Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Clubbing with Orphan Children in Gulu, Uganda

Our next trip to the city of Gulu in the far north of Uganda took us two days to complete, including 14 hours in crammed buses, a night in a rundown hotel in the bustling capital Kampala, crossing the Equator (Danny swears he felt his stomach fluids churning in the other direction once we had passed it), and being observed by dozens of baboons on the side of the road that seemed to be baffled by the caged humans in the bus who passed through their territory (Fabienne missed the baboons, as she was stuck between heavy luggage and a sick pregnant woman, and could not turn her head far enough).
Walking through the market in Gulu, Uganda
Also, as we traveled northward, we saw less and less modern houses and more traditional huts made of straw and mud. It seems that we haven't seen the worst of this country's poverty yet. In Gulu we spent 3 days with children from the SOS Children Villages, an international organization set to give shelter and support to orphaned children, and to children at risk. In every house in the village there are about 10-12 children, with one adult woman who cares for them and loves them, and in return they call her Mama.
Working with kids at SOS Children Village Gulu
From all the hodgepodge of death-dealing viruses in Africa, Danny managed to catch a mild form of flu. So with a sneeze, a cough and a slight fever, he stayed in the hotel on the first day, and Fabienne had to give the first workshop alone to more than 80 children at once, ages 3 to 16. This was quite a challenge, but thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of Mama Kevin, the workshop was fantastically successful. In any case, when Fabienne returned home she made it very clear to Danny that he would not be sick the following day.
The northern region is not as dangerous as it used to be, but it is still turbulent as it is close to the borders with Sudan and Congo, where just last week the UN stood helpless as 200 women were raped in a village in east Congo, close to Gisenyi, Rwanda, where we were just ten days ago. Children are still being abducted and recruited to vicious militias, and poverty prevails.
It is apparently the wet season here right now. We discovered this on the second night when we woke up to a booming thunderstorm. The next day we gave a workshop together in somewhat muddy conditions.
Singing with the kids on the wet grass
In contrast to orphaned children in south Uganda who lost their parents mainly to various diseases, the parents of the children here in the north were mostly killed during the violent conflict in the region. Some children were recovered from militias who kidnapped them with the intent of turning them into child soldiers, some were found wounded by bullets or machetes in raided villages, one child was found when she was just a little baby, suckling her dead mother's breast.
The children's circumstances translate directly into their behavior. In comparison with the children in south Uganda or Rwanda, the children here are very active, occasionally violent (flip-flops and little children were flying in different directions during the workshops), cannot sit still for a long period, and have concentration issues.
 These kids are much more energetic than the sometimes languid children we have met in our trip. Instead of us leading them from one activity to another, or having to excite them, the kids here were the ones who pushed us forward. They also sing and laugh SO LOUD that we came back to the hotel feeling like we had spent the afternoon clubbing: a peep in the ear, hangover, and a big silly smile. We indeed had so much fun!
So tomorrow we are heading back to central Uganda, where we will work in two more SOS Children Villages, in Kakiri and Entebbe, and another organization in Kampala... stay tuned!
On the road - sharing a taxi motor (boda-boda) in Gulu, Uganda

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Uganda: Lake Bunyonyi and the Mindful Market Orphanage

On Sunday we left Rwanda behind, and entered Uganda, a country which had suffered from continuous instability and war for decades just until recently. Uganda is home to some 35 million people that belong to dozens of different ethnicities and speak many different languages, a third live under the poverty line; that in itself makes it difficult to maintain peace in the country, not to mention that Uganda also borders with two of the largest and most unstable countries in Africa, Sudan and Congo.

