R.E.A.C.T Season II; Impacting Bujumbura

Just in case u doubted them...it's Burundi
Just in case u doubted them…it’s Burundi

This one was an upgrade; all the Rotaractors agree. The Rotarians and guests also agree and so do the waitresses. In fact, when I heard some frogs crocking and cats meowing in the distance at the closing of the inaugural REACT Chairperson’s speech, I figured they were trying to send a message; that the frog and cat communities agreed as well. The impact was massive, the fun, the organization, the people. It felt great to be among East African friends again- I told you before, that there’s only one such chance every year and one that mustn’t be missed.

Everything in Bujumbura was optimized for the project…err that is apart from the weather (the sun threatened to melt the tallest ones among us. The shorter guys were safe, seeking shelter in the shadows of the tall guys. They aren’t part of the complainants). If you are still figuring out what I am talking about, then perhaps you could start by reading about what went down at our inaugural REACT at https://rotaractkigalicity.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/rotaract-just-keeps-rolling-r-e-a-c-t-2013/ while the more updated ones catch their breath a little.

19th April 2014 was a normal hustler’s day down in Buterere, Bujumbura, Burundi. They went about whatever their business was without much thought to what the hot sun had prepared for them. They farmed their rice, tethered their goats, fetched water, and cooked their food. Then they harvested and dried their rice, relocated their goats to greener areas of the sun beaten plains, fetched more water and cooked more food. The briskness of their business was most impressive (I know what they were doing because I watched a lot of Nigerian movies before I grew up, not because I spent the previous night there) that is until some eight or so four wheelers came screeching to a halt in their humble neighborhood- TV crew and journalists in tow! Hehe, the Rotaractors had ARRIVED!!

Exporting UICT swagg to outside countries
Exporting UICT swagg to outside countries
This wasn't part of the project
This wasn’t part of the project

The curious little ones, as always were the first to come forward to inspect the situation- protruding bellies coming forward before the entire body would show (it’s a security measure I think, in case of danger, the body gets to survive) before one or two adults showed up. In these uncertain times, you can never count on the universe to always be friendly. This time the arrivals were beaming with smiles, but the curious villagers would have none of it, preferring to be a distance safe enough to outrun a bullet in case it was fired.

Anyway, so the host clubs did a short speech and divided us into eight groups, each tasked with impacting six households- I think I got over myself there….let’s go back a little.

Our purpose of coming to this community was to educate and train these little chaps and their parents on Water purification and sanitization methods for proper hygiene. The Rotaract clubs of Bujumbura and Inyenyeri had identified households in this community as the neediest and who could use some sensitization on water hygiene and purification. They were families who did not have a proper water source and had poor preparation and storage methods. Water borne diseases have been rampant in the area, dangerously affecting the population and their mortality rates. We needed to show them a better way to live- any small positive change is worth living for. So, where were we?…….

Rtr. Dacia giving sanitation tips
Rtr. Dacia giving sanitation tips
Sanitation practicals
Sanitation practicals

Each of the eight groups of Rotaractors, powered by sponsorship from UNICEF and Red Cross visited up to six households where they alerted the families on the dangers of drinking un boiled or un purified water and trained them on how better to make their water safe to drink. There were initial protests from some family heads- wondering why they managed to clock 80 plus years effortlessly if their water was deadly (To this we also effortlessly pointed to the aforementioned bellies of their little ones and wondered if they were heavy beer drinkers. It was agreed that bilharzia {etc} could be a cause just as much) but they eventually agreed, seeing as it is that they had very many people dying at youth.

After training, each family was given a bucket, a jerrycan, a box of washing soap, water purifiers and a sanitization handbook written in Kirundi, the local language to get started. Their gratitude was unmistakable and as always, that’s what gives us the most pride- the opportunity to serve.

At the end of the project- north of 15h00 local time, we left for central Bujumbura to catch our dinner (yeah right, we hadn’t eaten lunch either), give and listen to speeches, exchange banners and do all those things that make Rotary International a unique organization. It was the event at which even the frogs and cats applauded the outgoing chair as I previously stated. She gave a short but emotional speech which would make me cry if I should repeat.

Speeches from various representatives of all the stake holders showed one thing- that R.E.A.C.T has grown in leaps and bounds.

Entertainment from all countries present and election of the incoming R.E.A.C.T committee happened and so did the vote for the R.E.A.C.T 2015 venue. We are going to close down Kisumu- Kenya.

All four representing countries
All four representing countries
Rotaractors at the diner
Rotaractors at the diner

So, join me all if you will and let’s raise our glasses in toast to The Rotaract Clubs of Kisumu, Nairobi East, Milimani and Nairobi Central from Kenya; IHSU, MUBs, UICT, Kampala South, Kampala City, Kabarole, Bugolobi, Kampala Central, Ssesse and Kasangati representing from Uganda and KIE and Kigali City making noise for Rwanda.

Let’s also give massive thanks to the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga for representing Rwanda as well as the Rotary Clubs of Inyenyeri and Bujumbura for some wonderful and unmistakable support they extended to our Rotaract hosts.

As for the Rotaract Club of Inyenyeri, words would fail us. The Rotaract Club of Bujumbura, you guys showed great teamwork in making this R.E.A.C.T possible. That you were with Inyenyeri all the way to the end was so wonderful so thank you Bujumnbura and massive thanks to you Inyenyeri. It was much more than we ever asked or required of you. Hosting any event can be some piece of work but hosting a three- districts event is monstrous. To pull it off requires great zeal.

Thanks also to all our sponsors; Red Cross, UNICEF, 100 trees and of course, Rotary International.

Our hosts were most entertaining
Our hosts were most entertaining
Some moves from team UG
Some moves from team UG

The event was a qualified success, and one which will take some challenging. The Rotaractors learned some French, and enjoyed the Bujumbura night life before boarding back to wherever the winds had blown them from. We expect to see all of them- and then more at the Kisumu leg. These tours aren’t the things you would like to miss, They will be the kind of stories that you would like to tell your grandkids a half century from now. Actually, you would do well to hear my own story of R.E.A.C.T at http://pkoloo.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/the-noises-of-these-youngsters-r-e-a-c-t-2014-88-years-later/ . This was an official report, that’s why it’s been very serious- don’t laugh.

Over to you, Kisumu.

Rotaractors with inspired families
Rotaractors with inspired families
The REACT cake
The REACT cake

 

 

Rgds,

Peter King

 

 

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