We’re all familiar with the phrase “in the real world”…and often use it, to describe our experience in our everyday life as we know it in western civilization. Well today, we did experience the real world. The real world and the every day realities of a small village in the Southern Province of Rwanda, Africa. In the village of Shyogwe, a cooperative named Ingobokarugo, meaning “supports the family”, the families, particularly the women, work together to support their families and carve out a livelihood by creating beautiful handicrafts to be sold at a local centre well known as the Azizi Centre, meaning “Excellent Life”.
Once at the Cooperative, our group divided in two and each group was welcomed by a number of women from the cooperative. We were escorted into the dark living space in a tiny mud home of the eldest member and enjoyed our time getting to know our hostesses as introductions were made and stories were told. The tasks that we were going to being doing were explained to us and each one of us was also dressed in traditional clothing complete with headdress. Along side our hostesses we set out to harvest in the garden, peel and prepare the cassava for lunch, hoe the weeds in the banana grove and replenish the water supply. The water was retrieved about one km down well worn paths leading to the river. Once all the jugs were filled the real challenge came when climbing back up these same paths to return to our hostess’ home. Oh, and did I mention it was raining significantly at the time making the trek a slippery and precarious climb. All the while you can imagine each of us in silent wonder as we walked with our Rwandan friends…. realizing this was a trek that they did at least daily and is their “real world”.
Lunch was waiting for us when we arrived back at the home and we enjoyed a simple yet hearty lunch of beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, avocado and pineapple. After lunch a time of community work was done as the ladies demonstrated to us one of the many handicraft items they make as part of the cooperative. The small bracelets we painstakingly made alongside our competent teachers are again just a small a small reminder of the work these ladies do every day to maintain and provide for their families.
It was a privilege to get to know our Rwandan friends and spend the day with them. At the end of the day, as we prepared to leave, we were treated to a cultural dance performed by many of the ladies as a show of appreciation for our visit and interest in their lives. Yes, we came interested, but we went way touched and honoured to have been so welcomed into their homes and to spend the day with these generous and warm families. We experienced the “real world” as we witnessed true community, working and sharing together. What a gift today was.