By Mary Matthews
March 7, 2020
We arrived safely at Kigali International Airport and we greeted by Monica and Dean! Great to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places. After settling into our home for the next 4 days, the Beausejour Hotel in Kigali, we were off to dinner. First impressions, this is a beautiful country. Our view included a hugh, lighted bubble–the Convention Center.
March 8, 2020
Sunday, our adventure/experience started with a 6-hour Safari at Akagera National Park. We saw herds of beautiful animals: zebras, elephants, impalas, antelope, crocodiles, water buffalo, hippos, baboons and warthogs (who like Pumba is afraid of everything—they saw us and ran). No lion or rhino. Although we could see the giraffes, they were too far back for a good picture and the leopard we saw was too fast. A leopard was in the area and we assumed he’d attacked several zebras based on the scars we saw on them.
March 9, 2020
Monday, we began the day learning about ADP, their focus, and goals. ADPs emphasizes for the co-ops include a clean water infrastructure to meet market standards and development, the most challenging. ADP must be open to the culture, needs, and desires of the community which they support. Meaning, they cannot always lead and have the challenge of helping donors understand this paradigm in a means to encourage them to be more flexible with funding requirements. We visited and were warmly welcomed by members of two of the women farming co-ops which African Development Promise supports. Corn, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, dodo and clean water help provide for better health and improved quality of life.
Humbleness, appreciative and excited is what the members exhibited as we walked through the fields together, witnessing their successes, listening and understanding their struggles. In addition to growing crops for income, another source of income is the clean water they now provide for their community as result the water systems installed for the crops.
My husband tells our children that I always adopt guest child wherever I go. As we headed to the van, some of the children were returning from school as younger siblings played and awaited their arrival. A cute little girl caught my eye, came right up to me with a beautiful, warm smile and raised her arms. I had no other choice but to lift her welcome her love. Another instance of the warmth and love we would be met with throughout our visits to the co-ops.
March 10, 2020
We had another full day, learning, eating, and fellowshipping. And KC even had a chance to put his engineering brain to work as he and members of the Xylem team tried to determine the best means to get water to the mango and avocado farm. He was in his element! Each day we see the hard work of the people in Africa and I am intrigued. Biking (and often sometimes foot) is the mode used to transport many products from food and gallons of water to building materials and people! The most amazing fact is that Rwanda is a country of many hills. Many of the biker transporters I saw were often going uphill. Definitely a reminder of how blessed and spoiled we Americans are with our modern-day conveniences—just turn on a facet and the water flows. Need to transport something—throw in a car or have it delivered. Tomorrow morning, we fly from Rwanda to Uganda for the remainder of the trip.
But, before leaving Rwanda, we also visited two memorials of the genocide from 1994. I reflected back to 1994—what was I doing? Why do I not remember what was happening in other parts of the world—especially here in Rwanda? As I thought about it—where was my country, the United Nations, someone, when innocent people were being murdered? And then I heard our guide and the videos say “we were experiencing a genocide, while the world stood by and watched”. The mass graves, hundreds of skulls, pictures of lives taken—a nine-month old baby. We were over-whelmed. Tears. Meeting people who parents’ lives were saved—they prefer not to talk about it—“I’m not ready to forgive.”
March 11, 2020
My mom’s 81st birthday—I remembered to send her card before leaving the states. We made it safely to Entebbe, Uganda and I finally got to enjoy one of my favorites: Ethiopian food. Blessed to have friends in Denver from the country who introduced me to their cuisine. Next trip to the continent must include Ethiopia (and yes, I will be coming back). It was great seeing LaChance again—she was a teenager the last time I recall seeing her.
March 12, 2020
We visited the Wakiso District training Center and learned of ADP’s work in Uganda. ADP started with 3 agricultural co-ops. And now also provide educational programs, like basic computer skills for the community and schools. They ADP has also set up solar Kiosks (stores), providing lighting and other solar products for those in areas without electricity and a sewing program to help women in the community start businesses. We had the opportunity to meet the girls from “Girls with Dreams”, another ADP supported program established in 2019 and run by Monica’s daughter, Lachance. The program provides leadership and career development for girls ages 14-21, with a key component “the Sister Circle”, a everyday safe place for the girls to talk. Great friendships have been established here and the girls spoke of their dreams, like becoming designers. Plans are to expand the program to another school this year.
Later, we visited the Epaphroditus mushroom co-op, the one most familiar to me from my conversations with Monica. A member of the co-op explained (when asked) that the name Epaphroditus comes from the book of Philippians 2:9—standing strong. Paul references him as “my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier.” ADP built the facility for their work, helped them develop their own gardens and provided business training. A clean water system improved the issue of rotting mushrooms due to dirty water. They’ve added a solar drier to dry mushrooms. So, they now sell both fresh and dried mushrooms, as they move to creating powder and learning to create seeds. The women here were so very passionate and humble—their testimonies tangible. Because of the leadership training provided by ADP and their empowerment, two of the women in this co-op serve in elected positions in their communities. Families are no longer dependent on just their husbands, but the women too helped to improve standards of livings and sustaining family life.
March 13, 2020
Friday was another great day. We visited another co-op, Yes We Can, who will benefit from a water pump and system built through a partnership with the University of Colorado where our son attended school. (Our tuition dollars at work again!) Planting was delayed due to the delay of shipping of supplies from China because of the coronavirus. Thorough the tour, it is evident that ADP members and staff have built sound, collaborative relationships in each area. Trust and respect from both sides is key.
Our 2nd stop was with a youth-based farming organization (18-35 years of age), Kyankyima. They are currently leasing land, which will likely become a housing development (like the surrounding areas). They are all very passionate about the farming co-ops. Many young people are college educated, but go back to agriculture due to lack of job opportunities in other areas. At the end of the day, we were treated with a visit to the Cultural Center where we indulged in great authentic African foods, music and dance.
March 15, 2020
Everywhere we go, someone we know! Jourdan Otis Wasikye was our former neighbor and babysitter. I knew she was in Africa, but I wasn’t sure which country. So, thanks to FB, I learned she was right here in Uganda and we were blessed to be able to have brunch together on our final day in the country! She and her husband Alfred have a coffee business here in Uganda—Chanzo Coffee. His family is from Uganda (although he is was born in America). Also, we learned that KC’s Fraternity in Denver gave him a scholarship in 2006, and his mother’s cousin was married to member of the chapter. SMALL WORLD!!
I am grateful to ADP for creating the opportunity for others to learn what they do and especially, why they do it. It was a unique experience to witness and sometimes participate with the ADP team and in-country staff as they proceeded with their work. I am excited by what I’ve learned and how I might participate and contribute. “Teach a man to fish”—that’s what they do and ADP does it well. (We are already talking about “next year’s trip).