We drove into Rwanda to ruhengeri, in the volcanoes national park (land of Rwanda’s gorillas). Whilst here we stayed at kinigi guesthouse- I must say we were quite disappointed with this place, the rooms were outdated and we struggled to find staff when we needed them, adn when we did locate someone, we found them quite rude and uninviting. We stayed there under the false pretence (told to us by Kazinga tours) that it is a charity run guesthouse, whom works closely with asoferwa charity (as seen in guidebook), however this was not the case. We spoke to the manager and numerous staff to seek out charity opportuntiies (as a psychologist, I was particulalry interested in these projects), however knowone seemed to know of any such opportunties, our guide was unsuccessful in enquiring further too. We met several other travellers who had similar disappointment here. Their saving grace is that they are a few minutes walk from the park headquarters for gorilla tracking.
We did manage to visit through amahoro tours, the amahoro integrated genocide development program (www.aidpafrica) which was wonderful; we met the gorgeous children and wonderful staff, as well as seeing several foster huts. The children were fantastic and we spent some time playing and dancing with them. And the foster mothers were all so welcoming and appreicative and seemed to have brilliant relationships with the orphanage director. This is a great example of the Rwandan government’s aim to get the thousands of displaced and orphaned children back in to the community within family units- so charities such as the one above, find usually widowed, often homeless women, and offer them a hut and community support, in return she fosters a few children- it was wonderful to see children being reintegrated into families.
Anyway, next was the gorillas, we were designated thankfully to the slow group, Sabinyo, we were so lucky though as they were in perfect view as they were amongst a flat surface unlike usual when they are camouflaged in dense forest. They were incredible and to be metres away from wild gorillas amongst the mist, like in the movie, was phenomenal. Each with their own personality, and distinguished nose print, equivalent to our fingerprints. Their sheer strength was amazing; with a swift tug from one of them a tree would come falling down. To top off the experience, it didn’t rain!
We then moved to Gisenyi where we stayed at a beautiful lake side resort- paradis malahide, this was a beautiful guesthouse with nice food, beautiful views and fantastic staff who went out of their way to optimise our trip, including going to the local bakery to make me a gluten free birthday cake. We visited Imbabazi orphanage, (won’t go into details as we found it through the guidebook- but we loved it and ended up staying the night, to see old photos and hear Ros and Dian stories).
We then visited Nuendo Noel orphanage (near town) which was a stark contrast from the well funded American run previous orphanage (which no longer takes children and rather focuses on providing the best support and education for the ones (100) already living there). Noel was incredible but equally so saddening, there were over 600 children, with over 40 newborns, and new children are being bought to the orphanage regularly. It was an incredible experience to see and interact with so many children btu also a haunting reminder of the great need of support for the young generation. It was amazing to see what the few but wonderful staff have done with the children but equally I couldn’t help wondering how these young children with limited opportunities for play, interaction and communication would go on to develop socially, physically and cognitively. There was also a room full of disabled and/ or severely traumatised children whom seemed totally alien to touch and were very left to their own devices. On a lighter note, quite amazingly, many reunions of genocide families are still happening to this day, 15 years later! Families who had fled, been in hiding etc are returning to rebridge their lost children.
We also had the chance to visit a women’s HIV association for widows and were taken to a local doll factory in gisenyi town (details can be gotten from K Ellen or Jeff at Imbabazi , near the taxi rank, which was fantastic and also run by widows. One can design their own bag, makeup case, african doll and have it ready the next day.
We also had the opportunity of visiting the capital Kigali, where we had dinner at the hotel Mille Colline, visit caplaki craft centre and go to the genocide museum and memorial.
Hope you find this useful