Written by CorpsAfrica/Rwanda Volunteer Mr. Isaac Ndengejeho (Eastern Kayonza District)
Martin Luther King Junior once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” This famous quote has been occupying my thoughts during this period in which a declared pandemic of COVID-19 is strongly hitting the whole world, including Rwanda.
Looking back to the situation before the outbreak of COVID-19, as Volunteers across the country, we used to plan for and carry out different activities on a weekly basis. Among others especially in my community, we used to build kitchen gardens. Calling them kitchen gardens in the Rwandan context, it is not because they are gardens into which we grow different flowers as other common gardens we see everywhere, but small garden designed to produce vegetables for families. We have been also building latrines for some families that did not have proper ones or none at all.
Even though we are not currently working together as community organization on weekly activities due to COVID-19, there is still hope that the situation will be better and we will keep answering life’s most persistent and urgent question.
However being most persistent and urgent question, even in times of troubles like this of COVID-19, the question is still there and will always be here and everywhere in the world.
Serving, as a volunteer has been my best way of answering part of this question. No matter how far I still have to go; during this period of COVID-19 I managed to inform people in my community about the coronavirus, how it spreads, and all possible measures that should be taken to prevent its spread. This has been discussed about just few days if not hours before our country confirms the first case of COVID-19 on its territory.
I have realized that, whenever the country has not yet confirmed first case(s) of a declared to be pandemic disease, people still cannot believe what is happening in other countries. For example in my rural community, two days before the confirmation of first case on Rwandan territory, people in this remote area thought that the disease has specific countries it goes to. Their minds started to change after fruitful discussions I had with them about the disease and by then they are aware of what is happening and they are following instructions given by Rwandan healthy officials including washing hands frequently, despite difficulties they are facing in finding necessary facilities like enough clean water, soaps and other materials like clean buckets.
At this point after identifying difficulties in washing hands frequently, CorpsAfrica donated a hand washing material for each site to help community members adhere to the prevention mechanisms advised by the government. But the few washing stations provided are still too few. However, this is not still the main challenge in my community; the country is now locked down i.e. people are asked to stay in house except they go to buy food stuff or emergency reason.
As the Dalai Lama said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humans cannot survive.” This is the time to show love to people who are mostly affected, I am not ignoring the fact that COVID-19 is a very world pandemic disease and everybody around the globe is in dilemma. However, let us think about what we can do for others, no matter how small, cheap or expensive, local or international, wherever everybody is and whatever he is able to do for others; this is the right time for him to reach out to these people around the world with empty hands and do something for their survival. I am happy to live in a country that has the people’s lives at heart. From yesterday, the government started giving out food to the most vulnerable people in the country who otherwise get food from their daily work. I am happy many Rwandans are organizing in communities a food bank to support the government initiative.
Due to COVID-19 hope is almost gone. Fear is entering every heart. Moreover, it is becoming a big issue for activists and all of us humanitarians to restore hope in this time. We are doing all we can, despite our own fears, to create a climate of hope within our communities.