Want a different worldview? Take a look outside your window.
In 2019 I travelled to Rwanda to visit World Relief, MEDA’s partner through the INNOVATE project. World Relief works through associations of local churches to empower poor women and other underserved populations with financial, agricultural and other important livelihood skills.
Through INNOVATE, World Relief developed a case study to investigate if their inclusive, group based village savings and loans association (VSLA) would result in higher savings or the greater adoption of improved agriculture practices.
When we left Kigali we travelled about 2.5 hrs north to a town called Musanze, which is nestled into the base of Volcanoes National Park, the home to Rwanda’s famous mountain gorillas. We then travelled by van with the team to visit some of the clients in nearby villages to conduct focus group discussions and individual interviews.
Many of the clients in this pilot project were farmers who belong to Rwanda’s poorest communities, with women as the primary target.
Our team had a scheduled visit with a savings group in one of the villages. It should have been a leisurely 10 minute walk from the main road, down to the village – however, on that day, our team was stuck in the van with a torrential downpour of rain stopping us. We decided to wait in the car, for what seemed like forever, to see if the rain would let up. We grew anxious because we knew the clients were waiting for our visit.
At some point, the clouds cleared for a moment and we got out of the van. I was dressed in hiking books and a light rain jacket – having looked ahead at the forecast that day. Our Rwandan colleagues, however, in true African fashion, were dressed in their formal work wear, leather shoes and all. We made for a funny group, trudging through muddy embankments and slippery stone pathways to make our way the group.
About 10 minutes into this slow and trepidatious walk, the rains came back, and we had to find shelter. Our partner in Musanze, a pastor, hurried us into one of the community members houses for refuge. The house was your typical village dwelling; mud walls, checkered with hay, rocks and sticks to keep it strong, as well as a corrugated tin roof. Upon entering the doorway, to which you could see under and through its sides, we passed, to my best estimate, the eldest daughter of the house and her young sister cooking over a covered fire beside the house. Their smiles at us I hope were bemused at how silly we all looked. In total, there must have been 7 of us drenched, and huddled into this home with the mother of the house. Our team spoke with her and offered some conversation and laughter to lighten the mood.
I stared out the one window in the home, watching the rain wash over the muddy street and glisten off the green banana leaves and farmland. I thought to myself, this window offers a worldview much different than my own – where I stare out every morning when I wake, in Kitchener, Ontario, and listen to the sounds of hurried trucks and city busses, kids yelling on their way to school, and dogs barking.
I’m reminded and humbled that the view our clients see, is vastly different than my own; our struggles, our livelihoods and our accomplishments are separated by the nationality, gender and race we were born into. It encourages me to keep supporting local organizations that are dedicated to the betterment of their country and communities through contextual solutions, that promote gender equality, family unity and agriculture productivity – so that when they too look out the window, the view is brighter, more prosperous, peaceful and safe.
To learn more about the World Relief case study from the INNOVATE project, visit www.meda.org/innovate to read their published results.