Sunday, 22 July 2012

Dirt Bikes

We are deep in the Rwanda dry season now, and so much has happened this week, that Dorota and I don't know where to begin. The big news is that 4 people from EDD are currently in London for a screening of "Yes, Man!" at Southbank Centre. They are – EDD owner Faraz Ramji, project manager Rafiki Calixte, re-integrated former EDD resident Willy Mutabazi and 10-year-old current EDD resident Didier. Luckily, their host and tireless behind-the-scenes EDD supporter Kate Scanlan has been keeping a journal of the entire trip on her blog.

The importance of this week's event is something I am having trouble accepting. I owe a huge thank you to Kate of Catalyst Rwanda for all the pushing and work she has done. Thanks to her, my film was shown at Southbank Centre and snippets of it were played on BBC World Service Sunday Morning and will also be shown on Skyy's Africa Channel. Not to mention I am in talks to have it acquired by a yet-to-be-mentioned television station. I am shy, and I'd rather keep my head down and toil away on Dorota's and my projects than partake in any kind of meet-and-greet. Without Kate out there pressing the flesh as it were, none of this would have happened. A 10-year-old from the streets of Kigali was flown to London! My friend Pervez, who is even more shy than me, had his interview in the film heard by millions on the BBC today!

All of this excites Dorota, Willy and I, not because it is some kind of glorious ending to our work, but because it is a springboard beginning for the film we are currently working on that exposes many more dark truths about the lives of street children. Here is a re-post of the film that has opened this door for us (feel free to share and re-re-post):

Before Willy left for this trip to London, the women from his mother's coop filled his suitcase with their baskets and jewelry in the hopes that he might be able to show them as samples to our (still not-to-be-named) connection in London for possible importing and sale on their UK-based website.

Well, not only were the samples well received, but Southbank broke their own rules and allowed Willy to sell the items at their event on Thursday (as shown in the below pic from Kate's blog). He raised over £200, which is an enormous sum for the women of the coop. Willy's mum could barely control her excitement when he was simply asked to go on this trip. Now that he is bringing home the bacon, I'm afraid it might be too much good news for her! As for friends, family and future newly-weds who need a gift from us, please head over to last week's post where I have updated the images with many more samples of the goods that the coop makes. Let us know your favorites (right-click and copy the links), because Willy's mum has agreed to do a special order for us!

The school term has ended for the boys at EDD, and for the most part they did very well this term. The most incredible story connected to this is that of Sam, who spent years as a child on the streets of Kigali. Here is a boy who lost his father and was spat on as a street pest. He found a way to believe in himself, and has risen above it all through his life at EDD. This term, he was first in his class, and it is important to note that EDD sends him to a good school where he competes against students with all the advantages of a strong family life. Way to go Sam! Sam also performs his freestyle song, "Hi, Hi, Hi, Good morning!" for the video at the end of the post.

The boys are officially on holiday now, so spirits are high. Days are filled with ball games, relaxing around the newly-functional billiards table and there was even a feast of fish from the local fish pond. The smiles and good moods are enough to make you forget what happened right in this spot about 20 years ago.

Being that it is dry season now, the landscape has transformed. Areas that were lush and green only weeks ago, have now turned to rusty-orange dust. A haze of this dust hangs in the air all day, and by the time we get home at night we are coughing from inhaling countless lungfuls of the stuff. This has forced us and many of our friends here to fight off one common cold after another.

Whether it is true or not, one colleague explained the dust to me in a way that I will never forget. She told me that people always get sick from it at this time of year, because there is so much death in it. This forces us to remember that in this tiny country, about a million people were killed where they stood in the space of about 100 days. They still find bodies, and one was even found on the EDD grounds only a few years ago. With that in mind, here is a short video that combines a song by Beyondo about how fleeting and precious our lives are with footage of these incredible boys who know to drink up every day as though it is their last.


  1. Another great post, Bret. It's been amazing having Willy, Didier and Rafiki here in London. People have been knocked out by your film, the work of the centre, and how articulate and composed Willy is! Good meetings too about how we can support the future of the centre. Be great to meet up with you when you're back and get your thoughts. Nicola x

  2. Art. Just pure art. Excited to see and feel what you're doing, B&D