Last week I completed my first homestay with a local family in the town of Nyakianama, Rwanda. This experience has allowed me to understand the local community surrounding Red Rocks Rwanda. This homestay has given me a new perspective on how locals live their day to day lives and what challenges they must overcome.
The family Anna and I stayed at works with Red Rocks Rwanda daily (the mother in the household is the president of the Amahoro Iwacu cooperative which is one of the five cooperatives in the Acts of Hope program at Red Rocks Rwanda). Acts of Hope allows women to sell their goods at
the local shop located at Red Rocks, which gives 100% of the money a person pays for products to the cooperatives. That money allows the women to pay for health insurance, land and seeds and school uniforms.
When we first arrived at the house, Anna and I were embraced by loving women and children as they were all excited to teach us local skills and activities. We started off the day by walking to the farm to pick up the grass for the basket weaving activity. After this, the women took a knife and showed us how to prepare the grass for weaving. Once we completed this, we started weaving the baskets. It was amusing because the women were making fun of me for using my left hand and were trying to correct me by putting the needle in my right hand.
After we had completed the weaving, the women showed us how to make banana beer and banana juice. We started off
by peeling small bananas into this large bucket and then added banana leaves and grass to the juice then we smashed over and over to get the banana juice. The next activity (which was the hardest out of all of them) was farming all the women worked together to plant sweet potatoes.I was amazed by the strength and work ethic of these women as I was struggling to hoe the weeds and leaves. The work did not stop here we still had much more to do, and it was only 3 pm!
Once we finished some of the hard work, we took a break to play with the children and learn the local games. We even played hide and seek, and the kids were quite good at hiding! Then Anna and I walked with the host family mother to the local market to pick up ingredients for dinner.
The family killed a chicken for us for dinner, and on the side we had beans.
Anna and I finished dinner we stayed up late talking to the family about the United States and showing pictures of our families and homes. The whole family was very excited to have us stay overnight as this was the first-time American’s and someone from the United Kingdom stayed in their house. They kept on thanking us over and over as our translator explained that many people who travel to Rwanda do not understand how the locals live here. In addition to this, the father expressed gratitude for Red Rocks Rwanda as it has allowed his wife to bring in income to the house. Which as a result allowed the family to pay for school uniforms, food, and health insurance just to name a few.
Even though there were challenges that Anna and I had to adapt to such as no running water, plumbing, and wifi. We could see first-hand how a social impact organization such as Red Rocks Rwanda directly affects the women in the cooperatives as well as the community. Overall it was a great experience, and I recommend anyone traveling to stay with a local family to understand the culture, environment and their way of life.