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Friday, 23 February 2018

Week One: Meet the team in Cohort Three




Muraho, we are Team Huye, the third cohort to volunteer with LUTI (Let Us Transform Life Initiative).

This NGO, based in Tumba and Rango (where our host homes are), works with women and young people on sustainable development in the areas of eduction, health, socio-economic development and natural resource management. 

Our team of 12 has six pairs of counterparts, a UK volunteer (UKV) with a in-country volunteer (ICV), and two team leaders.

We have seven groups of beneficiaries and over the next nine weeks we will be planning sessions for school clubs, sex workers, artistic co-operatives and community health groups.

But before we go into detail about our work, let’s introduce the team…


Rabeya, 23, from Burnley, and Omar, 25, from Kigali


Rabeya: Being born in the UK and having countless privileges, we often forget those who require our help. Thus I want to be able to make a difference in the world no matter how small, via aiding those who need our help the most. I am looking forward to understanding and adapting to a culture so unbelievably different from ours.

Omar: I wanted to give back to Rwanda because I have mostly conducted volunteer work outside the country. I found it quite easy to cope and understand my counterpart from the UK because I come from a very diverse cultural background. My fellow ICV’s are willing to learn from the whole volunteer experience and also to learn from our UKV counterparts.

As a pair, we would like to bake cakes together.

Lucy, 22, from Leicestershire, and Solange, 23, from Kigali


Lucy: I am looking forward to working with local co-operatives, helping to establish sustainable businesses that benefit the members and the rest of the community. I am so impressed by how tasty the food is here in Rwanda. My host family are so generous and give us Rwandan coffee as well as many different types of fruits to try for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Solange: I saw ICS as a good opportunity as I wanted to challenge myself, help the less fortunate, make an impact and, moreover, to make my country proud. I look forward to achieving our aims as ICS volunteers.

We like to watch TV and listen to music with each other.

Ruhama, 23, from London, and Winnie, 25, from Kigali



Ruhama: I wanted to join ICS because of my deep desire and passion to give back and make an impact in developing countries. I am looking forward to growing in various ways, learning a new language, being emerged in the culture, being part of this country’s growth as well as getting involved in all the work ahead.

Winnie: I joined ICS because I love contributing to the community, want to gain skills working in a team as well as gaining more knowledge regarding ICS domains. I am looking forward to getting to know how I can make a change within the community and in my development.

We enjoy going to church together, talking about our shared faith and watching movies together.

Daniel Greener, 22, from Oxford, and Tina, 24, from Kigali


Daniel: I wanted to contribute towards positive, long-term development in a community. I am looking forward to meeting our beneficiaries and getting to know them, my counterpart and host family better. My first impressions is that Rwanda is a beautiful country with kind, welcoming people.

Tina: I joined ICS to gain more skills and knowledge, which will shape me to be a better version of myself and impact lives by serving the community. My host family is amazing, they are so friendly, understanding and chatty. The food is perfect. It’s interesting how our cultures are so different but yet we have a great time together.

As a pair, we like doing our laundry together.

Yasemin, 24, from Brighton, and Josine, 24, from Kigali


Yasemin: I decided to volunteer with ICS to work on development projects abroad so I could have the opportunity to apply skills developed in university and previous experience in the charity sector. So far, I am really enjoying the food and learning more about Rwandan culture from my counterpart, the rest of the ICV’s and my host family. 

Josine: I joined the ICS program to gain more experience by working with the community, to contribute in improving their daily lives and to adapt to different cultures. I am looking forward to meeting our beneficiaries and seeing how I can help them with the experience I have.

As a pair, we enjoy listening to music and watching movies.

Will, 22, from York, and Christophe, 18, from Kigali


Will: I joined ICS as I saw it as a great chance to make a difference in an area of poverty. I also believe the programme will provide the opportunity for self development. My host home is very nice and the family are friendly.

Christophe: I joined ICS because I am on my gap year and felt idle but I also felt eager to help and give a hand to those in need. I am looking forward to accomplishing our team goals and building long term relationships with the UKV’s.

We like to watch movies and TV series together, especially Black Mirror, listen to music and workout.

Team leaders Felicity, 23, from Kent, and Fred, 30, from Kigali 


Felicity: I joined ICS because, since I come from a privileged background, I think it is important to go to another part of the world where people live differently to me and experience their culture and their way of life. So far I absolutely love Rwanda! The land of a thousand hills is so green and beautiful, the people here are so friendly and welcoming, and the food is delicious. We have a great team here in Huye and Fred and I are really excited to see what we can all achieve.

