attend in the morning and the other in the afternoon. If you attend in the morning one day you will attend in the afternoon the following day, and vice versa.



Meeting Fiette
As a family, we have been sponsoring Fiette for 10 years and this was the first time that any of us had ever met her!







She and her family even gifted our family a traditional Rwandan basket.




We spent the rest of the day going out for lunch and bowling, but I haven't got any pictures of that!

The Other Stuff

While we were obviously primarily there on mission, we also had some time to explore Rwanda and discover all that it has to offer

Nyamata Genocide Memorial
One of the first things we did on the trip, was to pay a visit to a genocide memorial. Rwanda suffered a horrible period of genocide in 1994 so there are memorials all around the country but the one that we chose to go to was in a place called Nyamata in the Bugesera region. When asked why Rwandans choose to remember and commemorate the genocide, our guide, James, told us that they remember the genocide to remember what they as a country are capable of if they don't continue to cultivate love and peace. In Nyamata, there were over 10,000 people massacred in one day in the church. They've converted the church into a memorial where you can see the skeletons and clothes of all the people who were there seeking refuge. It's really hard-hitting as you can imagine.




Akagera National Park
You can't come to Africa without doing a safari now, can you! We left our guesthouse at 5am in safari trucks which drove us the 2 and half hours to Akagera. We drove around the park for almost 6 hours and saw loads of different animals. Instead of me taking up all the space here with animal photos you can read about the full Akagera experience here!




Azizi Life Experience
We spent our last full day at the Azizi Life Experience, this is a chance to immerse yourself in the heart of a rural artisan village. We started by getting dressed up in the traditional dress.


We then learned how to cook cassava, which honestly, didn't look all that appetising!



We then headed down, hoes in hand, to begin preparing the field for planting.




Then we cut some grass and learned how to bind it and carry it on our heads, I like to think I was pretty good at it but it was only a little bundle so I don't think I'd do as well with anything bigger. They carry everything on their heads.



We then hiked down a big hill to get water, I hate going downhill so that was the hardest part for me, although saying that I did manage to fall on the way up and cut my ankle and badly bruise my side so so much for liking uphill.




Lastly, as the village was an artisan village we learned how to weave bracelets. Ordinarily, they would make baskets but we weren't skilled enough to even attempt that!




All the products sold in the gift shop were all handcrafted by different villages working with the Azizi program so you can then support the ladies that you were spending the day with by purchasing some of their creations.


Food

While most of our meals were provided by the guest house, there were a few days we decided to eat out.

Java House
This was our first trip out in Kigali, we picked up a few friends en route and headed to Kigali Heights for lunch. 

Imigongo Coffee
We frequented here a lot, it's located on the main road from Kigali to Kayonza and anytime we wanted a stop, we would stop here. It has an art gallery and shop inside which you can shop around and the coffee is great and reasonably priced. I even got a slice of banana bread for around 50p!




Great Wall Chinese
This is where we took the Kigali kids. Originally, we were meant to go to a pizza place but it was decided that the kids would probably prefer Chinese, so Chinese it was. We had a buffet-style lunch so we all sat at a big table and all the food as placed in the centre and everyone helped themselves.

Sole Luna
We headed here for lunch on Sunday, it's an Italian restaurant so basically, everyone ordered pizza and said it was good but I opted for pasta which was also GREAT.




Question Coffee
Another big coffee shop in Kigali. Sourced from local farmers from different regions around Rwanda they ask you to question where your coffee comes from. This was actually my first Rwandan coffee experience and 10/10 would definitely recommend.

360 Degrees 
This is a woodfire artisan pizza place, so I felt right at home, they have a really good lunch menu. Kigali Heights is a new build shopping centre and contains a lot of contemporary and somewhat western restaurants, as it is near the touristy area, this is also where you are most likely to find all the other tourists.



So, that's a brief summary of my trip to Rwanda, apologies that so much of it was about food oops. If you want to hear about the trip in more detail, or you want to learn more about Africa New Life don't hesitate to ask me about it!

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