“A smile from many people” – A Menschenfreude team for the first time in Rwanda


We are in Rwanda. As a team of Menschenfreude e.V. we want to visit some ongoing projects and initiate some new ones to find out how we can make a difference for as many people as possible.

Pastor Viateur Ntarindwa (Executive Secretary) and Eric Bagenzi (Director of Environmental Care and Disaster Risk Reduction) from the Rural Development Inter-Diocesan Service (RDIS) and our Charity coordinator in Kigali, Aimable Ndatambukwa, are expecting us at the airport.

Background: Rwanda’s Transformation

Rwanda has been facing an amazing transformation following years of tremendous challenges, including the genocide and its consequences. This has not been forgotten, and should never be. On the drive from the airport we are impressed and surprised about the advanced infrastructure with modern business buildings, Hotels of international standard, and newly renovated streets. The construction business is booming with several hospitals under development and many further rural development projects ongoing. Everything appears needly cleaned and polished up, testifying to an amazing speed of change, and a non-wavering commitment and dedication of people seeking to change their status quo, led by an efficient and focused government to develop the country and its capital city: Kigali. 

Different living conditions

During our visit we are exposed to the living conditions of many who struggle. Chances are few for those who are not so privileged. How to make a living? How to raise school fees, school material and health insurance fees for the children? What if one or even both parents are gone? Circumstances matter. Even though nowadays Rwanda is regarded to be a rising star among the countries in Africa, the daily challenges for many are still harsh. Many do not have the means to cover their basic needs, let alone sending their children to school.

The “WaterBackpack” Project

On January 20 we are picked up from the Hotel by Eric and a colleague and brought to the premises of the RDIS in Muhanga. The RDIS is a church related institution linked to the One Climate Cooperative and is member of the OIKO Credit organizations. 

Axel Müller, Manfred Staat, Winfried Hündgen and Jürgen Perteck are installing water filtration units in the guesthouse restaurant of the RDIS and a RDIS related school complex. Elka and myself are learning about the patented Paul® Station water filtration unit system. Paul®, the ‘WaterBackpack’, is a small and portable (23 kg) membrane filtration unit which removes bacteria, virus and other pathogens from contaminated water without chemicals or electric energy, which is being installed following the waterpipe exit, with a pre-sieve before the Paul® unit, and a filtered water tank at the end. Straight forward, impressive and effective.

We meet the coordinators within RDIS, Richard Madete (Project Manager and Co-founder of OneClimate International Cooperative), Eric Bagenzi and other staff members. We are well served in the local guesthouse and can enjoy the local food nicely prepared by the RDIS staff. Gregor Schläger, our fotographer, is documenting all steps of the water filtration units installation thoroughly.

While initially the water coming from the tap is colored brown, the water coming out of the water filtration system is of great drinking quality, testified by many, including myself. As far as I can judge as a physician, all “guinea pigs” stayed healthy during the observation period ;). A big smile from many people as you can imagine.

Children’s education program for orphans and other children in need

Some of us, including Elka, Gregor, Jürgen, and myself proceed early back to Kigali to visit some other projects. Since a few years, orphan children and children of poor families are supported via a program initiated by members of our church, Citylight Alkmaar, The Netherlands, covering school fees, school materials, health insurance and some food support. The program is coordinated by Aimable Ndatambukwa and his wife Rosina.

Currently there are 22 children in the program including 10 orphans, from various locations in and around Kigali and beyond. The children are invited to meet on January 23 in Kigali and share some time together with each other, as they do regularly. We enjoy the opportunity to meet the kids together with Aimable and Rosina, and observe them playing a football game, “Germany versus Netherlands”, a symbolic event to demonstrate team spirit, encouraging cooperation with each other, winning together.

“Germany” looses. The “Netherlands” team wins and receives donated bibles, while “Germany” receives donated New Testaments. All receive some further small encouragements and gifts. Dorcas, one of the kids, ends the session with reading a small passage from a donated bible and offers a personal prayer. Looking forward, we will be evaluating opportunities to support the program and will be seeking sponsorship to make a difference for as many children as possible, to invest in them, to share what we have received by God’s grace, be family. To create opportunities for those who only have got a few, or none at all.

“Second chance” project: sewing machines for women to earn a living

We visit a sewing machine project Aimable and Rosina are supervising. Sewing machines were donated from a charity in the Netherlands (Stichting Kook, Alkmaar) to teach women in a second chance education program on how to produce or change clothes. Learning to run a sewing machine enables women to make a living, either by running their own private little business, or being employed by a factory. At this time sponsorship is needed for the payment of teachers and to cover the rent of the education building. Back home we will be checking what we can do to keep the project alive.

We would like to continue to support the sewing machine project. In the picture: Elka Sou from our association

Project in agriculture

Aimable and Rosina run a farm project, growing vegetables such as sweet potatoes, bananas and other fruit to manage some of the food supply needs. We could see and discuss some of their ideas and future aspirations. We will be looking forward to identify opportunities to support some of those endeavors and to help improving the surrounding infrastructure.

Visit to a church

On Sunday, Elka and myself join Aimable and Rosina during their visit to a small local church in Kigali. What an amazing experience! Praying. Singing. Dancing. Listening. Answering. And: Nobody sleeping! During the sermon the preacher shouts at least a 150 times “Hallelujah!” at the congregation via the microphone, the loud speakers clip under the load… The church answers with conviction “Amen!!”. The choir is leading the congregation in worship, kids run around, a 3-4 years old is grabbing a microphone and is dancing on stage as well, imitating the choir members. A hug for everyone on the way out. This church is alive, definitely!

Visit to the Genocide Memorial

On our last day Aimable takes Elka, Gregor, Jürgen and myself to the genocide memorial. Silence. No words. Just tears.

No goodbye forever

Somewhat later, Aimable and Rosina bring us back to the airport. A last big hug. We already miss Rwanda and it’s wonderful people on our way to the gate. We will definitely be back. Soon.

Further information

  • On our Rwanda project page you will find an overview of our upcoming projects in the future.
  • More information about Menschenfreude: www.menschenfreude.org, on Instagram or Facebook.
  • We sincerely ask you for donations for Rwanda as well, which make our charitable work possible in the first place. We will be happy to issue an official donation receipt for donations of €300 or more or upon request.
    Recipient: Menschenfreude e.V. | IBAN: DE41 6609 0800 0006 6116 99
    or you use our Paypal button. Thank you very much!

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