The difference between Rwanda and Uganda was very apparent already at the border, where there was no public transportation and we had to hire taxi scooters transportation to Gisoro: The same distance cost half the price in Uganda compared with Rwanda, and the mechanics, engine and helmet situation of the Ugandan scooters is much worse, especially because in Uganda there are no helmets.
Goodbye Rwanda, Goodbye Helmets - Danny on a scooter in Kigali, Rwanda
The scenery crossing the border at the Cyanika border was staggering. Hills painted in a hundred shades of green situated at the feet of the three gigantic volcano mountains where gorillas dwell. We arrived in the town of Gisoro at noon, and again had to do with a chock-full private car which pretended to be a taxi, as the first bus to the more central city of Kabale, our destination, departed only in the evening. On the way, which is mostly unpaved, we got a flat tire.
On the road to Kabale, Uganda - the three peaks of the
Virunga volcanic mountain range can be seen in the distance
Waiting for the men to fix the flat tire, village children
gather around Fabienne
The day after we arrived in our guest house literally touching Lake Bunyonyi, we joined Busco, one of our local partners, and struggled to climb the mountain to the nearby village where the Mindful Market Orphanage is situated. The scenic route up the mountain was breathtaking, in both senses: when we reached the top, we were out of breath. Our protestations about the wearying climb felt very improper when later we heard from one of the teachers that every morning she climbs the mountain from the other side, which is much steeper, on a longer road, for two hours, and, hold tight, with a baby strapped to her back.
Struggling to climb the mountain to reach the orphanage
Walking back to the guest house in the afternoon
with Catherine, one of the orphanage teachers, and her baby

The Mindful Market Orphanage was founded three years ago by Crystal, a Canadian woman with a huge heart. There are about 60 orphans age 3-6 who receive education, food, and especially love by the orphanage staff and teachers. Due to extreme poverty, bad nutrition, and lack of or poor access to medical treatment, the orphans lost their parents to various diseases and especially AIDS, TB, and malaria. Goodhearted individuals from richer countries sponsor the kids, or support the orphanage's education program, maintenance and expansion.
Dancing with the 3-6-year-old orphans
We have not encountered such extreme poverty since we came to Africa. The orphanage children received uniform, but the older kids in the village wear the same dirty, shredded clothes everyday. The vendors in the market in the village sell tattered clothes for 50 dollar cents, which, judging by their prints, were probably sent in charity packs by people in the West somewhere in the eighties. Some of the children have distended bellies as a result of malnutrition. Most eat one meal a day.
With the older kids

We worked with the orphans and with older children from the nearby village for three days. Two hours in the morning with the little ones – about 60 in number, and two hours in the afternoon with the other kids in the village, who every day seemed to multiply, as the word about our workshops spread quickly. In the last day we had more than 60 children in the afternoon session, from age 3 to 16. In the end of the last day they sang for us traditional songs.
The children singing traditional songs for us
Click here to download / listen to the first traditional song recording.

Click here to download / listen to the second traditional song recording.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed the most stunning waterscape of lake Bunyonyi and the surrounding hills, with mud and wicker huts dotting the steep slopes in between towering trees of palm and banana. Mornings were a symphony of chirps, tweets, moos, and cock-a'doodle-doos. The lake is also one of the only safe lakes in the country to swim.
Lake Bunyonyi - the little white dot in the water, in the center
of the photo, in between the palm trees, is Danny
Lake Bunyonyi at night
We have request: visit the website of the orphanage, and see if you can help by sponsoring a child, or spreading the word. We have too many beautiful photos from the workshops in the orphanage, so we put the best ones on a web album for you to enjoy:
Until next time!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Last Days in Rwanda and Getting Ready For Uganda!

