Thursday, July 18, 2019

Summer 2019 - Here We Come!

Muraho everyone!

This is Sonrisa, coming to you live from Colorado, right before the team leaves for Rwanda tonight!

This Summer, we have a team of four students and a mentor going to Cyanika, Rwanda for a trip that will see the team assess for future water catchment systems and close out the first three systems, (Munini, Nyarutosho, and Gasebeya) which were built in 2014.
The team is composed of myself (Sonrisa), Cassidy (next year's Project Manager), Casey (last year's Design team lead), Gary (co-PM last year), and a new mentor, Cole (an engineer in CO and returned Peace Corps volunteer).  As the returning member from last year's travel and implementation team, I am looking forward to getting to see the friends made last summer in Cyanika and having my fellow traveling teammates get to experience Rwanda and everything the community has to offer.
While only five of the CU students involved with EWB CU Rwanda will be on this trip, the trip as a whole wouldn't have been possible without all of the work put in by our members over the past year.

As mentioned before, during the trip the team will be assessing possible future implementation sites and closing out three of the existing systems. Along with assessing for possible water systems sites, the team will also be looking as existing latrine and sanitation issues the Community Vision Board (CVB) mentioned last summer and will be conducting assessments on how the team may be able to assist the CVB in increasing access to quality sanitation infrastructure, along with the water catchment systems. The water catchment systems in Munini, Nyarutosho, and Gasebeya will be closed out this trip, following the EWB USA (Engineers Without Borders) guidelines that the responsibility for the project will be passed onto the community, five years after implementation.

The first week of our time in Rwanda we will be focusing on talking with the community and conducting Monitoring and Evaluation activities. These activities mainly include participating at CVB meetings and conducting surveys in each of the five villages where EWB CU Rwanda has implemented a water system. The surveys are designed to collect feedback from the community regarding their use and satisfaction with the water systems so that moving forward, future EWB projects in the Cyanika community can be as successful as possible. During this time we hope to gather stories from volunteer community members in a "Humans of New York" fashion - something that we were not able to complete last year. The team hopes to use the stories and images collected in order to bring back part of the community (in a way) to Colorado where our members and donors can see the impact of their support in person.
I want to take a second to thank all of the donors that supported the team over the past couple of years, especially to the companies that donated this past year. We would not be able to travel and complete this necessary work without you. I also want to thank Village Makeover for helping our team with everything when it comes to travel!

This blog will be the best way for anyone who would like to keep up with the team's progress to do so. Throughout our trip, we will be updating the blog, about every other day - with pictures!!

Again, thank you to everyone who has supported, in any way, and the entire CU EWB Rwanda team throughout the year! We couldn't do it without you all!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Goodbye Rwanda

Goodbye Rwanda,

After five weeks of work, dozens of friendships made, and a hundred memories, our team leaves the wonderful country of Rwanda.  We are proud to report that the system was finished, repairs were made, and Gasebeya’s extension is well on its way.  40,000 liters of water has now been made available to the people in the village of Kibaya.  You can see the system in the final stages here.

Final Touches

Painting the System

Watching the team’s work come to fruition in the system is fantastic.  There are a lot of differences between designing and constructing, both of which are incredibly valuable.   Little things, like explaining how we want the gutters attached, through a translator results in some fun and interesting design changes to fit local construction techniques and skills.  We loved getting to know the masons, the Community Vision Board, our Village Makeover Partners, and all the children.  Will “Wally” is especially good at playing with the children.  They played dominoes with bricks, built little houses out of rocks, and played a lot of Simon Says. 

Saying Murabeho to our friends

We want to thank everyone who has made this implementation possible.  Access to water is essential and with every trip we help to raise quality of life for people all over the world.  Thank you to our partners, Genesis Digital and the Engineering Excellence Fund, our team who created this design, the community who made it happen, Village Makeover who was essential for success, and our supporters who give us the courage, the support, and the love we need to fulfill the EWB mission.

Have a wonderful year!


Sonrisa preparing all the taps 

Zayna and the kids
Buying the Materials

Team getting ready to explore some Musanze Caves

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

One More Week! - Updates and Photo Dump No. 2


On Monday we began our last week here in Rwanda. Our system is still far from complete. However it’s an exciting time because steps are going quickly and every day the system looks more and more like an actual structure! Yesterday the masons heaved up the three bulky trusses and secured them on top of our 3.5-meter-tall columns. We are amazed by how casually the masons work and move around on their scaffolding. It is made from young local Eucalyptus trees and every time they use a hammer the entire thing shakes. They laid down a couple rows of 2 by 2’s on the trusses and today they attached the corrugated steel roof onto the 2 by 2’s. This means that in the remainder of the week we need to get the tanks positioned on the foundations and attach all the gutters, piping, first flush system, taps, etc. There has also been progress adding a tank to the Gasebeya site. The foundation has been completed and today we found the tank at the site. This was an impressive feat as the property is surrounded by an 8-foot-tall volcanic rock wall… We are still not exactly sure how the tank got passed the wall, but it goes to show the committedness and efficiency of the community members. Because most of the work at our site is dependent on the skills of the masons we left early today to touch-up the older systems. We put new caulk along the tank-pipe connections and painted construction information on the tanks at each site. We hope that the date and source of construction will be useful for surveyors.

