An umuganda experience

Last Saturday was Umuganda and I had been looking forward to it.

When I said I had participated in Umuganda a few times before, none was in my current village, so on Saturday I decided to debut. I underestimated what this meant to the community and my chairman. He was so happy to see me; a few other people that had seen me around or those with whom I had exchanged pleasantries on the way were excited. This humbled me and at the same time evoked a sense of guilt; I made a vow to join community members for work regularly.

Incidentally, the work that morning was heavy; it entailed digging the ground for stones, loading it on wheelbarrows and covering pot holes on the murram road. The men present did most of the work as the ladies helped in a small way, a way they appreciated.

Once the cleaning exercise was done, we were all led to a place where a village meeting was to be held. I had been warned about this part and had experienced it before, the proceedings are in the national language Kinyarwanda. Some people who don’t know the language usually head home after cleaning. I chose to join the rest and decode what I could, as for what was too hard for me I would enlist help.

It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning when the chairman asked me to get up then he introduced me and went ahead to say I did not know the language, there were slight murmurs then I told him I understood a little bit and I was perfectly okay.

It was time for the official start of the meeting, indeed I picked some words and whenever there was a complicated term used, my neighbours would help. Among the many issues to be communicated, the chairman reminded the baturaje to pay for Mutuelle de Sante and the same went for those who have house helps and shamba boys. He told these bosses to insure their employees. The chairman told a short story of a former resident of the area who took their child to hospital and ended up with a huge bill because they were not on the scheme. Unfortunately they lost the baby and the hospital retained the body until the debt had been cleared, he cautioned people to heed to his call so that something similar does not befall them.

I was also touched by the last agenda of that meeting. There was an opportunity to support Government’s initiative of building houses for the poor. Many a time people want to help but rarely know where to channel that help, for me, it was a pleasure being able to contribute the little I could afford knowing that it would reach someone in need and change their livelihood. I got to learn that every sector was given a target and ours was less by Rwf225, 000. I reduced that a bit by making my pledge. I then called it a day. Looking forward to end of May.