Fred: I am really looking forward to being part of an organisation that strives to change the wellbeing of local people and achieving ICS objectives as a team. I love working with young people because they are energetic and full of brilliant ideas. Most importantly, working with people of diverse origins and living away from home to host families is something interesting.

We would love to watch movies and dance competitions as a team.


Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu

Photos by 
Rabeya Ullah




Friday, 29 December 2017

Radio Rango 90.7FM - The Alex and Kerrsey Show by Alex Rowlinson

Click here to listen to the: The Alex and Kerrsey Show  by Guramrit Guron 


Alex and Kerrsey at their work experience placement 
Over the week of work that the students did, they gained hands on experience in a variety of different activities; from accountancy to telecommunications to computer skills and they gained an official certificate, which will help them in the professional world. The placement has also been beneficial for their school Regina Pacis, as their program now has high quality opportunities for the students, so future students will also receive the same benefits. RBA has gained a link to their community as a work experience provider, so may find that some of the students later decide to work full time for the institution, and we have every reason to believe that next year they’ll be in partnership again.”

Across Rwanda, currently 23% of all secondary school graduates are unemployed. Many students finish their education with good grades, however, still find themselves hard pressed to gain employment as they have no work experience. Inspired by our own experiences of compulsory work experience in the UK, which not only provided us with references but also ideas about what we might want to do when we grow up, we decided to propose a work experience programme too.
We treated this as a pilot programme, a trial to see if the concept would be suitable. With sustainability at the core of all our endeavours, we chose a school who would have the capacity and willingness to continue the programme after we left, and thus approached a local secondary school, Regina Pacis, who already encouraged students to do work experience during their holidays. However, the placements that were offered to students here were often in small businesses and local shops, they didn’t provide the students with a challenge or good training. Therefore we sought to find higher calibre institutions and businesses nearby that could give both engaging and varied work to the students in their final two years of high school in areas relevant to their studies, for example, business or tourism. With this goal in mind we made a proposal to the school and sourced opportunities in the town of Huye. 
To facilitate these placements we agreed to arranged to pay for the students’ travel and food costs, and to give them an official certificate afterwards as proof of their hard work. To ensure that results could be repeated again, we knew we needed to create a network between the school and every place of work we secured, so that year on year the school could refer pupils to placements.   
We found the students placements at a variety of places; hotels, the local court, a national museum and two radio stations. 
The RBA Placement
RBA, a local radio station, were keen to get stuck into the programme and offered two of our students, Alex and Kerresy, a five day placement working across different departments of the radio station, with a particular focus in the accountancy department. 
Alex and Kerresy were soon learning about marketing strategies and advertising before visiting the news department where they were given sessions on how RBA discovers news stories, the organisational structure of RBA and it’s history, how radio stations communicate information with each other, how to keep records, balance budgets, as well as further in depth lessons on accounting. 
With introductions over, RBA decided to allow the students to take the lead on some projects and use their own initiative in combination with the training they had received over the past two days. They were put in charge of RBA’s petty cash scheme, where local businesses could ask for money for small projects. They even got onto the radio to host the youth segment and speak live on air about the question of “If you were the president, what would you change?” This chance to take the lead was both exciting and rewarding for the students, and they impressed the institution, including the CEO, with their aptitude. It was at this point that we decided to work with the students to create our very own radio for our ICS blog - Rango Radio, 90.7FM. 
Both of them were extremely pleased with what they had done and the radio station itself, saying “It was like working for a family. Everyone was such good people, and I’ve learnt so many skills from the fieldwork and practice. I’ve made new friends too.” Without our input the students also went and requested another week of work, which is a great sign of their success! 
We felt programme was extremely cost effective. Our only expenses were the 7500 RWF bus fare and food allowances per students and minor overheads for admin and our travel. Considering this yielded 40hrs of training for each student, it was a productive use of our budget.
We did encounter some difficulties as not all institutions were receptive. Some simply did not get back to us and some did not have staff on premises with the authority to authorise work experience. On occasion, the places of work needed to be reminded to make the placements active and allow the students to do more than just observe.  
Could we expand the project?