As our return to Colorado begins to approach I have been trying to absorb this place as much as possible. The northern province on Rwanda is easily one of the most interesting locations I have ever seen. The elevation is about 6,900 ft (basically the elevation of CU) and it lies just a few degrees south of the Equator. But surprising, it is much cooler than Colorado. Every day the temperature gets up to the high 70's and in the morning and evening it is just chilly enough to wear a jacket. The region is also scattered with dramatic volcanoes, some of which are over 14,000 ft tall. At certain times of the year the tallest ones even receive snow! These volcanoes play an important role in Rwanda's tourism industry because they provide a suitable ecosystem for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. On Saturday some of us went to the Dian Fossey Foundation/Museum in Musanze. My favorite part was learning that the scientific name for the western lowland gorilla (found in the DRC) is Gorilla gorilla gorilla!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Repairs, Columns, and Dresses. Oh my.


Nyarutosho - People getting water from the tanks

Our team has just finished up Week 4 of our trip here in Rwanda and a lot has been happening.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we finished all the brick columns and ground bracing for the systems, got the tanks delivered, and finished repairs on the Nyarutosho and Munini systems.  We had some problem solving to do when our drill charger started smoking (and smelling like burnt popcorn) as it meant we could no longer drill the holes we needed for the bracing.  However, the local wood shop was able to give us some assistance. Crisis averted.

Checking out a local hardware store for parts

This year we are also implementing formal written documentation of the donation of the land for the system in the community.  Previously this has been primarily verbal agreement but as Rwanda continues to expand their legal systems to things like land rights, it has become important that this document exist.  After extensive conference with our partner, Village Makeover, EWB members, and the local Community Vision Board, we finally have a version everyone can agree on.  We look forward to getting this signed and notarized at the end of the week at the sector office.

Zayna with the kids

This weekend we stayed in Musanze.  The local market was very lively and sold the largest variety of flip flops our team had ever seen.  Then we went to the mall and bought some fabric.  Rwanda has a huge selection of brightly colored, boldly patterned fabrics that nearly all the women use in their clothing. Most men in town seem to wear primarily jeans or slacks and button-up shirts every day.   However, the women have fun picking out the best styles for their clothes and the best fabrics to hold their babies on their backs as they are going through the day.  Zayna had a summer dress made for her and Sonrisa is preparing for a pillow making fiesta.  It only took a few hours from the time we picked out fabric to the time that the clothes were made and ready to wear.  The women were very friendly and happy to help us.

We have only one more week left in the beautiful country of Rwanda and expect to get the most out of what we have left.


Winding up for the Grand Finale

Good Morning friends and family!

This week has seen our team go into fifth gear, as we now have less than two weeks left in Rwanda. Over the past few days , we have formally assessed all but one of the systems built in the past, started the tank foundation construction for the tank we are adding in Gasebeya, replaced broken/faulty taps at both Nyarutosho and Munini, and continued with construction at Kibaya. 
After watching the masons and helpers we've hired at Kibaya, I can't get over just how incredibly strong those men are. It's definitely not everyday that you see someone casually shape the gigantic boulder of volcanic rock they just pulled out of the ground by hand, into a perfectly rounded small piece of rock to use in in a tank foundation. 
We have also been trying to find time to visit a village the Community Vision Board wants us to assess for the next system implementation. 

There are lots of updates and tidbits to share, so many that I don't know where to start. 
I think I'll start with one of my favorite parts of last week; Hasan was playing some music on his phone while we were working on sawing trusses and fastening rebar when Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" started to play. Hasan, Zayna, and myself were all humming along to the song when Max, in the middle of the chorus, sang "I'm in love with chapatti!" instead of the original song lyrics, "I'm in love with your body" (credit to Sam for pointing out the similarities in the song last year to Max).  I don't think Hasan has ever laughed harder in his life than he was after Max sang the new and improved version of the song!
Also, Jacques accidental nicknames for Will and myself have sadly come to an end.... For the first three weeks of the trip, Jacques called Will, Wally (which Will loves and still gives as his name to anyone that asks) and called me, Sonrisa, Liza (pronounced Lee-zah). 

