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Rebuilding in Rwanda

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Prior to leaving, Susan and Erin helped raised $14,000 through the sale of cards for $15 a piece, the money going to buy goats for different families in Kigeme.

“(The cards) had pictures of the goats on them, and people would say, I want to buy a goat,” Erin said.

The goats were provided as part of an ongoing food security project. The families breed the goats and can sell them to make money. Having the animals also allows families to grow their own gardens.

“All women are taught how to grow a kitchen garden so that they can obviously eat the vegetables,” Susan said.

Susan and Erin would go with a vet to see how the goats were doing to make sure they were being fed properly and taken care of.

“It wasn’t like we were just giving them a goat and expecting them to have at her,” Erin said.

Susan and Erin’s first impression of Kigeme wasn’t much different from people’s first impressions of the Pemberton Festival.

“It was dusty,” Susan said. “It was smelly, there’s a lot of pollution there because they burn coal there to cook their food, so we were pretty sick with allergies and respiratory stuff.”

Things weren’t much better when Susan worked at the Kigeme hospital. She described a place where mouldy incubators would be used for storage and power failures were a common thing.

“The resources are very primitive there,” Susan said. “I think the biggest thing that stood out for me, having a background in public health, is the lack of laundry facilities. They wash everything by hand and they put the bed sheets on the lawn to dry, and they’re ripped and stained and they go back on the beds.”

When asked why people at the hospital wouldn’t hang dry anything, Erin said they didn’t have enough rope for clotheslines.

“They have a very antiquated autoclave,” Susan said. “They have new machines but there’s no one to service them or hook them up.”

She added that the hospital now has a generator when it didn’t have one a year ago. But that hasn’t stopped regular power failures.

While the facilities were basic, that never took away from the graciousness and hospitality of the people they encountered.

“You had a shower head and a tub and a bucket,” she said. “Coming there, it was, even when we left Kigali, you have children in ditches waving at you, you have people stopping. When the taxi would stop everyone would bring their babies for you to see them.”

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