So on Friday the 13th we started our work in Gisenyi district. In the morning we had a productive meeting with the local coordinators of the organization Right to Play, and the director and the local coordinator of Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle (they still don't have a website). They reach tens of thousands of children and youth in the district, focusing on sports, theater, dance, music and health education activities.
Right to Play - When Children Play The World Wins
Then we continued to Imbabazi Orphanage, which is located about 28km off Gisenyi, and had to cover the last 8km of a ridiculously bumpy road on taxi scooters without helmets. There we gave a workshop for some boys, visited the orphanage's income-generating guest house and flower garden, and sat on the lawn with the older orphans and genocide survivors and played songs on the guitar in Kinyarwanda, Arabic, Hebrew and English (together we discovered that Let It Be is actually No Woman No Cry or vice versa). Most of the parents of these orphans were killed during the genocide. Some orphans had seen their parents murdered, their mothers raped. Fabienne sang to them the song in Kinyarwanda that the HIV+ women of the WE-ACTx women support group wrote in Kigali; there was a moment of silence, tears and smiles.
Playing guitar with orphans at the Imbabazi Orphanage
When the sun came out, Danny had to borrow Fabienne's scarf and said that because he is muzungu—the Swahili word (thanks Sharon for the correction) for foreigner or white man—he has to cover his head.
One of the girls then asked, “What is your name?”
“You are not muzungu,” she said, “you are Danny.”

The next day we visited the center of New Youth Vision which includes a large gymnasium, a hall with a big stage, and a library. In the evening we sat on the shore of Lake Kivu, listening to the gentle waves lapping against the rocks, and had African tea, a spiced-up sweetened milky drink that can make your day.
African tea on the shores of Lake Kivu
Sipping tea, we were planning our trip up to Uganda on Sunday, but nothing would prepare us for the long, dusty, bumpy and most breathtaking road that we eventually took: covering the 250km between Gisenyi in Rwanda to Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda in one day, mostly on unsurfaced roads, next to cloud-enshrouded volcanic peaks where gorillas roam, including passing the border between the two countries, is not a task to be taken lightly...

View Larger Map

Music workshop at the Mindful Market orphanage
next to Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda... more in the next post
The work with the kids around Lake Bynyonyi is incredible and very different from Rwanda. It is by far the poorest area we have visited since we came to Africa, but you will have to wait for the next post for stories and photos!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Goodbye Kigali, Hello Gisenyi, and Some Drumming

Last Thursday we packed our dirty socks and left Kigali. It was not easy. We had been working with the HIV+ youth and kids, the HIV+ women support groups, and with the WE-ACTx team for three weeks and naturally we became attached to them. They taught us to sing songs in Kinyarwanda, to dance and drum, and to eat too much carbs for lunch (bananas, potatoes, bananas, rice, bananas, sweet potatoes, bananas, beans, bananas, and cooked bananas). They shared their wishes with us: the wish for health, the wish for unity, the wish for love. And we learned to recognize them by their mere laughter.
A typical Rwandan carbs-drenched meal (minus the meat)
(the bananas were eaten/removed from/hidden under the food)
The week before we left we joined the weekly trip of the summer camp. This time the trip included a visit to the national museum, devouring ice cream at the Inzozi Nziza, and the highlight: a drum spectacle and workshop given by the Ingoma-Nshya (see here, and here). This women drum group was established by widows and genocide survivors, but is now open for other women as well.
The performance of Ingoma-Nshya
The show included traditional drumming, dance and singing, and was very powerful and impressive. After the women dazed us with their performance, we all got the chance to drum as well.

Click here for the first audio file: singing and a long drumming sequence.
Click here for the second audio file: singing, children laughing, and some drumming!

The final show of the WE-ACTX summer camp was incredible! The children sang, danced and drummed, and their mothers clapped and laughed and cheered. In the end, everyone came up on stage and danced together. After the show we approached the mother of P, the deaf child in the program. She was speechless; her son cannot hear, and barely speaks, but she had just heard him playing the guitar during the performance.

We left Kigali and are now in Gisenyi, a north-western city of Rwanda, on the shores of Lake Kivu, bordering with the city of Goma in DRC (the Congo).