The project was relatively simple to start up and coordinate and formed only a small part of our overall work in Huye. However we feel that it could be easily expanded to be the sole focus of an ICS placement, or as an intervention run independently from ICS by one of its partner agencies in country, bearing in mind the limitations entailed with school holidays. 
For future development of this project, we could expand the time-frame of the program, potentially expanding it to be a summer/winter school for work experience with many different placements. We could use more of our budget for this project; providing for travel costs to further away institutions, to  pay for guest speakers, to have the volunteers prepare weekend workshops and perhaps have the students pitch their own business ideas for a prize of start-up capital. If we extended the dates we could have it last a month and have the students cycle between institutions, giving them a wide range of experiences and references. This would be cost effective and still have the double benefit of providing training for the students and creating community networks locally.  Focusing entirely on this project could provide a high calibre program to tackle youth unemployment to those who need it most. 


Sex workers: The Un-cooperative. By Anistasia James

When we first met the 30 female sex workers, they sat on school benches, facing us, they looked tired, worn and without hope.

We introduced ourselves to the women:
“Mwiriwe nitwa Ani, Amakuru?”
Good afternoon, my name is Ani. How are you?
They responded in unison,
“Mwiriwe, ni meza”
Ni meza meaning “I am fine”.

In my mind, I questioned their response, are they fine?
Their response is robotic, rehearsed, as if they could not say they were anything but fine.
Only moments later, once we began to discuss the cohesiveness of their cooperative, their reasons for formation, and the daily issues they were facing as sex workers, it became all too apparent that they were indeed, not fine. 
Their cooperative aimed to start production of laundry soap, liquid body soap and Vaseline based lotion, the latter otherwise known as the “cure-all”, which is used on your body, hair, and to treat any skin problems.
Movit, one of the most popular brands of Vaseline or ‘cure-all’s’ in Rwanda. 

At our first meeting, like many to follow, the silence from the women quickly came to an end. The silence was always ended upon the roaring scream of “amafaranga”, meaning money, we need money. Poverty is the cause and we hope setting up a cooperative will be the solution.

Unfortunately, the lack of team cohesion, their daily stressful and violent professions and inevitable, admitted abuse of substances causes a raucous at every meeting. For the first and for many to follow, I removed one of the women’s vulnerable babies from the hostile environment to quieten the baby’s cries as the room grew louder and more aggressive. One of the women leapt from her seat and swung her right fist at another, I stepped away to hush the baby all the more. 
Each and every time we met, the women within the cooperative were uncooperative.

As the weeks passed, attendance dwindled. The cooperative was never cohesive in the first place, then with the addition of witnessing fights, drop outs and with the uncertainty of our impact, how do you tell a group of impoverished sex workers that their way out of poverty and sex work, through a soap and lotion business will not be profitable for a long time?
Our impact was firstly hindered by a deluded expectation that the women would want to listen to us. We soon learnt, respect has to be earnt. One thing volunteers must be prepared for is how beneficiaries may react to them offering “help”. Help is not always how it is perceived. And help is not always what they want, rather “amafaranga”. As a volunteer you must be constantly learning, and constantly open to rejection and criticism. However, the cooperative’s inability to function needed a great deal of working on.
Secondly, “African Time” was detrimental, this being that everyone was always late, if they arrive at all. But we had to be patient for our fully HIV positive cooperative (as well as their children) were often under the weather. Weather itself was also our enemy. It was rainy season, and to the Rwandans, rain means you cannot possibly leave the house. Rain is lava. Therefore, the cooperative could not work effectively under these conditions, but we had to come to terms with the fact that they were our focus, and therefore, we had to work at their pace, even if that meant no progress could be made during the rain. 
However, doing so meant that production was slow, selling was near on impossible due to production and branding failures, therefore, no sales meant no profit. Frustrations were felt on both sides. But we had to be patient. We all had to, “umva” (listen). We were patient, we listened, with hours of translated meetings, we worked together to try to help the women take ownership of their cooperative.
Of course, this did not mean the end of our problems, more arose every day, such as issues of money, of incompetent NGO staff overriding our budget requests and ignoring the difficulties of the business and blaming the “mind-set” of the women, “choosing sex work” and “choosing not to wash themselves before meetings”. This perspective was also mirrored by one of our own volunteers who could not see past their profession and was afraid, disgusted and unwilling to cooperate with the women… I cannot fully express my disappointment in people, who you hope would all have good intentions, but discover that is not always the case.
Despite this, our solid team of three volunteers, inspired by the two most dedicated women, Alice and Louise, we made lotion, Vaseline, body milk, laundry and body soap. Together, we concocted new recipes as the women’s original trainer had taught them wasteful, expensive and poor quality recipes. 
The women stirred, sweated and lifted burning saucepans from the stove with their heatproof hands of steel. We began with our next challenge of branding, selling, cleanliness, best practice, stock management and selling. We pined for more time to ensure business stability and success. But knowing we were returning to the UK and having hoped our handover sufficient, we trusted the women to wake as the sun rises to walk to the local markets, to sell their product. So far, some has been sold, but we fear as our market research showed, that only time will tell, because the public is not always receptive to an unknown, unestablished, untrusted product, which does not bear the Rwandan stamp of approval, and is sold by sex workers…
Our various stages of experimenting with recipes 

