2018: Days 1-2

Hi all,

Muraho from Kigali! It’s the end of our second full day here in Rwanda, and we couldn’t be more grateful for how everything has gone. This is our first update email, and we will continue to send these emails out every couple of days. If you would like to be removed from the email list, please let me know! Also, for those in communication and media, please be sure to check any articles with us for accuracy and tone before publishing.

Our travel through Amsterdam went smoothly. We arrived at Schipol about an hour before our second flight, giving us just enough time to get to our gate, meet up with Teal, and refill our water bottles. Our flight down to Kigali was a relatively quick (just kidding) eight hours, and we were greeted by warm, humid air and the open arms of Pastor John R. and Father Innocent. We had no trouble getting through customs and all of our packages arrived on time (yay!). We capped off the night with some catch-up at Centre Christus before heading to bed.

We all woke up the following day at around 4 am to the sound of a true Rwandan thunderstorm, very unlike what we experience back in Santa Clara. Apparently, rain means that we’re good guests- which is good thing, because it rained pretty much all of the following day. On the bright side, we did get to spend some time running around in the Rwandan rain.

Besides standing in rainstorms, we spent yesterday morning working out some travel logistics and picking up project supplies. After exchanging our USD for Rwandan francs, we picked up a couple SIM cards and headed out to visit a company called MunyaxEco. MunyaxEco provides solar energy products locally in Rwanda, and the EWB-SCU team has been in communication with them since meeting them last summer. After our meeting, they delivered a 300W solar panel that we’ll be using to charge our cart batteries. Unfortunately, because of some trouble on MunyaxEco’s end with customs, we weren’t able to get the 22 Ah cart batteries that we were expecting.

Yesterday ended with a dinner here at Centre Christus, complete with some discussions about the future of our organization and how we’d like to see our club grow in the next year. Another group of SCU students also arrived last night- the Leavey School of Business is hosting an immersion trip through the Food and Agribusiness Institute. The group of 12 students and two faculty advisors joined us yesterday evening for late night snacks and introductions. We all introduced ourselves and shared plans for today.

Today (Day 2) in Kigali brought lots of problem solving and team work. We divided and conquered to retrofit the solar panel, modify the electrical equipment, and make a plan for the interviews when in community.

We started our day at the Genocide Peace Memorial Museum, where we walked through the memorial and gardens and learned about the events leading up to the genocide, the events during the 100-day period of strife and violence, and the reconciliation effort throughout the whole country. Understanding the context of our work and the history of the people we work with is important to us, and the morning activities were definitely a step in the right direction. While we were there, there was a huge group of military personnel from an assortment of countries from around the world. It turns out they were there for a UN conference regarding peace in Africa, and we were pleasantly surprised to see them at the museum- even though the large group caused a bit of a hold up.

After the museum we had lunch at Centre Christus and reflected about our experiences at the museum and what we learned. After reflections were shared, David, Teal, Jon, and Shiyin were hard at work making the adjustments to the battery, control box, and solar panel. After surveying all of the options we had for batteries, we decided on two 28 amp-hour batteries. They were significantly larger than the 22 Ah batteries we planned for so we had to adjust the orientation of the batteries and move components within the box so everything fit. The motor and charge controllers then had to be stacked on one side of the batter box to compensate for the lack of space. In the end it worked out well because the cart will now be able to run longer, and the batteries are more commonly found than those we had initially ordered. Finally, a square hole was drilled in the side of the solar panel using drill bits and files purchased from a road side hardware store. Today’s work gave us a special insight into the challenges of not having all the shop gear and equipment we’re used to, and how to approach challenges when your plan falls through.

Meanwhile, Isabella, Lauren and Sydney talked with Amani to understand more about the community’s way of communication and plans for the future. From our conversations with Amani, we were able to make a plan for interviews when in the community. We ended the day with dinner at Centre Christus with the FAI group, and prepped for tomorrow — Umaganda day (a mandatory day of community service every third Sunday) and going to the market.

Check out our vlog documenting our travels and hard work!

Ijoro ryiza! (Goodnight)