View Larger Map

On first sight Lake Kivu might seem like a pastoral, happy, fish-friendly, come-and-swim-its-perfectly-safe kind of lake, but don't let it fool you! It is one of the most vicious and morbid lakes out there.
Lake Kivu, looking innocent
This bit of information is from Wikipedia: "Lake Kivu is one of three known exploding lakes, along with Cameroonian Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, that experience violent lake overturns. Analysis of Lake Kivu's geological history indicates sporadic massive biological extinction on millennial timescales. The trigger for lake overturns in Lake Kivu's case is unknown but volcanic activity is suspected. The gaseous chemical composition of exploding lakes is unique to each lake; in Lake Kivu's case, methane and carbon dioxide due to lake water interaction with a volcano. The amount of methane is estimated to be 65 cubic kilometers (if burnt over one year, it would give an average power of about 100 gigawatts for the whole period). There is also an estimated 256 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide. The methane is reported to be produced by microbial reduction of the volcanic CO2[3]. The risk from a possible Lake Kivu overturn would be catastrophic, dwarfing other documented lake overturns at Lakes Nyos and Monoun, because of the approximately two million people living in the lake basin."
Unsuspecting fishermen going to work in the late afternoon
We hope to write to you again.

Tuzarwubaka! We will rebuild!

On Wednesday we were sitting in Kigali in a meeting with Global Youth Connect, when we heard the explosion of the deadly grenade attack some several hundred meters away from us. If it happened in Jerusalem or Amsterdam, the news would probably reach every reader of this blog, but Kigali is the capital of Rwanda, a country in Africa, which is the continent that the world likes so much to forget. We hope that this country that is rebuilding so beautifully after the terrible genocide will not suffer from more attacks like this last one.

Here is a recording of the song of rebuilding Rwanda that was written after the genocide, sung by the HIV+ children and youth leaders of the WE-ACTx summer camp during the final show. The song was accompanied by a dance with sticks that we have developed together with the youth leaders.
Tuzarwubaka, abana babanyarwanda
Turugire nkaparadizo
Kwisi yose we
Na [NAME] barwubake

We will rebuild!
We will rebuild, the children of Rwanda
We will make it like paradise
And the whole world
And [NAME] will rebuild
We will rebuild!

(for [NAME] each time they sing a name of another child!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finally Some Audio! Singing During Our Cyangugu Workshops

As we promised, we finally upload some audio files extracted from the videos. Unfortunately, the Internet connection here is too slow to upload videos, so you will have to use your imagination... we do provide photos taken from the videos to help you!

This post has 3 music files recorded during our workshops in Cyangugu, on the first week of our trip.

1. A song that the participants of the youth training sang for us.

Click here to listen to/download the audio file.

The young participants of the workshop singing for us

2. The song that was written by one of the groups (4 girls) during the exercise to write words to a given melody, and to adjust the melody to their own musical tradition.

Click here to listen to/download the audio file.

Sing along:
Nkunda kuririmba iyo ndi mubandi
ngashishikazwo no gukina nabo
bimara imibabaro yanjye yose
bikantera kunezerwa cyane

I love to sing when I'm with others
I'm encouraged to play with them
it helps to take away all my sorrows
it makes me very happy
The 4 girls who wrote the lyrics and sang for us

3. The famous sima-ma-ka song, sung by more than 200 children at the St. Mathew's Primary School (you can hear our incredible companion, Ephraim, who was filming, singing and encouraging the children!)

Click here to listen to/download the audio file.

Hundreds of children dancing and singing sima-ma-ka!

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There!

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There! is the title of an acrylic painting by Nicole Wageck. The painting appears in the 2010 Peace Calendar which is pinned to the living room wall at the WE-ACTx house, where the beautiful people who organize the HIV+ children summer camp (Gia, Noam, and Sophie) are staying. Sarcasm is what we get from this title, and the fact that this title is displayed at the WE-ACTx house is entertaining, because these people almost never sit down, and always do something!