One of the most lively discussions our team has had this trip was with Wally (the original, Rwandan Wally) last week at dinner. We asked Wally when he wants to get married which turned into a conversation about the values and morals involved in marriage. Wally was taken aback by Max, Will, and I's "crazy" Western views, especially mine as a young woman of marriage age. Ever since then, Wally has tried to get me to promise him that I will change my mind and start looking for someone that I could marry before I turn 26 and every time I stubbornly disagree. By now, it has become a joke between us but I'm still convinced Wally thinks I'm a bit crazy for not wanting to get married and have children in the next five years. 

One of the most fun moments I've witnessed in community happened today as Zayna and I were waiting for a "plumbing mason" to find the tools to help us replace the broken taps at Munini. As we were waiting for the tanks to be emptied by the local women, in order for us to get inside and change the taps, Zayna gathered all the little kids waiting with their mothers and sisters and taught them how to play a modified version of Duck, Duck, Goose which she just called "Goose!" The younger kids had so much fun playing but a few of the older boys decided they were too cool to play that game and were just sitting n the side, watching. I went over to the boys and showed them my camera and how to take pictures with it. Watching carefully, I let the boys take pictures of the game of Goose being played and of their friends. I have to say, the best pictures taken today were definitely from them! 
All of the kiddos in community absolutely love Will as well. Every time a group of kids comes to the construction site at Kibaya, they watch and imitate everything Will does. Of course, Will notices this and does funny things that the kids always repeat, especially the "Live Long and Prosper" hand signal from Star Trek. 

This past Tuesday, after coming back from work, we went to a music festival being put on by the NGO Max worked for earlier this summer across the street from our hotel. The festival included music and from the US and Rwanda. Wally came with us and really enjoyed getting to share the music he likes with us AND ZAYNA GOT TO DANCE (Carlo, it finally happened!!)!!!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Finally Using the East Africa Visa

Good Morning from Uganda, everybody! Actually from Rwanda, the WiFi wasn’t working in Uganda…..

(These “Good Morning!” greetings are how most of the kids, and even some adults, great us in English when they see us in Cyanika – no matter the time of day.)

We’ve been spending the weekend at a small retreat center called Entusi on Lake Bunyonyi in Southern Uganda. Max was working at Entusi for the NGO that runs it, GLI, for two weeks before meeting the rest of the team in Kigali. GLI is a Colorado based NGO so it seems like all of the other guests we’ve met here have been from the Denver area (a group from DSST, a couple Chipotle corporate lawyers, and a church group).
The trip to Entusi was a surprisingly quick trip. Max says this is because crossing from Rwanda to Uganda is like crossing from San Diego to Tijuana – there are no rules in Uganda. I have to say that I can see the differences in Rwandan and Ugandan road rules but I don’t know if the Tijuana analogy is necessarily the best fit. In fact, Uganda reminds me a lot of Kenya; there are a lot more stalls set up on the sides of the roads with vendors selling fresh vegetables from their farms and there seem to be no real traffic rules.

When we left Kibaya on Friday, Hasan told us that the trip to Entusi would probably take three to four hours. However, from the time we left community to arriving at Entusi probably only took about two and a half hours total. Right after we finished up work on Friday afternoon, we walked out from community as we usually do every day, to the tiny town right on the border of Rwanda and Uganda. Usually, when we hit the main road, we turn right and meet the van which takes us in and out of Musanze every day. This time, we turned left instead and crossed the border into Uganda. Since we all have East Africa Tourism Visas, and we were the only mzungus in sight, the immigration process at the border was very easy.

Entusi is located right on the shore of Lake Bunyonyi at the tip of a peninsula. You have to take a boat from where the taxi drops you off to the small dock at the foot of the main building of Entusi. The main building is a huge, open, thatched roof structure and the guest rooms are a mixture of private rooms and safari tents under smaller thatched roofs.
Once we arrived, all of the staff was so excited to see Max and the friends he brought with him.
We had an awesome dinner with the rest of the guests. I have to say that one of the highlight of Entusi is the food! The food is always freshly prepared, the meat isn’t the consistency of rubber, and it has SEASONING AND FLAVOR!!!! After dinner, we watched Interstellar with the group of high schoolers from DSST before going to bed.

