Fast forward almost 4 years. I'm back in Rwanda and am anxious to reunite with these women. We had become friends on that first trip as we shared stories and walked together on the dirt roads to visit housebound community members. On our way to meet the women we, again, rode through the Nyungwe National Park with its beautiful forests and playful monkeys on the side of the road and then past the rolling hills full of tea plants. These scenes had been etched in my memory from my first visit and my excitement mounted as we grew closer. Soon we turned off the main highway down the rocky dirt road to Shangi. Questions crowded my mind. What would I find? Would they show up? How were they doing? What would they remember?
We entered the school hall to find 21 of the invited 24 women sitting patiently waiting on school benches. Quickly the hugs and kissing (in Rwanda you kiss three times on the cheek) started. These women looked 5 years younger than the last time I saw them. They had radiant smiles on their faces. They had gained weight. They were full of energy and enthusiasm. I was beaming too, as I believed that I actually had something to do with this transformation. Shortly after we started two more women joined us. They had been at the market when they heard we were meeting and they got to the school as quickly as they could.
After our heartfelt greetings, the IBUKA Rwanda representative started asking them questions. I believe he was a bit skeptical of what we had been telling him about these women and about the FGA approach. Jeanne, our translator from our 2016 trip, was the translator. She too was amazed at the site of the women and then she started translating. They said:
We learned through the Banana Leaf Team Building Activity that no one should be left behind. Now if someone is behind we know they should be helped. When alone can’t go far, work together to go far.
Drawing Activity helped us in life. How we see things doesn’t separate us. We don’t have to see things the same way.
Help them to live well by being well, having solidarity they are an example for others.
Peace of mind and grateful for everything.
Dr. Nancy is a Dr. of the heart. Before the training I was going to the hospital all the time maybe four times in a year (Raped during genocide and now an AIDS Survivor). Since the training (3 ½ years ago) I have only gone to the hospital once.
Before we didn’t send our children to school because we saw it was useless. When the genocide against the Tutsi happened it took our children so we thought why educate them. Now we see the importance of sending children to school. Some people are even sending them to private schools. Some are helping other people's children or orphans.
Before we weren’t thinking a woman can take pleasure. Now we know you can do these things as a woman.
Can help others and ask for help. Be a community.
Something inside (forgiveness) so you can then give love. Receiving forgiveness and forgiving gave the life.
Accepting everything life can become so much better.
From where they came they can build a nation. They got love now they need to share.
We are still looking for a few adventurous and service oriented women to join us on our February trip to Rwanda. You too can meet these wonderful women and participate first hand in the miraculous transformation of FGA in people's lives.