Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mboya Church Savings Group

On Wednesday, I accompanied a group of US visitors as they met with one of the savings groups Hope has started.  Hope Rwanda is working with local Anglican churches to provide savings programs to members of the community who do not have the access or means to utilize traditional banks or even microfinance insitutions. Our team in Rwanda has trained over 1,000 leaders of savings group in the last six months. The savings groups are well-suited for rural areas and extremely poor communities, and the church also sees these groups as an effective means to assist the reconciliation process in Rwanda.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trip to Kibuye

This past weekend two of my housemates, some other friends, and I went to Kibuye, another town located on Lake Kivu.  Kibuye was never developed to the extent of Gisenyi and features even more spectacular terrain with the hills ending right on the lake's edges.  We were able to rent a boat and spend most of Sunday on an hilly island with a very large bat colony.

Click here for the full album.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Weekend in Gisenyi

This Monday was a national holiday, so I went to Gisenyi for the three day break.  Gisenyi is the largest city (~100,000 people) on Lake Kivu, which serves as the western border for most of Rwanda (see the annotated map on the right side of the page).  Its a pretty spectacular location given the volcanic mountain ranges that border it on both its Rwandan and DRC sides.  Unfortunately, it was overcast almost the entire weekend, so most of the photos aren't that great given the flat, grey light and my relative inexperience with the camera.

The above is the beachfront at the only four star hotel outside of Kigali (I stayed in one of the few moderate hotels still open near the DRC border).  Despite this one luxurious resort, it was pretty striking to see that so many of the large homes and compounds that border the lake are largely abandoned and in a state of decay.

On Monday morning, I stumbled upon a community center with various athletic leagues.  I met the guy who ran the basketball league, while also being a professor of microfinance at the local university.  I was able to see a couple of the guys on the junior national team play.  There was a 15 year old kid who was long, athletic, and really understood the game, and there was also a small point guard that could go and apparently had recently won a national three point shooting contest.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


On Sunday I went to Rubona, a small town just a few kilometers south of Gisenyi.  It is the largest port on Lake Kivu and also the site of the country's only brewery.  I was able to get there early enough in the morning to catch the fishing boats (essentially canoe trimarans called pirogues) coming in to sell their meager hauls.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Actual Impact of Loan Repayment Rates

Here is a link to an article that describes the difficulties in maintaining sustainable microfinance business models despite banks experiencing loan repayment rates well above 90%.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Nyamata and Ntarama

On Sunday, I went to visit two genocide memorials that are about 35 km south of Kigali.  They are Catholic Churches that were sites of the killing of thousands of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.  The first church visited was Nyamata, and the text below from the National Museum of Rwanda provides a good background:

Nyamata is situated in the Bugesera district of Rwanda about 35 km from the capital city of Kigali.  Nyamata and the surrounding area are classified as one of the regions that was most devastated by the 1994 Genocide. The reason for this can be found in the history of the Bugesera region. From the beginning of the 1960s, Tutsi people from different areas of Rwanda were forced to leave their homes and go to live in this region which was considered very unhealthy at that time. Therefore, Bugesera became a region whose population was predominantly Tutsis.

When the Genocide started in April 1994, many people from Nyamata and surrounding areas came to gather in the town of Nyamata. The Catholic Church and nearby houses belonging to the priests and sisters became havens for the frightened people who fled there hoping to escape death. They used the church as a refuge, thinking the militia would not get in and kill them in a place usually thought of as a sanctuary. However, according to the testimonies given by survivors, on April 10th 1994 about 10,000 people were killed in and around the area of the Catholic Church. People from all around congregated in the church and locked the iron door with a padlock to protect themselves from the marauding killers. Members of “Interahamwe”, the Hutu militia, and the Rwandese Government Forces from the surrounding area managed to break down the door and entered the church with their rifles, grenades and machetes. They massacred all the people who were inside this church and also the people in the surrounding area.

The person that provide the tour of the Memorial was a survivor of Nyamata.  He was 8 years old at the time and was among 16 total survivors from within the church.  He lain among the dead bodies for several days as if he was dead before fleeing to a nearby swamp.  He and the other 15 stayed there for 32 days before finding safety.  Needless to say, he told stories of horrors that he witnessed that you can't really retell in a venue like this.


The pews and floor of the church are covered with the blood soaked clothes of the thousands of victims. There are holes in the windows and metal ceiling from the shrapnel of the grenades that were used.  




Underground behind the church, there are multiple mass graves.  They are about 12 feet deep with a narrow walkway and shelves on each side.  There are coffins for the bodies that could be identified, but primarily there are just scores of skulls and other bones stacked on the shelves.  




The second church, Ntarama, represents a very similar story. Thousands of Tutsis were killed in the same fashion as Nyamata. The banner across the altar reads "If you knew me and you really knew yourself, you would not have killed me."