I am apprehensive about the continued success but am pleased to see how far the women and the product came in such time. Cooperation and production in conjunction with the challenging gender based violence (GBV) monitoring made for a very difficult but entirely absorbing project. 
Within the GBV monitoring, we discussed and recorded the violent incidents that the women experienced each week, according to the GBV Index created; recording GBV in terms of types of physical, emotional, economic or verbal harm, from clients or people within the community, and so on. This was then recorded every week to track the most dangerous places and circumstances, for us to offer recommendations based upon research and networking.
The GBV monitoring required us to build a bond with the women despite essentially remaining superficially, at least, emotionally detached. During our network meetings with a local NGO called SFH (Sexual Family Health) and the hospital GBV centre Isange One Stop Centre, we discussed how the women can seek help, in terms of GBV and health (HIV, STDs and generally).
In reflection, I wish I could have been fluent in Kinyarwanda, to directly speak to the women, to understand and discuss problems, without the delay and miscommunication of translation. I believe this would have relieved some feelings of potential distrust and fears from the women at the beginning towards these strangers, claiming to be able to help. Mostly, I wish the women all the luck in the world, to successfully exit their profession which causes them great harm. I have insisted that our recommendations be put into place to ensure the continuation of their fully cooperative business. 

To Alice and Louise, lead the way for the cooperative, you can do this.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Avocado Oil: A holy grail that spans leisure time and work, a fruitful journey to the edges of despair and back again, an allegory about patience and perseverance by Anistasia James

We achieved something we thought we could never achieve. We thought it would be like drawing blood from a stone, but we did it, we drew oil from an avocado.
The purpose of our endeavour began with a very dedicated class of 16-19 year old students in a local school called Regina Pacis. With them, we planned and ran our entrepreneurship club, which was received very well. Every session was greeted with quizzical frowns and beaming smiles. So, with the group effort of the volunteers, some with business and economics qualifications and others without, we hoped to teach the students how to start their own business on a more advanced level.
Every week the sessions were a success but there came great lessons of trial and error when it came to jointly inventing an innovative, profitable business, with and for this diverse group of young people in the small semi-urban town of Huye, Rwanda. 
Unfortunately, the school holidays were soon upon us, lasting from November to January. This posed its own difficulties by requiring us to rely on students to give their own time every week to learn the skills to build their own business. Luckily, and surprisingly all the students came to the holiday sessions, always enthusiastic and eager to learn. With a combined effort we brainstormed multiple failed hypothetical businesses. Weeks were spent planning a chicken farm, but this was not innovative enough, and a week of planning to invest in and set up a salon which was the most fitting as all the students are required to have short hair. Alas due to miscommunication, we then found out the school already had a salon. Other ideas included a new fashion brand, sundried tomato paste and preserves production, with the aim to prevent zero food waste at a low cost and high profit and many, many more.
After weeks of pulling our hair out, we had an epiphany.
The moment came when my fellow volunteer and I were walking to town, on the dusty orange roads when a woman, carrying a bowl upon her head stopped us and asked if we wanted to buy some “avocaat”. And of course we did because trust me, Rwandan avocados are delicious! 
These big, green creamy fruits gave us an idea. We began our research into what we can make with avocados. Initially, we thought a about a home delivery service, guacamole production and many more but realised through group discussion these were unfeasible, unattainable business ideas, more suited to our own avocado based fantasies. Finally we thought of a truly unique product that fitted in with what we had taught the young entrepreneurs about low yield and high margins: Avocado Oil! 
Avocado oil has two main uses, to cook with and in Rwanda, to moisturise your skin and hair. We wanted to test our findings and see if we really could produce avocado oil from avocados considering our limited resources. Especially considering that our student’s market research concluded that avocado oil has never been used for cooking and usually only for hair, but could only be found in a Ugandan not Rwandan hair product, rather than lotion. We made handouts with questions which the students should ask, and asked them to think of their own. They visited all the local shops and spoke to the community to understand the market for their potential product.
To make the product, we knew we needed avocados, a pan, fire and muslin. With our avocados in hand and nothing else, we asked our pals at a local café Ipafu if we could use their kitchen to heat some up on their stove. Sure, they looked at us like we were crazy but in our beautifully broken Kinyarwanda and English they granted us permission to take over their kitchen for a few hours.  