Last Sunday we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which includes a beautiful garden, a highly informative museum, including a section about other genocides in modern history, and mass graves of thousands of people.
Part of the garden in the Kigali Genocide Memorial
This section represents the unity, beauty and history of Rwanda
The genocide was orchestrated by the Rwandan government and army, but was largely executed by hundreds of thousands of the common people who were brainwashed and incensed against their own neighbors, friends and even family members who according to the propaganda belonged to a different ethnicity group. About 1 million Rwandans were murdered during the 100-days genocide by other Rwandans, while the international community stood and watched and did nothing to stop it; that was 1994. 
One of the several mass graves at the
Kigali Genocide Memorial
The memory of the genocide and its repercussions continue to be very palpable today, sixteen years later. According to a national trauma survey conducted by UNICEF in 1995 , 99.9% of the children who lived during the genocide and survived had witnessed violence; 79.6% experienced death in the family; 69.5% witnessed someone being killed or injured; 61.5% were threatened with death; 90.6% believed they would die; 57.7% witnessed killings or injuries with machete; 31.4% witnessed rape or sexual assault; and 87.5% saw dead bodies or parts of bodies. Today, it is estimated that almost 200,000 Rwandans live with HIV, many as a consequence of genocidal rape, or being born after the genocide to an HIV+ mother. Also, many men were intentionally cut and infected by HIV.
Working with HIV+ children at the WE-ACTx summer camp
Most of the time we forget that the children we work with have HIV. Then one of them falls and hurts his knee, and we must put on latex gloves to bandage the wound. For them, good nutrition and the medical care that WE-ACTx is providing are the things that keep them alive and healthy, but the love and support they get from their families, from the other children, from the youth leaders and the WE-ACTx and summer camp staff, and the theater and dance and music and laughter during the workshops, these are the things that give them a better childhood.

Working with WE-ACTx kids and mothers in Nyacunga, near Kigali
Music workshop in Nyacunga, near Kigali
 Some of our readers asked us how they can support this and similar projects. You can make a donation to Musicians without Borders, and for the musicians among you, check out Musicians4Musicians. Thank you!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Short Stories

Today during a water break in the summer camp, I practiced a song on the guitar that I wanted to play and sing with the women support group in the afternoon. P, the deaf child, who played the paper piano for Danny (see this post), was sitting next to me. I took his hand and put it on the body of the guitar, so P could feel the music I was playing.
I noticed his left hand trying to make the same movements as mine in the air. After a while I decided to give him the guitar so he could actually place his fingers on the strings instead of playing the air guitar. He searched for a moment, and then put his fingers on the right place to play the D chord. He stroke the strings with his right hand and looked extremely happy.
P playing the guitar
Because of his HIV+ condition, we must keep his identity secret, but
believe me, he had a huge smile on his face
I decided to teach him one of the famous camp songs that the other children were singing all the time. When we sing the song, we use different movements, and P knows these movements well. I showed him the chords we play with each movement. We played the song many times; I was singing and showing him the movements, and he played the right chords. The rhythm of the right hand, the way he stroke the chords, where coordinated with my body percussion. I was amazed by how good the song sounded; nobody would ever guess that this kid was deaf. I wrote down the song on a piece of paper and we went through it without the guitar, playing in the air, so he can practice at home. Now P has one week to practice before the final show. I can't wait to see the face of his parents when they see their son accompanying the other children on the guitar.


I'm in the middle of a workshop for a WE-ACTx women support group. Suddenly it smells as if I'm standing next to the toilets (holes in the ground) of the summer camp. I look to the ground and see one of the women's baby sitting in the middle of a puddle. The baby is playing with the stick I just gave him, while the women are busy making music with sticks. After five minutes I realize that the smelly puddle is actually pee, the baby's. Next day, I told some of the youth leaders in the summer camp about the stick that was drenched with pee. Now when I hand out the sticks for a dance or game, we all first sniff the stick, in the hope that we did not receive that special one.


