Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Three Months Update - AGLI Volunteer in Gisenyi / Goma

Dear All,

I haven't sent out a large email for a few weeks, although I have posted some items to the blogs.  

Also check out:
  • My personal and general blog:  Posts here include translated testimonials from newly trained HROC facilitators living in Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, as well as images of a proposed site for a training center/office building for Zawadi' and Levi's CPGRBC organization of women survivors.
  • The fellowship / consultation blog:   Posts here include the translated-into-Kinyarwanda video of kids at 15th St. Meeting greeting kids at Gisenyi Friends meeting.  I have a backlog of 25 response letters to scan and get translated.  There is also some adult correspondence posted on the blog too!
  • The JeunesPaixGrandsLacs blog:  We've been getting together youth groups (four youth groups so far, from Gisenyi and Goma) to talk about peace, different kinds of peace, what it means to them, and how they themselves can help build peace.  This group is being built to last, so that the individuals can publish with mail2blogger themselves, and so they can operate on their own funds until they impress someone enough to get funding for bigger works.  I think this will work out, and Peace Corps volunteer Porsche Washington has also shown interest in helping out!
  • Dave Bucura's blog and Levi's (first) blog:  Dave Bucura is pastor of a church in Kigali Rwanda, as well as other responsibilities with FWCC, AGLI, Mediation, etc.  Levi is pastor of a Quaker church in Goma, and also works with Zawadi's CPGRBC.  They're just getting started, but this will not be difficult for them once it kicks in that people want to read their posts.  Both of them are practical and effective professionals that use email often.  And, the mail2blogger system means that posting to the blog is the exact same process as sending an email.
In other big news, two weeks ago, I heard that I was accepted to the economics PhD program at Boston University!  The 5-year program is ranked #11 in for development economics among the PhD programs in US News' rankings.  I will start officially in August 2011, but I will be cramming all summer to get ready.

I am currently sitting on the computer all day to do design work.  Here is a link to the simplified earthquake-resistant masonry house design manual that we're working on translating into Kinyarwanda and French.  I also worked up a truss design spreadsheet, and design drawings and quantities tabulations are forthcoming.

Johnny Johnson, I haven't forgotten about you!  I'm going to personally go poke my nose around the Lake Kivu shore looking for information about your friends Yvette and Kazuko's orphanage next time I cross the border! 

Hope everything is going well with you, thanks for your interest!

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

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Re: Invisible Children

>>>> I wonder if AGLI has an opinion about the group Invisible Children, which works in Uganda.  One of my students is involved and I feel encouraged to look into it.
>>>> Thank you,
>>>> Elizabeth Gordon

Dear Elizabeth,

Thanks for your question!  I wish the best of luck to your students as they start to imagine the world from these perspectives.  I think the child soldier problem is an especially nasty one, and perhaps an especially good place to start.  It's incredible as children begin to realize and understand that these events are occurring every day, and try to incorporate that into their worldview and behavior.  Accepting the reality of these terrible events and the commonality of our humanity spotlights the severe disconnects in our individual and collective attempts at graceful lives of love, fellowship, and integrity.  This issue presents a real opportunity for our youth to mature in their understanding of their relationship with society.

I do have the internet, and based on my internet review I personally think IC seems like a great program, especially because of its strong outreach and education-of-American-youth component.   We need to seriously grow our universal-human-rights civil society, to strengthen the political will to incentivize and push our US state department to spend more effort in analysis of human development in Africa, and incentivize US policy choices to support this human development.

I reviewed Invisible Children's (IC's) materials, although I have not watched the "Invisible Children" title film yet.  IC certainly has especially and exceptionally good online media and personal outreach, in terms of both content and presentation.  This includes video interviews with affected indivuiduals, well-selected news updates, conferences, full-length films, nationwide tours, all with a A+ level "cool" factor of graphic design etc.

IC is exceptional at telling the story to young people in the USA and engaging them in participating in making a graceful next-step.

In terms of IC's portfolio of aid programs, IC has a high-school scholarship program, micro-entrepreneur financing and training, infrastructure aid with wells and schools etc., as well as farming cooperatives.  Its a mix of elements seems representative and consistent with the "state of the art" of the rural development industry in the region.  :)

In terms of impact analysis of development work, IC is consistent with the state of the industry in that accurately comprehensive impact analysis of development efforts is nigh-impossible.  (I will return to grad school soon to study this precise topic!)

I haven't participated in IC's stateside work, so don't know anything about the culture of its activities in the USA.  But I would bet it's a great program.  Other similar good programs, active in different regions of the USA/Canada include:

Thanks for the inquiry, and feel free to write back with any additional questions or thoughts.

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hans Rosling for the Nobel Peace Prize

I agree with the currently top-rated comment on this youtube video, with 34 thumbs-up.
"Hans Rosling for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Thumbs up if you agree."  (User Gnometower)

My goodness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

HROC Testimonials

Testimonials from the March 2001 "Healing Companion" HROC conference in Gisenyi.  We videotaped short testimonials from fifteen of the twenty-four participants, and translated the subtitles.  Ten are translated to date, five more to come.