 


We thanked them and washed their dishes in gratitude. 


Alas, post-work day and pre-curfew time constraints stopped us from completing our work that day….  So a few days later we tried again. That is one thing you will learn on placement is you must try, try and try again. 
So, over a hot charcoal stove, in 30+ degree sunshine, after hours of stirring the mushy brown, sad looking avocado, the avocado which once looked so plump and ready to be eaten, was skinless and forlorn. But we persevered; we wrapped the tired old avocado in a makeshift cloth. This makeshift cloth was the bandage from my emergency first aid kit which shows what an emergency situation this really was, we really needed a win. Sometimes, you fear nothing will come of all this stirring and sweat but it was at the moment where I squeezed this bandaged avocado that my face lit up. We had produced oil.
Finally, this meant we had a tried and tested product to show our class, to teach them how to make, brand and sell it. They were intrigued and delighted to get stuck into pitching, branding, researching and beginning a business in avocado oil.
The lesson learnt from this experience is that something so small, like a droplet of oil can bring such joy and elation. We were successful. A droplet can create a ripple effect, to push you forward and motivate you, and in turn you spread that to others and the ripple expands further and further creating a bigger impact than you could ever have thought.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Midway with Mukabuga by Redempta Inema

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”- Mahatma Gandhi.

When I applied for ICS, I was unsure about my career path, but I knew the goals which ICS promotes are aligned with my passion of sustainable socio-economic development. Many of my friends did not understand why I wanted to volunteer, and I too, thought I might regret doing it, but six weeks into my project in Huye, Rwanda and I am certain that volunteering with ICS is worthwhile. 

We currently work with various beneficiary groups, and I am privileged to be part of the teams that work with Entrepreneurship Club, Dance Group and Mukabuga Women. For the purpose of this blog post I am going to focus on the Mukabuga Women, one of our beneficiary groups.

The Mukabuga Women are single mothers, who are currently enrolled in a vocational tailoring training course, who will be setting up a co-operative this upcoming January. In the past six weeks, we have been teaching these women some basic business skills, as complex business ideas have been difficult to teach due to the limited literacy level of the group. One of the most successful sessions we delivered to this group was on peer counselling, helping them to know how they can support each other emotionally. But more importantly, we also learnt how difficult being a single mother is and how it hinders their work productivity. Unfortunately, there have been limitations of what we can do, given the capital we have, which has been a problem across all projects.

From my experience working with the Mukabuga Women, in the past six weeks, I have witnessed that many of the women struggled to focus during our sessions with them. The reason being that the women are unable to afford sending their children to school, so instead the children spend their days hanging around, while their mother distractedly works on her sewing machine. In fact, the children can spend the entire day having eaten nothing else other than breastmilk. As volunteers, we had planned to create a play area to help the women focus on their work to a greater extent by keeping their children busy playing. The play area also aimed at giving the women a way to prepare porridge for the kids, so that they don’t have to spend much time with them for breastfeeding. Unfortunately, we were not able to do this because our limited capital couldn’t allow it. However, I personally think that this is something that should be taken into consideration given its advantage of making the training more effective. 


Even though, some of our plans were not as successful as we hoped. I am glad that right now Mukabuga Women are motivated to work in a co-operative and understand all it takes to start up their sewing co-operative as a result of the few sessions we conducted as volunteers. However, there is a need to continue helping this group after they have started a co-operative since they will need skills and knowledge regarding marketing their products and strengthening their co-operative.

