By: Elettra Baldi, ’15
Project Blessing is a mission created by the Stanwich School about 7 years ago. This is our first year working with this mission and we will be helping to paint a kindergarten classroom. This mission creates opportunities for the kids living in Cyabatanzi, a town located at the top of a mountain in rural Rwanda. Without the classrooms built through Project Blessing, children in Cyabatanzi would not be able to attend school year-round. During the dry season, school is a possibility for the kids because they can travel from their homes down the road to the closest school (more than a mile away) without being in danger. As we learned in the Kigali City School, kids are passionate about learning. Unfortunately, during the months of wet season, the rain that washes the steep clay roads makes it unsafe for the children to walk to school. When they do return to school, the children are behind in their studies, which might make them feel hopeless about their future and lead them to drop out.
Many of the children in Cyabatanzi have to travel the same distance to fetch water every day. In order for us to better understand their experiences, we mimicked their normal walk from the only water source to the top of the mountain, where the Project Blessing site is locate. It was more than a mile-long walk with the sun beating on our backs. The winding, chalky, maroon roads kept going up the mountains. The walk would have been much tougher if we had not eaten breakfast and if the dirt road had not just been cleared. Going up the mountain, Team Blessing was warmly greeted by the village kids as they followed us up to the school. Mr. Llanque took the extra step and helped a nine-year-old village boy push his bike with 5 gallons of water on it. He was small and thin, barely taller than the bike.
This was our first true experience with rural Rwanda. As we passed other kids, they would greet, sometimes yell, “Muzungu”, which means white person. We were as rare a sight for them as they were for us. Earlier this week, we spent time at the Kigali City School, which was a private and, by comparison, more privileged school. But the kids in Cyabatanzi asked for money and water; a simple empty water bottle would make them happy. They would gladly fill it with sand and throw it around. They did not wear clean uniforms like the ones in the city; they wore whatever they could find. As I was entering the bus, I turned around to see a young boy wearing a donated Riverside School t-shirt, which just happened to be my elementary school. The world might be small, but the gaps are still wide.