Friday, January twenty fourth.
Every day is a challenge. We are working on getting seed. I spent well over $300,000 today buying bean, maize, vegetable, soya bean, and sorghum seed. We are importing 200 ton from Uganda, buying a lot locally, and as much as we can from the area we worked in two years ago. I wrote a three-page report on the results of our past work in the area. It makes for a great story.
Last evening, while checking out one of our agriculture projects, one of the guys told us about a church that has been left as a memorial to the genocide slaughter in the village of Ntarama. We drove there in the afternoon. The militia had used grenades to kill all the occupants of the local church. It had been left exactly as if it had happened yesterday. Most of the skulls had been picked up and placed on a table in an adjoining shelter. There were well over 700. Many of the skulls had been cracked. Next to the door was a club especially prepared for this kind of bruising slaughter. It was horrifying real. Bone and clothes were still visible. Obviously, the flesh was gone but the smell wasn’t. Seeing this made me understand why every local government has converted building made into cells, holding hundreds, standing room only of ,young men and some women awaiting trial and soon judgment.
On the same road was a mass grave with hundreds of wooden crosses. There is no money to make something more permanent. On the crosses were written in crayon the name, birth and death dates. All death dates were April 11, 1994. Behind these crosses were two mass graves. Who knows how many bodies are buried there. I do not believe I will forget this day.
Bad news: I took off early to Kigali, the capital city. The copier/printer had gone out from a lightning storm Friday evening. I also had to check on getting our 50 tons of maize seed up country to distribution points. We tried to purchase 132 pounds of carrot, cabbage, tomato, and onion seed. Sounds like a lot. Not much when it goes to 25,000 families. We struck out on all the above items for lots of reasons. Back to tomorrow.
Good news: Since our phone service was out I hooked into Food for the Hungry phone line. There was a message from my wife and daughter and her family. Pumped me right up. The home team does as much to keep me going as my local team.
We spent the next six hours meeting with leaders of two communes planning to meet the needs of 11,500 new returnees. Each commune will make specific plans for distribution of items so their farms and gardens get planted and they become food sufficient as quickly as possible. Then we learned of dozens of widows who are desperate and have no land, homes, or income. We are working on that one. We will probably do some kind of animal loan program with a food for work project constructing simple homes.
Talk about slow mail. I was cleaning out the glove box of the same vehicle we used two years earlier. In it I found a letter addressed to me from Keith Syler, the man who took over our initial food security program. It was dated June 25, 1995.
Lou, Maraho (Hello in Kiyarwandan)
I hope this finds you well. I enjoyed reading the piece Joy Witte did about your Rwanda experience. You’ll be back here, I am sure of it.
Things are going well and we’re all working hard. Our truck had an accident (A reckless Somali rammed into Faben) in May that left us crippled for days. Other than that, and the normal frustration of working with a large, slow moving organization like World Food Program, things are OK.
Peter of the Red Cross stopped me a few days ago along the road and gave me the enclosed photo to send to you. I’m also sending along a report of what we’ve been up to. Thanks, as always, for the legacy you left us. God Bless! Keith.
The report he enclosed was exciting and so satisfying to see the good things that have come out of that work. Wow! I feel great.
We got home tonight and found the US-AID representative had stopped to see us. He left us a special message from the Consular section of the embassy warning all US citizen not to travel in certain sections of the country. We had just spent six hours in those sections. Local people tell us everything is fine. I want to be realistic and cautious yet bold enough to work in areas which are particularly needy. Most insecure areas are needy. The reason for this warning is that three Spanish aid workers were killed and an American wounded ten days ago. The report went on to say, “the organization which put prices on our heads last year, expanded its threat to include aid workers who are used as shields by the RPA” Oh! I wonder, will healing ever come to this beautiful land? Will I be safe? Should I not work in all those areas? What about my staff? I am not worried but I am concerned. And I thought real estate had its emotional ups and downs. With that thought…Good night.