Address Common Needs – Hold Things in Common

As we have begun to find more opportunities to venture further outside Kigali and into rural Rwanda, our appreciation for the beauty of this place and its people has grown immensely.Apart from the heart of Africa, it is hard to imagine where in the world you might see so many tall green hills covered with cultivated crops and smiling people.

Today in Rwanda you can see a collective sense that “we are all in this together”. Despite the tragedies in this country’s past, and the struggles it currently faces, I am continually struck by what I see as simple indications of mutual affection and solidarity toward a brighter future. These indicators are probably poignant to me since the California culture I moved from was rarely characterized by: a) needs that were so commonly shared or desperately practical, b) willingness to share things I can rightfully claim as “mine”.


I regret I never get my camera out in time to show you these pictures, but some of the most colorful illustrations of what I’m talking about include:

– A community soccer ball (pictured here), one of five I brought from the states, that the children in my neighborhood use about 4 hours every day on the dirt road in front of my house.Children collect it from the guard when they wish to use it and return it when they are done.

– A group of seven school children running, laughing and attempting to share one umbrella during a sudden afternoon downpour on the way home from school

– A family of four sharing one moped

– Two boys speeding down a paved road… each with a roller blade on one foot (one right, one left, as they apparently only had one set to share)

The other day, a new Rwandan friend of mine named Shami was driving downtown and called for the attention of what seemed a random passer-by.A short, scruffy-looking man immediately came to the moving car, and Shami smiled, said a few words, and handed him money as we continued on our way.I had to ask what had just happened.Shami told me that the man was a thief he knew… and while he doesn’t condone the man’s occupation (thievery), he pities the man’s condition and makes a habit to pay him now and then so he is able to buy a bit of food.Apparently, on more than one occasion, Shami has been grateful for this man’s friendship.Shami’s car has never been broken into when parked in this part of the city, and when Shami has needed to get information on certain matters (e.g. when friend’s belongings have gone missing), this man has been a valuable informant.

It never before dawned on me that I should make a habit of paying a thief…but then, I’m still new here, and I’m not accustomed to relying so heavily on my neighbors as they do so well in Rwanda.

Onward & Upward,

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