Rwanda: Remembering the Past But Looking to the Future
August 6, 2014. Francis Davin joins CAC On-Field for four weeks in both Rwanda and Cambodia. He writes about his first impressions and the final Rwandan program in Kigali with FHPU and Dream Team Football Academy.
The Rwandans are an amazing people. Everywhere I go I am met by smiles and very respectful attitudes towards me the strange white guy. A country still recovering from the wounds of the genocide in 1994 is rebounding forward with embrace for foreign culture and a new found unity. By trying to look at the future whilst not forgetting the past all the people I have met have a renewed attitude that they can look at the positive things in life now and appreciate them more.
Whenever I travel around with a Rwandan colleague and bump into a stranger to ask for information I’m shocked to find out they are friends already as they laugh and joke and finish talking with a hand shake and a good bye. Then when I ask how they know each other I find out they aren’t actually friends but everyone just talks like that with each other now – everyone treats each other as friends.
It seems the past segregation and division between Hutus and Tutsis and the killing of over 1 million of the population now promotes a new era of friendship and togetherness.
Simple things are the best things here, no one worries about making sure their tan is the correct shade or that they must watch the latest episode of that new TV show, an old used tire is the greatest play thing for a kid (after a football of course!). It puts a lot of things in perspective very quickly and makes you appreciate what we have in our world.
The happiest moment I saw so far was a group of 20 or so kids with clothes they have clearly been wearing for months, being given a soccer ball to play with. Instantly teams are formed and a game with sticks in the ground for posts is under way. I remember the amount of player’s soccer balls I have in my car that have been left behind at a practice in the US and think how the kids here in the streets a would treat them like diamonds.
Hearing the stories of what happened during those 100 days from genocide survivor and ex professional football player Eric upsets me and makes me continue to worry for a species that can instantly turn and kill each other’s friends based on radio announcements, propaganda and perceived differences in the shape of someone’s face.
But all that history here creates a motivated culture that will never let it happen again has united everyone to move into a brighter future. On the field the enthusiasm is second to none. The coaches want to learn and want to improve and take part in anything with so much energy it’s infectious. On Tuesday we spent a long morning on the field and wrapped up about 1pm to head back into the coolness of the hostel. At 4pm we arrived for an evening visit at an orphanage in a village 30 minutes away only to find a coach we’d worked with all morning volunteering his time to help out there.
On the final day we had coach backs which was a chance for the coaches to try out the games with teams of local kids while we watched. As we arrived early as usual (thanks Didier for your wonderful driving) we found coaches arriving and forming a group. Before we even said anything they had organised themselves into 3 groups, including a time keeper and logistics expert in charge of cones and balls, and were coaching our games! Self-directed coach backs! Nora was incredibly happy. Marcus being the German said it was all part of his Vorsprung durch Technik plan!
At the end of the week following all the photos and certification awarding I asked a coach what he would do with our training. He said “I came here to learn how to coach but also to teach the players I work with to be better people. It’s difficult to just tell them to be good, treat people well and be smart with their choices. Instead I look forward to teaching them with football games that they enjoy”
Before I joined CAC I knew what the idea of self directive learning and using football for social impact meant, but I didn’t realise the impact would be so profound, direct and resonant. I also admit to being surprised in a good way by the beauty of Rwanda physically and culturally. When I left I took a piece of Rwanda with me – a new outlook on life and an adjusted perspective will enable me to prioritize and promote peace and hope above all else and a new point of reference for my life.