Throughout 2015 we have partnered with Havas Lynx, a global Healthcare communications company. They raised over £10,000 for our charity last year, and have since continued their support by donating their skills and time to help us develop our beautiful new brand and website. In October, a team of 10 Lynxers, came to Rwanda to visit the children who they have helped. Below Laura Millar, Planner at Havas Lynx, describes the day they visited the Little Angels School in Mybo.
It was shockingly hot when I woke up this morning; my throat burning from the lack of water, the beers last night and the minor tonsillitis I’ve picked up along the way. My mosquito net has fallen open in the night and left me exposed to be ravaged by the little, disease carrying bastards who have left me wanting to tear the skin off my legs. As I lie in my suffocating dorm room I establish that my room mates aren’t faring any better, sounds like they all have various degrees of either dysentery or bowl obstructions and scorched faces from the brief but beating African sun. I guess this is what it means to be a European in Rwanda – a mzungu.
I have re-established my ability to swallow, I sit at breakfast and bring myself to life with the dark, velvety coffee that is on tap here and take note of my environment. We are in a compound at the top of hill, I can see down the valley and it’s greener than I expected, just shy of lush. I can see some of the locals houses, their roofs a mismatch of old and new corrugated tin held on by stones, reminds me somewhat of the patchwork blankets we have back home. Dispersed between these homes are American influenced mansions that look empty, naked, out of place. A symbol of the relentless drive to develop that I feel this country has. A nation reeling from their past, marching forwards on the ultimatum of a better future.
I am being swarmed by flies whilst writing this – good god they are everywhere, I have given up swatting them away, we now live in a disgruntled harmony, they do what they want as long as they don’t go near my face and I accept it.
We pile into the bus and head off to the school for the day, the air streaming through the moving bus a small relief. Many of the roads here aren’t tarmacked, roads only surfaced by the vibrant orange soil that has been compacted by years of overcrowded vehicles thundering around. As the dry wind whistles through the bus everyone receives a slight orange coating. Who needs foundation in Rwanda?
When we arrive at the school we struggle to get off the bus due to the sea of kids who have ran up to greet us, they attached themselves to our legs and grip our hands and are so happy to see us. If I went to a school in the UK would I get a similar reaction? My grandad noted they might be so excited to see us because we make them feel important. I muse over whether they associated white people with aid, the only way to finish their 2 half built classrooms or stock their sparse library. Of course the kids don’t think this, all I see is their genuine thrill of meeting us.
Its playtime, we get out the footballs and split into teams. I am asked to lead the pray for our team, shy of the lords prayer I am out of my depth. The charity that we are associated with is a Christian group, headed up by Pastor Deo. In my naivity before coming out here I was struck with the dilemma of whether to partake in religious activities over here. As a charity dedicated to progression through education should we not demonstrate to the children our freedoms of enlightenment and choosing our own belief systems? Now that I am here I see how critical religion is to this society.
In this country, that 20 years ago was could be attributed to a level of hell in Dantes inferno, religion has become the common denominator. A vehicle for reconciliation.
Anyway I digress, after nearly turning my ankle once or twice on the glorified unkept field designated the playground, I join the primary 1 class, on the agenda today is multiplication and subtraction. The kids welcome us and we take our seats. The classroom is a small, bare, cell like room with banks of pew like desks. There are approximately 60 kids in the class and one teacher. Anyone who has taught probably despairs at the thought of controlling a class this size but the teacher has an astounding connection with the kids and the only thing throwing the class off track is our presence in the corner. We join in with the lesson in attempts to keep the focus on the task at hand. I struggle to work out 10-6, awks.
I just looked up the national mandatory staff to child ratio in the UK, its 1:13.
The teacher sets the class a task to do in their books, each child brandishes their pencils as though it is sacred, chaos ensues as razor blades are passed around for those that need sharpening and kids that have the luxury of a pencil with a rubber on the end frequently get their pencils stolen to erase another kids mistake. If each kid was to have a pencil case with an assortment of stationary here it would be like Christmas day, I kid you not. The kids are switched on, they are revising, and they have exams in a couple of days.
I was one of the youngest in my class, with some of my peers 11 months older than me. I struggled, for a developing mind the difference a year makes is marked. I spent the majority of my time at school scrambling to catch up with my friends who were marching forward with their additional years experience. I can see now how this impacted my self confidence and my interpretation of my intelligence. I am sat helping a child who must be barely 6, he is being examined against 8 year olds. He will fall below the national grade, he has already been branded slow. In a position of limited resources will he be suitably supported in his talents or will he be neglected in favour of children showing more positive results? I discuss this with the teacher. He is fully aware of all of this – ‘what can I do’ he says ‘I’m doing the best I can.’
I take the time to sit with this boy, we go through the exercise together, he has nearly got it. I hope that I have helped him get one more question right. This brings me onto a theme that I am figuring out here and I’m am going to call it the rule of 1 (bear with me).
I am one person and I help one child in one lesson. The Born to Thrive team are 10 people, we all help 10 children in 10 lessons. Havas Lynx is 250 people, we all help 250 children in 250 lessons. The population of the UK is 64.1 million, we all help 64.1 million children in 64.1 million lessons – and that folks is how we are going to make difference.
Pastor Deo, who obviously grasped this long before me said to us “Working together we have a powerful energy to change the world and create a strong team for helpful change” and this sits well with me.
Havas Lynx created a short highlights video of their trip which you can watch below…