several weeks ago, benjamin met me in kiziba with a small truckload of school supplies for the upper secondary school (as you may have seen already on voices of kiziba – i love oscar’s smile in that picture). we held a small ‘ceremony’ with members of the unhcr and adra, and other school leadership personnel, carrying the boxes into temporary storage and saying a few words each. benjamin passed out documents to be signed, explaining that the supplies were not all that the school would need for the whole year, but that they would be enough to get them all started. the adra representative was thankful, but looked almost confused, or worried. the unhcr representative not-so-subtly expressed his own concerns that the materials would not be used as intended, encouraging oscar to honor the gifts and intentions. then they all looked at me and i said something along the lines of it being a blessing and joy to work alongside someone with such vision and ability like oscar. and here i almost wept. i think it was the emotional buildup of the last two years of working to improve education in the camp summed up for myself in that one sentence. and the fact that with this hand-off of materials i was essentially bowing out of overseeing the project from the iteams side of things.
i slowly step away, benjamin slowly takes on more. and this is a good thing. benjamin lived many years in the camp, and now that he has been supported through university and works with us in kigali, he is in a great position to help coordinate international teams’ assistance in kiziba. he speaks all their languages and knows the camp intimately. walking around the camp with him after delivering the materials i got to see just how many people know him, recognize him, greet him. i saw how easy it was for grodya and others to talk to him. benjamin told me later that people in the camp were thanking him specifically for the school materials, as if he bought them all himself, for people saw him as one who was able to escape the life of the camp, but who decided to return to help improve the lives of others. benjamin told me that people were glad of his help, that they told him that he was the only one who truly understood their situation. it has been a blessing also to work with benjamin in these last months.
but school supplies were not the only materials to be happily introduced to the camp recently. after a year of bothering all the readers of this blog for funds with which to bring solar power to the kiziba community library, we finally brought solar power to kiziba community library.
this is exciting for a very large number of reasons. solar power at the library was one of the big things i had hoped to see before the departure and i am not angry about seeing this dream – years in the making – realized. we have a system there now that will meet all of the realistic desires and needs of the library staff – a photocopier and film projector being beyond our solar capabilities for the present. but they can power several computers (which are on the way), hold evening reading hours and classes with more than enough light with which to see, show movies and news on a small television, and even charge cell phones as a side business. and iteams and jcm will use the remaining funds to continue the expansion of educational opportunities as is needed.
during installation, with one light going up every so often as the technician and johnson placed the maze of wires, the sun began to set, but the inside of the library remained bright. well into the dark evening a man, pictured below, kept studying, ignoring all the noise we were making and being one of the first to realize the potential of expanded hours and the new lights.
we thank again all who contributed to this project. we are ushering in a new world of possibilities.
i posted a couple pictures on the facebooks already, but here are more.
in other news, steph and i moved out of our house of two years as previously announced. i continue work on the book while still listening to christmas music. steph uses her free time to be with friends and help out around our community. she is also ever increasingly pregnant. we plan our journeys back to the states, seeing friends and family on the way, and hopefully getting a good feel for glasgow, where we plan on moving later this year. two friends (plus child) who have been close to us these many months left this weekend for the states, anticipating the arrival of their second child, and will not return to kigali until after we have left. this was the first of our goodbyes.