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The Power of Kindness in an Emergency

Written by CorpsAfrica/Rwanda Volunteer Mr. Justin Nkunzimana

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Those words from Ralph Waldo Emerson kept revolving in my head since the COVID-19 pandemic first case registered in my country. It is a very serious issue the whole world is suffering from nowadays. To avoid it from coming into our rural area, community members have started adhering to guidelines that would help them such as avoiding handshaking, but some of them didn’t clearly understand the need to follow the guidelines of the MOH and WHO. They thought it was rude to pass by your friend and not shake his or her hand. But as time goes on, and after many meetings facilitated by the local leader and myself, the community has come to understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the many awareness meetings I conducted, the community is now adhering to frequent hands washings.

Now the most difficult hurdle was making them see reasons as to why they should find ways to wash their hands as often as possible even while many of them spend time in the main centers where they had no access to water. Many had agreed to wash their hands but only when they reach their homes late in the evenings. I had to think fast, I saw the danger my community was in. I had to take action. I and my colleagues, reported this to the country office and a day after, we were grateful because CorpsAfrica furnished each one of us with washing stations called Tippy-taps, locally known as Kandagira-Ukarabe.  The community was so happy because they didn’t think that we would provide them a day after we promised them. In many community members’ words: “CorpsAfrica people are very caring and thoughtful. They are like a mother taking care of her family.”

The other thing that shocked them was that CorpsAfrica Volunteers were still in sites while Peace Corps volunteers have left and went back to their families since the outbreak. They have realized that our staying with them is helping them and has a big impact in their lives. They say we are their friends even in the hard times. This hardship has created an unbreakable bond between us and our communities. And this would not have been possible without CorpsAfrica CEO’s clear vision, without CorpsAfrica/Rwanda’s leadership, and without the funds from OCP. We are very grateful for making it possible for us to serve and to give our contribution to our society.

Let me be specific and detailed about the day, I delivered the washing machine in the community. It was on Thursday around 2 PM and the community members were waiting to receive washing stations, Tippy-taps, as they were promised. When they finally were installed, I do not know how to explain the emotions I saw on their face. They all lined up to wash hands properly but they were so many on queues. Being a poor community, they were not capable of buying one.
The community was so impressed with such heartfelt activity and they pledged to wash hands frequently and to help spread that message to the neighbor who didn’t manage to be present.

Today, in our community, everything changed. Everybody knows about coronavirus, the symptoms, what to do in case one has the symptoms, what to do to prevent it or to protect others. But sometimes the community shows worries about the pandemic. Despite the fear, they make sure to only get info about the virus from me or the local leaders to avoid rumors or wrong info. I like that about my community.

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