I enter a room for another women support group. It is already the fifth time I work with a women group here in Rwanda, so I'm well-prepared and looking forward to it.
But the first thing I see are some big Rwandan men, in my age. My first thought is that they sent me to the wrong place; the women must be waiting for me in another room. The trauma counselor, who barely speaks some French and English, sits down. So this is the right room. Maybe the men are just hanging out and will leave as soon as the women arrive. Women do arrive, but the men don't leave. It turns out to be a mixed support group for HIV+ men and women, ages 20-30. I feel quite uncomfortable (but smile as if this was exactly what I was prepared for) and rethink my workshop. I take out the activities that seem inappropriate for men and add some others that I hope will be positively received by the men AND the women.
From the first minute, I know the workshop will be just fine. We do a game with our names and movements, and for some reason the group doesn't stop laughing. Although I don't think the movements are that funny, apparently they are for them. They help each other finding movements, explain the game to late comers, and play the game as if it is the best in the world.
Afterwards we dance and the workshop becomes even more energetic. During the improvisation with the sticks, the mood suddenly changes. We are making real music and people are enjoying the rhythms, moving with their whole bodies and their heads. When we play an improvisation in which every person gets to play a solo while the others play a background rhythm, both women and men take the opportunity to go crazy with the music. Eyes are being closed, rhythms go faster and more complicated and some of the participants seem to play all their anger and frustration away. After this intense improvisation, we have some other fun dances and songs so we can all go home in a positive mood. I can't wait for next week, but to make the gender balance complete I will bring Danny with me.

Work vs. Vacation, Round 2

Last Sunday was our first day without work since we started the trip two weeks earlier. Unfortunately, everything there is to see in Kigali is closed on Sunday, so Danny decided that we had to make an 8 kilometer hike to an artificial lake they created in the end of the Kigali Golf Club (Fabienne thought it was a bad bad idea all along). According to our travel guidebook, the lake is supposed to host a wide variety of warm-blooded, beaked, colored or not, plumed or feathered animals, which are generally referred to as birds and do not really interest us. The 8 km plod through the hot city streets at midday was not very exciting to say the least. Local Rwandans were staring at our sweat-soaked miserable bodies with extreme bewilderment. On the other hand, there were many sweet, photogenic African children on the way smiling and waving at us from a distance, but when we got closer they would say money or give me money or give me the money.
Half of the artificial lake and half of Danny
When we eventually reached the artificial lake, it indeed honored its description by being square and stinky, and there was not a single bird to watch, because unlike us, the birds were clever enough to stay in the shadows during the hottest time of the day. Just before covering the last stretch of road leading to the lake, a British woman ran in our direction saying that she had just been mugged. We offered her to escort her to the British embassy and gladly left the lake behind. It turned out that she is a music teacher who came to teach at the ReGeneration Music School of the Solace Ministries, giving piano, singing and flute lessons to genocide survivors and their children. We exchanged details and decided to visit each other's programs; we exhaled a sigh of relief: our free afternoon to enjoy without work had finally received a meaning!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Work vs. Vacation, Round 1

People here ask us all the time if we're also going to enjoy our stay in Rwanda or only work. We usually answer that we're already enjoying our work so much! We are so grateful to be part of Musicians without Borders and to be able to do this work. The children's laughter and light in their eyes, the thank yous we receive from the youth leaders, the tears and smiles during Fabienne's work with the women support groups, the music and singing and dancing...everything is so totally fulfilling that the prospect of driving eight hours to a national park in an overstuffed minibus to spot a disinterested lion snoozing under an acacia tree seems terribly mundane.

However, when we were offered to join the HIV+ children summer camp on a trip to Akagera National Park we immediately said yes, because what are we going to tell our grandchildren in thirty years from now when they point to a giraffe in the encyclopedia of extinct animals? That we skipped a chance to see a wild one running in slow motion?
Those are giraffes
Hippos can run up to almost 50 km/h and are one
of the most dangerous animals in Africa
What are you lookin' at?
Okay, so you are probably telling yourself, "great, yet another bunch of African safari photos...who cares?!" but what you can't see on the photos are the children on the bus, who did not stop singing and dancing for 15 hours! They sang traditional songs and songs that we had taught them, but the loudest and most joyous song, the song that even the bus driver joined in, the song with the simplest and strongest words, was the one that was written just after the horrible genocide and says: We will rebuild Rwanda, We will rebuild Rwanda!