From my own point of view, the Mukabuga Women are people who are interested in starting their own business, despite the fact that they face a number of challenges as single mothers. I was delighted to hear that the name of their co-operative will be “BEST FUTURE”. This proves that they understand that although they are vulnerable today, they believe in starting a sewing business as a step towards a bright future. This is something that is really stuck in my heart and that keeps inspiring me since I also believe in positive thinking as the best way to overcome life struggles.

It’s at the halfway point, all is well with me, and I am proud of my accomplishments so far, even though some plans didn’t work well. I love what I am doing now, and I am glad that it is aligned with what I studied in school and my career as well. I think back and wonder about where else I could get an experience and a learning opportunity like this one. You can’t imagine that in six weeks only, my interpersonal skills have improved and English listening skills too! 



Thursday, 9 November 2017

An Honest Review of Working Across The Language Barrier by Alex Rowlinson

Mwiriwe, ça va, habari yako?

How many languages did you recognise there? From what I’ve found in Rwanda so far, nearly everyone is multilingual, but English is often the third or fourth language, if spoken at all. Unless you know French, you might have to get by with hand gestures for a while, until you learn some Kinyarwanda. 

At first, the language barrier may seem daunting. Crowds hush as you pass, someone might shout something at you, there might even be laughing! Don’t worry though, it's curiosity not hostility. Sometimes people will shout English at you, but the local accents take awhile to get used to so you might not even recognise it at first. But as time goes on and with the help of your local counterpart you’ll begin to decode some of what's going on and feel more comfortable. 

I’ll be the first to admit I still haven’t broken down the language barrier after four weeks, but I’ve certainly made progress. The shouts from before, I now, understand to be people asking how I am, or general greetings, and I’ve learnt how to say please and thank you!

Muraho, mwiriwe and amakuru are the most common, meaning hello, good evening and how are you, respectively, and everyone loves it when you can say these few words, so it never hurts to say hello to people as you pass! More advanced terms and sentences can be translated by your counterpart, or yourself, if you know French. 

However, the language barrier can become a serious issue when working in the field, trying to talk without a counterpart, or situations like the dinner table or meetings where the counterparts are involved directly in the talks, therefore unable to translate for you. When working with some beneficiaries English is basically non-existent, so your counterpart is vital, you won’t be able to do any work without them. When talking alone to Rwandans you’ll probably find yourself totally misunderstood and unable to express yourself outside of one word phrases and hand gestures. For example, yesterday I went to the barbers and after a trim, the barber thought I wanted him to shave off my eyebrows before I stopped him! For the other situations where the counterparts are involved themselves you might feel sidelined, but it's very important to understand that the counterparts are trying their utmost to keep you involved. 

Just make sure afterwards to ask what happened if it's formal, or if it's an active conversation at the dinner table, just ask some questions in English to remind them you can’t speak Kinyarwanda or ask your counterpart to help you get involved. Your accent could also be an issue as well, as Rwandans are only used to American accents, so make sure to speak slowly and stress your pronunciation. However, don’t stress about it too much, miscommunication is bound to happen but while it might seem awkward it's never as bad as you feel it is, and the Rwandans will never get frustrated over the language barrier, especially your counterpart who will always be there to support you.
Alex and Bertrand

It might be worth learning a few words and phrases in multiple languages, that way you can fil

l gaps in your vocabulary, if there are any problems. Menus at restaurants are usually a 50/50 split of French and English, but some dishes have bad translations or just French, so it's always a good idea to brush up on your foods, for example the words for egg, milk, fish and cheese are always helpful. 

My counterpart personally stresses how vital it is to communicate with him to breach the language barrier, both in social life and the workplace. He felt that without a counterpart, UK volunteers can’t form bonds with local Rwandans, or even buy things from shops easily. His most important observation was that the language barrier is at its most frustrating at the home, where it can be the most awkward to not be understood by your host family, but he felt that with counterparts’ help this can be overcome easily enough. Knowing French was also a good tip from him, as nearly all Rwandans have studied French and it can help if there is an English word, which is hard to explain. 

Overall, while the language barrier here can be frustrating, don’t be too daunted by it. Hand gestures and small phrases will get you through most situations, and for the harder ones you can always find an in country volunteer to help you out. Just remain calm, don’t feel stupid or embarrassed, it happens to everyone, instead try to take it in your stride and see the humorous side of the situation. If you know French, then you’ll often have no issues at all communicating with people, though quickly learning the local language is a great idea regardless of what you already know! Remember, practice makes perfect!