To watch a video, first click on a video to start it, then click on the "cc" to turn on the subtitles.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Update Email March 12

Dear All,

Things are going well here in Gisenyi and Goma.  I have been traversing the border often now, and am getting to know the customs officials at the Petit Barriere very well.  The crowded and rocky roads in Goma are great fun on Etienne's mountain bike.  When I get back to NYC this summer it's going to be hard getting used to a road bike again.  I'll have to exercise restraint to keep from weaving through traffic or jumping every sidewalk curb in sight.

The HROC "Healing Companion" training conference over the last two weeks was wonderful and exhausting.  I am still preparing my photo and video materials from the training - the narrative report will also be useful in making website-level materials.

We certainly came in under budget for the conference for various reasons including that the conference scheduled went so the participants left on Friday morning instead of on Sunday morning as we had budgeted for.  Etienne decided not to buy the water storage tank yet, but it seems that things went okay without it.  We will send the financial report soon.

I visited the proposed site for the CPGRBC structure in Goma on Friday March 12.  See my post here for a rundown (not all photos uploaded yet.)   I also visited the annual meeting of Levi's micro-savings/credit cooperative on Sunday March 13 - it was very impressive and interesting, with about 300 people in attendance.

We also had our first meeting with representation of youth from the Gisenyi Friends Meeting, Goma Friends Meeting, and OJEPAC.  OJEPAC is a large collection of youth groups that operates like a free YMCA.  They get support from some different groups, and are full of energy and ideas for collaboration on peace-related projects with the Quaker youth groups.  See the first update at the JeunesPaixGrandsLacs website here.  (Pardon my French)

I am going to Kigali today to visit add passport pages, try for a visa to Burundi, and pick up the Quickbooks CD.  I may also give a Quickbooks or blogging training to Dave Bucura or other staff in Kigali if I have time.

Hope everything is going well back home!  Take care!!!

-Steven Bhardwaj

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Proposed Site for Women's Training Center

On Friday morning March 11, I met with Levi and Jeff to visit the proposed site for what I understand is a women's training center. I enjoyed my time with them, meeting their families, and even sharing some beverage,  beans, and potatoes!

Levi suggested he was looking at a cement block-wall structure including four rooms: a ~10mx8m "atelier", a ~6mx6m "salle de couture," and two ~3mx3m offices.  We didn't go into great detail yet about all the proposed uses - I'll throw out some layouts and we will talk again shortly.

The property is about 25m x 22m, and is at about an 1:10 overall slope down from the road. However the rocky soil will make small retaining walls easy to build.

I will clean up my sketches and add them to the post within the week. But, here are the photos of the site. I took one photo of each corner with Levi standing on the corner, and then a few photos of the property from that corner, panning L to R.

Corner 1:

Corner 2:

Corner 3:

Corner 4:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fwd: Keep up the heat on Qaddafi

I called in on this one.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Daniel Sullivan, Genocide Intervention Network <>
Date: Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 7:21 PM
Subject: Keep up the heat on Qaddafi

Call Secretary Clinton
Today at
Urge her to push for a
No Fly Zone
in Libya Now
Dear Friend,
Last week we challenged the anti-genocide activist community to help us protect civilians in Libya by signing a petition to UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
I delivered our petition - signed by thousands of committed activists - urging Ambassador Rice to push for immediate action on Libya at the United Nations Security Council.
Less than two weeks since the crisis began, the UN Security Council unanimously took unprecedented steps to stop mass atrocities against civilians in Libya including:
  • Demanding an immediate end to violence against civilians and access for humanitarian aid and human rights monitors;
  • Freezing the assets and imposing a travel ban on the Qaddafi family and top Libyan officials perpetrating the violence;
  • Imposing an arms embargo on Libya; and
  • Referring the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
The next step in our campaign to protect civilians in Libya from mass atrocities is to call Secretary of State Clinton and ask her to act now.
Although the Security Council acted quickly, there is still an urgent need to push for the establishment of a no-fly zone to protect civilians. The United States and other world leaders are currently discussing a no-fly zone for Libya. Calls today to Secretary Clinton with messages of support for a no-fly zone will have a great impact.
Please pick up the phone NOW and call Secretary of State Clinton and tell her to act swiftly. Here's what to do:
  1. Call Secretary Clinton's comment line at 202-647-6575.
  2. When you are connected, identify yourself and tell the staff person who answers the phone you want Secretary Clinton to push for a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya.
We have an urgent opportunity, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needs to hear you now. We've made so much progress in the past several days, but calls are needed today to ensure civilians are protected from ongoing violence in Libya.
Thank you,
Daniel Sullivan
Genocide Intervention Network/Save Darfur Coalition