A great experience!

Impact: 5
Support: 5
Fun: 5
Value: 4
Safety: 5

A great experience filled with many memories. We were a group of 17 volunteers, both from Canada and US. After many hours of flying, we were greeted by our host partner, BBR at the airport. Lama and Steven both made us feel comfortable and welcome with our new surroundings. Most of us had arrived a few days earlier so we could tour around Kigali. We stayed at the Mille Des Collines Hotel AKA Hotel Rwanda. Knowing how that hotel saved so many people during the genocide, we visited the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali before our "work week" started. It's a must see to any tourist who visits Rwanda.
We convened on Sunday with all of our luggage and donations, ready to board the bus to take us to Gashora, our home for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, another vehicle was required to carry the additional luggage. After experiencing an "African Massage", we finally arrived at La Pallise-Gashora. We checked into our rooms and had a good night sleep before our first day of work. We arrived at the Covaga Innovation Centre by foot..aprox a 15-20 min walk. We were greeted by the women who were working at Covaga along with Peter, our site foreman for the duration of our stay. We quickly met Peter's co-workers before we had our duties laid out to us. Yes, it was hauling rocks into the the second building of the Covaga Innovation Centre to prepare for the concrete floor that was to be completed. We didn't think that we were going to get the floors laid, interior walls parged, exterior parged, and windows and doors installed...in time. There was a lot of work ahead of us. Mixing concrete the "African" way was not only exhausting but time consuming. After the first day of mixing batches of concrete and chain ganging the trays of concrete to the building, we asked Peter to find a few local guys to help us with the concrete mixing. That was a mind and body saver! It was a treat to also have the women who were weaving their baskets, drop what they were doing and jump into the Congo line to help us out..babies strapped to their backs and all. We managed to get a lot of the work done in our first week before leaving for Musanze to see the gorillas. It was a windy road up and down the mountains to Musanze. Watching people on bicycles hanging on to the backs of transport trucks to "catch a ride" was something to be seen. We checked into the Hotel Muhabura(Dian Fossey's second home in Rwanda) before heading to a great pizza place. Up very early to get into our jeeps and head to see the gorillas. It was truly amazing. One of our team members got "punched" by a silverback. That was not only a little scary for him but a laugh for the rest of us. Another "must see" if you get the opportunity. After the gorilla trek, we drove closer to Kigali to another hotel, Paradise Malahide where we were entertained by native dancers upon our arrival. It was a relaxing evening sitting by the fire pit, reminiscing about our gorilla trek experiences. We were able to take a boat ride on Lake Kivu on Sunday morning where we visited one of the only two natural Hotsprings in Rwanda. One of the local boys began to rub my husbands leg with the Hotsprings mineral filled water after he noticed his swollen leg(caused by a bike accident). He soon had 5 little guys massaging his leg. After thanking them for their efforts, we got back onto the boat and headed back to the hotel, ready for our departure to Gashora. We had a great weekend and got some R and R before beginning our second week of work. Back at the jobsite on Monday morning..we quickly got right into work mode with the parging of the interior walls. It's truly an acquired skill to get the cement from the float onto the walls without dropping half of it. The patience of our Gashoran work mates was incredible. We managed to get the parging of the interior and exterior walls done while some of our team members installed all of the doors and windows, the Rwandan way. We were able to meet with Gashora's local mayor, where we presented him with our donations to the community. It was a nice feeling, knowing that the goods were going to people who truly needed and appreciated the items. Thursday, being our last real work day was a great experience as we had accomplished our goals that we didn't think was possible at the beginning. Job well done! For lunch, we all took bicycle taxis to the Gashora Girls Academy of Technology and Sciences. That was a sight to see, 17 of us, all of different shapes and sizes on the back of the bikes travelling through the streets of Gashora. The school was very inspiring, knowing that girls from Rwanda have the opportunity for a better education and future. Our team had split up into groups to do some home visits in the afternoon. Another "must do", that will leave you with appreciation of your life back at home. That evening, we had invited our 20 Rwandan co-workers for a party back at our hotel. We displayed our Canadian construction tools along with other treats on a table. We put the workers name in a hat and allowed them to choose which allotment of goods they wanted. It was great seeing them with their own "new or slightly used" tools. They feasted on the buffet, all of them had gone up for two over flowing helpings. We enjoyed dancing with our co-workers, watching them with their natural rhythm. We were entertained by Vincent the rapper and Big Dog with his dance moves. A night filled with laughter and happiness. Friday, being our last day in Gashora was filled with mixed emotions. It was a great feeling knowing that we made a difference to the people of Gashora but also very sad leaving our Rwandan friends. Saying our good byes while getting on the bus was not easy. Most of us needed tissues to wipe the tears when Big Dog came aboard the bus for his final hugs and good byes. A moment I won't forget, seeing this teenager who wore the same clothes for two weeks straight, crying and wiping his tears on his sleeve trying to be strong. It was a quiet ride to Kigali, while we pondered our time in Gashora. We arrived back at the La Pallise Kigali and got ready for our final team dinner at Heaven. What a treat that was...a true North American dinner. Sunday was a day of leisure for most of us who were waiting to get to the airport for our long journey home. We said our good byes again to Lama, Steve and William..our wonderful hosts and tour guides from BBR. Another DWC trip that will leave wonderful memories forever. Thank you.

Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed