Le Pays de Mille Collines – Rwanda
July 20, 2014. It is Coaches Across Continents’ first year working in Rwanda and we are so excited to be here. Twenty years ago a human rights atrocity was committed in this country, leaving over an estimated million (mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus) dead and its people in a state of shock and unimaginable grief. What does one do after such a tragedy? What does a nation do? Rwanda’s people were faced with few options after the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994, and they chose to move forward.
Moving forward does not mean forgetting what has happened, and it is evident every day of our programs here that nobody has forgotten. Moving forward means absorbing the bad, carrying it with you, but not letting it bring you down, not letting it hold you back. Rwanda is an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful country, and though these hills are stained with frightful memories, the nation has come together to make incredible strides in such a short time.
Our implementing partner in Rwanda is Football for Hope, Peace & Unity (FHPU) founded by Eric Eugene Murangwa – an incredible man with an incredible story. We are thrilled to be part of the work that he is doing for his people, and, of course, all in the name of the game we love. Football saved Murangwa’s life in 1994 and that is a fact he has embraced in the 20 years since , a fact that has moved him to use this game to save and enrich the lives of others.
Our program in Rwanda is a bit different as we are part of FHPU’s Play for Hope: Rwanda20 initiative that has us here for four weeks running trainings for teachers and coaches in four different parts of the country. Our first training took us to the west in a town on the north shores of Lake Kivu called Rubavu. 130 coaches showed up for three days from all over the region to learn from CAC coaches about how to use football to achieve social change. Our team was headed by staff member Nora Dooley who was joined by two volunteers, Tom Marsland and Yael Paz, from our partner organization in Israel – Mifalot. The training was fantastic, and although we only had three days with this large group we certainly made the most of it.
There were a few games that went especially well such as two of our Adebayor games, teaching participants how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS as well as how to prevent teenage pregnancy. The participants enjoyed learning how to teach these lessons using fun football games and were eager to discuss the important social messages. Another game that is a big hit with most groups and was very suitable for the massive numbers we had this week was Leadership Lines. In this game we split the group up into multiple lines where everybody has a number – i.e. from 1 to 6. The first person begins and can do anything from running and clapping to crawling and dancing and everybody following has to do the same – in essence, follow the leader. Then we call a number and that number goes to the front of the line to lead the group. Everybody gets a chance to lead and this brings us right into a great discussion about leadership. Can everybody be a leader? Yes! Does everybody lead in the same way? No! What makes a good leader?
The success of this training has left us all feeling incredibly optimistic about the trainings to come as well as about the future of partnership between CAC and FHPU. The next few weeks take us to the east, south, and then back in Kigali to close it all out, and we are eager to keep going. There is an energy that permeates this country, and it is not sad, it is not scared, it is not idle. It is an energy of progress, of development, of potential that is surfacing in the most beautiful ways, fitting for such a beautiful land.