Saturday saw the four of us going for dugout canoe rides in Lake Bunyonyi. Actually, Saturday saw Max and Will go on a canoe ride to Upside Down Island while Zayna and I struggled to steer the long boat. After the canoeing, Max and Will went on a rainy hike with a couple GLI staff members while Zayna and I created a day-by-day calendar of all of the things we have done so far on the trip. Hopefully this calendar will help other implementation teams know what to expect and where to buy supplies when they come to Rwanda. The calendar is also necessary in helping us keep track of our budget and finances. Zayna has been rocking the job of travel team treasurer and keeping meticulous records of all of our expenses so we don’t end up in debt as a team again. Even with all of the record keeping, we are still off by about $100. After going back through all of our receipts, we think the discrepancy in our awesome spreadsheet (shout out to Sam from making it) is due to the fact that not all stores and restaurants in Rwanda include tax on the bolded price printed on receipts but only have the tax written in fine print beneath what seems to be the final price. Even with the $100 discrepancy, we are still very comfortable with where we sit in our budget, sitting within 2% of what we planned for.

Yesterday we were also able to get a good map of all of our systems in the Cyanika sector made, using the GPS tracks Carlo gave us. While we are doing fine without him, it can’t be denied that the whole team from CU and Rwanda misses Carlo’s presence and the extra set of hands!

Last night, we played a few more rounds of cards. We have a running score for the whole trip in both Hearts and Spoons. A couple weeks ago Will was the king of Spoons but last night saw his downfall and Max’s reign begin. Without our scoring systems for both Hearts and Spoons, the fewer points you have, the better. I am proud to say that in both games I am at the top of the podium (aka, I have the most points by far and I’m owning it).

Right now, I’m sitting writing this post in the main room at Entusi looking out over the lake. We are getting picked up to go back to Musanze at 4pm before starting our second to last week of work in Cyanika tomorrow. We have a schedule planned out and it looks like we will have a bit of a crunch trying to fit in all of the repairs at the other systems while finishing Kibaya’s construction. The tanks for Kibaya and Gasebya should be delivered tomorrow. If everything goes according to schedule, we should be done with all construction at Kibaya and repairs at the other systems done by August 16.
In the past week, the rings/structure of the tank foundations and trusses

have been completed along with the rebar for all of the columns. The rest of the rebar still needs to be attached to the first meter of columns this upcoming week and the tanks are supposed to be ready for us tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more updates and pictures coming this week!

Kibaya Construction


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Good Morning from Rwanda!

We realized yesterday that we are at exactly the half-way point in our trip – a pretty insane realization. So far since coming back, we have made a lot of new friends, had some memorable experiences, and made a ton of progress on the system. That being said, we still have two weeks to go, lots of new friends to meet, and a ton of work left to do.

              Last weekend, we went to Kigali for a few nights to buy some more materials, do a safari, and to say our farewells to Carlo. Wally went with us, and was obviously very excited to go to Akagera for a Safari; his favorite animal is the hippo. We were lucky enough to have Austin (and his safari playlist)  go on the safari with us. It was certainly an eventful, and tiring day, so we decided to stay an extra night in Kigali to rest before coming back to Musanze. We took Carlo out to a surprisingly authentic Italian restaurant called Sole Luna, which we all enjoyed. The restaurant even had Hawaiian pizza which Carlo told us is actually a staple of Italian culture. The food ended up being delicious, but we knew that the moment we walked in and saw a large, noisy, Italian family enjoying some pizza.

              The next day we woke up and drove around Kigali looking for materials. We bought all of the materials that we thought we would need from Kigali at the start of our trip, but after coming to Musanze it quickly became apparent to us that we needed more stuff from Kigali. In particular, two of the taps at Nyrotosho, and all four taps at Munini have to be replaced. Furthermore, after struggling to find rust-preventive paint without lead, we decided to scrap the traditional steel gutters and use PVC gutters instead. The PVC gutters are lighter, cheaper, easier to replace, won’t rust, and are much more sustainable. We think that this is a good idea for all systems going forward.

              As far as the construction itself goes, everything is going great! Five out of six of our trusses are built, the first two tank foundations are underway, and a meter of brick is up. We realized today that our current design might be taller than necessary and are starting to wonder if we can reduce the height of the columns by half a meter or so; the current design calls for the columns to be four meters tall. Either way, we are waiting for the tanks to be delivered before making that decision.

              This morning we met with the Community Vision Board again to meet with the Sector Director (he wasn’t able to make the last meeting). Needless to say, he didn’t show up again so we just ended up meeting with the Education Director again and talking some more with the chiefs of previous systems. Overall it was still a productive meeting since we were able to hand out surveys, update the Sector on our progress, and reaffirm that our next system should be in Gasiza. At some point we are going to hike up to Gasiza to check out the area and assess the feasibility of building a rainwater catchment system. All we know is that it is really far away – a much farther hike than the other villages—and up at the base of the Volcano. Currently we are skeptical that it will be feasible for our team to work in this village, but we remain optimistic until we know for sure. That’s all for today, Sonrisa will be back with the next blog this weekend!

Until then,
EWB-CU Rwanda (Max)