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Deaf Child's Paper Piano

In the HIV+ children summer camp there is one kid, P, who is deaf. P participates in all the activities. He doesn't sing or talk, but he dances and improvises with the sticks, and he drums and plays almost all the games. The other kids help him when needed and show him with their body language what to do when we give the instructions. P has a charming smile. When I play the guitar, P likes to rest his hand on the guitar body and feel the vibrations. Today, after lunch, P pointed to my notebook and showed me that he wanted to draw something. This is what he wrote down:
The C / Do major scale that P, a deaf HIV+ child, wrote in my notebook
Then he placed his fingers on the words that he wrote and moved them from left to right like this: thumb, index, middle, thumb, index, middle, ring, pinky. To those of you who do not play the piano, P had just played for me the Do or C major scale. I looked up at him; P returned a smile, shrugged and walked away to join his friends, and I was left with a shiver that ran up my spine, and a very special piano made from paper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Umuganda and Another Women Support Group

A report by Fabienne

Today our meeting with the Rwandan and American youth leaders was postponed, because today it is Umuganda, which is a monthly national Rwandan holiday. Every last Saturday of the month, all Rwandan citizens are expected to devote their morning to cleaning the streets and their environment. Cars are prohibited, shops are closed, and everyone is seen wth a broom and mop (or the Rwandan equivalent). So it was a good time for me to do some hand laundry, especially after the 15-hour trip we had yesterday with the children from the summer camp (about which Danny will write later). The water of the laundry turned completely brown-red, a nice souvenir from driving through the African dust.

On Thursday, after the summer camp with the children, I had another music workshop with a different women support group. This time 18 women attended, as well as a local trauma counselor. It was a huge challenge for me because the counselor did not speak English and both her and my (but especially my) French are far from perfect. Anyhow, the combination of a trauma counselor and a musician was interesting, because the trauma counselor could use some of the music material and processes for her work with the women. For example, when I asked the women for their wishes to write a song in Kinyarwanda, they had a discussion led by the counselor about wishes for their future and about the things that really matter in life.
These are the words the women came up with:

Ndifuza urukundo
Ndifuza Ubumwe
Ndifuza Ubusabane
Ndifuza Guseka
Ndifuza Kubyine

I wish for love
I wish for unity
I wish for friendship
I wish to smile
I wish to dance

I used a beautiful melody from the Rahbani brothers that was surprisingly easy to learn for the women and we sang the song together. Because the women's identity must be kept secret, and the personal, sensitive and emotional nature of the workshops, I can not take photos, videos or record during the workshop. Although I don't like hearing my own voice, and I'm definitely not a singer, I thought this blog entry could use some music... so I recorded the song just with my voice. Please use your imagination to hear the voices of these beautiful and strong women while listening to the song!

Click here to download the MP3 recording

The wish to smile and dance that was expressed in the song, came back in the evaluation. One woman said: “We can not smile or laugh at home, we are not allowed to, and anyhow there is no reason to smile. But during the music workshop we were free to express ourselves and smile and laugh!”And another one added: “We don't do sport and don't have physical exercise, today we got the chance to move and that feels good.”

In the beginning of the workshop I noticed that some of the women showed problems moving freely. Their movements were not fluent or very restricted, and sometimes it seemed as if they couldn't control their limbs, but this completely disappeared during the workshop and at the end everyone danced and moved freely.

I thank these women for giving me so much inspiration and motivation, and I truly hope that MwB will be able to set up a project here to empower this important group in the society. Rev. Emmanuel, with whom we worked in Cyangugu, said: “If we cure the women, we cure the society, because the society is dependent on the women.”