Entries "June 2007":

Saturday, 16 June 2007

A morning with the Refugees

Yesterday a group of volunteers and a coupl;e of Deaf students went to the refugee camp in Kigeme to have a morning of fun and games with some of the hundreds of children from the Camp. We worked with Cathie who was doing some singing - we thought we'd teach the signs for various animals so that we could then sign and sing Old Macdonald had a Farm but this was too difficult for them so we taught the signs anyway and then sang Kumbyah. The children loved the signing and we also did colours and country names. It was really good for the Deaf students to see the Camp and to realise how people have to live in pretty grim conditions. They were appalled by the numbers of children too and the state of their clothes. All this is because next Wednesday is International Refugee Day. We were fairly disgusted that the UNHCR who sort of run the camp only gave us 20,000RWF towards the day (about 20 quid). Not a lot when you are talking of about 550 families!

I keep thinking of light hearted bits and bobs to put into my blog but by the time I come to write it I have forgotten them so next month I'll try to write little notelets which won't be so heavy as these entries!  The Queen's birthday bash at the Embassy was  a pretty good do but the lights were out for a good while and the food came far too late and there wasn't nearly enough for hungry volunteers! The lawn is extremely steep and there were quite a few fallers as the evening wore on - I'm happy to report that this year I was not among them!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog
Domestic Drama

Some weeks ago Cathie found that she was 15,000 RWF short having left her purse in my house while only Lucie was there. After much agonising and discussion it was decided that Lucie must go. I accordingly asked Djuma to come and give me moral support one lunch time. Elson, Cathies's young man was also there. We confronted her with the problem, she protested her innocence, declared that she couldn't, wouldn't lose her job, you never can tell with visitors to the house, she'd give me 15,000 francs and she absolutely refused to leave! Djuma completely lost his nerve and kept saying "Personne ne t'accuse Lucie, tu m'entends?" So she stayed!!

The next tactic was to gently disengage  so I told her not to come for a couple of weeks as I was going to be away a lot. I then asked her to come while I was at home waiting for the meeting re- the hosepipe ban and told her, with perfect truth that the situation was very uncertain, that I might have to leave Butare and that really it was best if I paid her for June and we called it a day. She seemed to buy that with deep regret but unfortunately AT THAT VERY MOMENT a knock on the door revealed Anne Marie, the ex Domestique of some French people who have justl eft and who had heard I might need someone!

 I made frantic gestures at her and talked in a loud voice about her visiting les soeurs but Lucie was not fooled and realised that I was actually tryuing to get rid of her! However this time I refused to weaken and eventually she left! But of course now it is very difficult for me to get anyone else as she will be bound to find out! Meanwhile she has been texting Cathie and pleading for her to intercede!

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog
Hose pipe Ban

Last week I went as usual to the market to buy the ingredients for the girls to do the cooking the next day. When I got back I went to the library to get ready for the English lesson I was due to give. When no one appeared at the usual time I went out to the yard to see what was happening. i found all the children in a semicirle round the Directeur with the teachers looking on. He was grabbing children, apparently at random, and FLOGGING them with a hosepipe. The air was filled with shrieks, howls and sobs. I asked, in horror, what all this was about and it seemed that some children, but not these, had stolen a huge bunch of keys and hidden them for 2 months! The children who were being beaten just might have known something about it! The culprits were all big boys and they were suspended for a week, not beaten.

I was appalled by all this but couldn't immediately decide what to do - short of rushing up to the Directeur and using the hosepipe on him which is of course what I wanted to do. Given the atmosphere of shock and trauma I carried on as normal with my lessons - once the flogging had stopped -but as you can imagine, extremely tight lipped and I made my feelings of disgust very clear to one of the Brothers with whom I am normally quite friendly.

The next day I saw a number of the horrific weals and bruises that resulted from this and then rang up VSO who were genuinely shocked. I told such Brothers who were  around that what I had witnessed was against the law, against the rights of the child, in direct contravention of the Child Protection Agreement with VSO and totally against my principles and that until this situation was resolved I was unable to continue working there! 

I then left and went to pay my electogaz bill - normally a stressful experience but surprisingly smooth on this occasion! 

A meeting was arranged between me, the Director, the ex Director and the Big Brother of the Community and VSO. The last were not my favourite people when the turned up an hour and a half late leaving me to make polite conversation with the others! However the upshot of the meeting was that ther is to be a total ban on beating and that we are to have a day to discuss alternative methods of punishment. The flogger did not endear himself to anyone by denying the use of the hosepipe or that any injuries had been inflicted!

So I am still here and managed to have a civilised conversation with him on Thursday when I went back to school, where I must say the children and staff seemed genuinely pleased to see me. At least by staying at the Centre I can attempt to ensure that there is no more beating and that things improve for the poor children. 

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Posted by: Antonia    in: My travelblog