Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Update: Congolo-American Club Video, HROC Conference, Visa Application

Dear friends,

Life is going well here in Gisenyi.  I go jogging for a few miles every other morning by the Lake Kivu beach.  This half-kilometer stretch of public beach looks like Ft. Lauderdale with extra grass and palm trees - except that trees are filled with bats and large  birds that look like hawks.  I eat most meals at home with Etienne's family, and call my wife AyJy and my family multiple times a day.  (Phone calls to outside of the country are only 5 cents/minute!)  I have worked through 46 lessons of a 130 lesson Kinyarwanda workbook from the 1950s.  I am approaching a level of competence, though I am still a ways away from being conversant.  I also enjoy reviewing work at local construction sites, and talking with owners and employees of local businesses in French, Kinyarwanda, and English.  I have only talked to one Chinese contractor so far, but I look forward to meeting more.

I will briefly summarize the work I have been doing here.  I am looking forward to a two-week HROC conference starting Feb 27 where I will get to experience the flagship program of AGLI's work in the region.  I am helping with procurement of supplies and drafting of budgets for that conference.  I am enjoying planning for the summer's work on the Peace Center, amending and adding to the existing drawings and updating the cost estimates.  So that I can hopefully help out with the women's shelter projects in Goma and Masisi, I DHL'd my passport back to the USA, and AyJy mailed my visa application to the DRC embassy yesterday (Tues 2/15).  I will make a day visit to a locak Engineers Without Borders partner village tomorrow (Thurs 2/17).  And finally, I have been spending much of my time with three fellowship/communication projects: 
  • Skype videoconferences between kids of Quakers in Gisenyi and kids at the 15th St. Friends Meeting in NYC
  • Translated letters and correspondence between the same two congregations (see
  • Setting up a Quaker youth group in Goma, Congo with the opportunity to communicate and dialogue about their ideas for improving the human rights and development situation in Congo, with Quakers and other interested community groups in the USA. (See youtube video links below, and the video comments. Videos are in French.)
I don't have postable materials for all of these activities but I will include a introduction video with myself and Aimé Mudateba Kamanzi, a member of the Congolese youth group.  I also have attached an overview and some details of the proposed budget for the HROC conference for your viewing pleasure, if you want to know what things cost in Rwanda. Note this is a multiple tab spreadsheet.  Wood is expensive, potatoes are cheap.  (This budget is not that far from the approved budget.)

1st Video: "Invitation à un Discussion avec des Jeunes Quakers Congolaises
2nd Video: "Le manque d'emploi comme obstacle au développement"

Thanks for your continued interest, and please contact me if you would like to work with the Congolese youth group, would like a Quaker pen pal in Gisenyi, or have any other questions.

-Steven Bhardwaj
Rwanda phone: 0784114209
USA phone (transfers to Rwanda): (+1) 917-725-5122 
USA fax: (+1) 347-416-6273

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