THE VOLUNTEER RETURNS! Returning Dramatic Need volunteer Sara Jackson reports on some of her time in Rwanda:
On arrival at Kigali International Airport, I was picked up by two young men and whisked off in a car to a small village about an hour away called Rwamagama. This is where I was teaching for the month. Rwamagama clearly had very few western visitors because as soon as I arrived people were staring at me openly, which at first I found quite intimidating… until a group of children ran over to the car, stared at me for a while and then worked up the courage to say “Good Morning”. When I said good morning back they laughed and ran away. This happened a lot throughout I my stay, and became a very amusing figure for them.
I had a day to settle in to my new home and then the next day had my first day of school. On first seeing the school I was shocked by how little was there. It was nothing like the schools in England. The classrooms were very bare with wooden desks and a blackboard. I cleared all the desks out of my classroom and then was introduced to my class. It was the school holidays so I had a group of 15 children in a specially arranged ‘holiday club’.
As soon as I began to speak with the children I threw out my workshop play as always. The children had no experience of drama at all, they didn’t even know what it was. So in the first week we went back to basics. We learned what an actor was, an audience, rehearsals and the stage. Then we moved on to using words on stage and at this point I realised that the workshops would become more about self-confidence and speaking out loud in English than just acting skills. So I started using games that encouraged the children to speak short sentences in English in front of each other.
They loved singing and dancing so I taught them some songs and a line dance, and with this we also played fun games which I am informed they are still playing in the playground now.
The day before I left disaster struck, heavy rain washed the roof off the school. So on my last day I taught in a room with no roof and spent the afternoon collecting the roof from a neighbour’s garden. The children never complain, even when they were hoisting heavy lumps of wood and metal onto there heads and carrying them along a long path back to school. I kept thinking about what would happen in the UK if the same accident had occurred. I’m sure that the children would not have been sent to do the work, fairly sure they wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the site…
I have learned so much about how we treat out children in the UK and how lucky we all are. And, I hope, I have done something to help the children in Rwamagama speak a little more confidently too.
Now all I need to do is find a way to help them build a new school roof!