The Gathering, July 2017 Gisenyi

In July 2017 two of the trustees of the charity Renew SCIO were assisted to travel to meet with the project manager and some of the project’s beneficiaries. Highlights were posted on the project Facebook page but it was such a special day we wanted to share more of it with you!

We had intended to travel through DRC to each of the regions where the widows live to meet with them in their villages and to visit the children being sponsored through the Kids Crew campaign. Unfortunately due to visa restrictions at the time this proved impossible and so we changed our plans and arranged to meet in Gisenyi, Rwanda across the border from Goma in DRC.

Hosted at the Centre D’Accueil St Francois Xavier Diocese De Nyundo, the group from DRC travelled over early in the morning for a day of warm introductions, heartfelt speeches, a robust shared lunch and an afternoon of meetings. We remembered the fathers and husbands who gave their lives and discussed the different development streams the women are engaged in. The children enjoyed playing together and everyone took turns in the photo session which kept Joe, our volunteer photographer for the day, very busy.

The group included several of the trainers from the training centre accompanied by the centre’s Director, Mr Jean Baptiste Salumu. Part of the day’s business was to sign a partnership agreement with the centre who have provided most of the ladies sewing training. As professional friends and colleagues of the project manager, Jean Baptiste has provided the project with valuable support as do Father Juvenal and Robert Mulimbi, who are located in the regional areas where some of the women live and help support the project.

The trainers had valuable suggestions and input to make about the women’s cooperative and consulting directly with the women about their hopes and challenges allowed all of us to gain a greater shared understanding of what the project can achieve. The women’s group in Goma in particular has taken the initiative to bring in apprentices to train and assist with the sewing cooperative. These are younger women, some the daughters of older widows who are unable to sew and instead come in their place to learn the skills and support their families. They have also engaged a trainer with specialist tailoring skills in exchange for shared access to the sewing machines the project has provided, which has mutual benefits for everyone!

To cover what was intended as an eight day itinerary in one day was quite a stretch and we were all exhausted by the end of it but everyone was pleased to have met and went away with full hearts. For the trustees and the project manager we also went away with a very, very long list of actions and instructions to take forward on behalf of the beneficiaries and hope all of these can be delivered in the years to come. With shared purpose and strong partnerships we believe they can be.

The trustees would like to thank the following people for helping make this gathering of the project’s volunteers, partners, supporters and the widows and orphans of park rangers possible: Dory McIntosh and the Board of Trustees of the Manknell Trust for your encouragement and investment in helping us to make a difference – we are!; our families and friends who keep everything running in our absence and support us in our endeavours to deliver meaningful support to other families; Joe Williams, UK park ranger and photographer for the day in Gisenyi – for your good faith and willingness to step into the unknown and see the job through; Sam Etoru who did a valiant job as logistical operator, guide, driver and navigator throughout the journey from Uganda to Rwanda and back again; to the staff of the Centre D’Accueil St Francois Xavier Diocese De Nyundo for your patience and willingness to accommodate us; to all the women, children, trainers and supporters for having the faith and courage to make the journey to meet with us; and special thanks to Jean Pierre for his tireless commitment and management of everything on the DRC side.

From Charles and Sonya we thank you all for your contributions and support in creating a memorable and successful gathering. May we continue to work together with strength and unity, raising recognition for the work the rangers give their lives for and finding support for their families.

Meeting the ladies on arrival, led by the President of the Women’s Cooperative, AVEGAP, in Goma

Discussing the cooperative’s development

The apprentices brought in the by the other ladies

The trainer and tailor, Bahati Kayugu Mucongomani with the apprentices

Joe Williams and Bisifa Kenziya

The kids have some fun

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the training centre Director Jean Baptiste Salumu

MOU agreed!

Remembering the fathers and husbands who have died

Everyone together, Renew SCIO and PRWOP (AVEGAP) group meeting, Gisenyi 21 July 2017