Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rwanda: Something good for once.

New Times ( Rwanda ) reports

Magical tricycle turns around fortunes for Rubavu disabled

                                                Emerthe Nyirabagenzi on her tricycle at the Rwanda-DR Congo border. 

True to the adage that disability is not inability, an association of persons living with disabilities in Rubavu District has not only crafted employment for the disabled, but gone an extra mile to even employ the able-bodied.

They have become main players in the cross-border trade between Rwanda and DR Congo, mainly at ‘Petit Barierre’, which is arguably Rwanda’s busiest entry point.

Through their cooperative, COTTRARU, the 109 men and woman ferry tonnes of merchandise between the two towns of Gisenyi on the Rwandan side and Goma in DR Congo every day, using customised tricycles.

They acquired the lucrative contract to do the work through a competitive bidding process.

What a fantastic story. 

Marie Gorette Ntakirutimana, 28, contracted polio when she was three. She grew up in a hopeless life, where even her own family did not treat her the same way her siblings were treated.

“I couldn’t move, I would stay at home just seated. I was the house keeper, my brothers and sisters went to school but my parents couldn’t let me, they said a disabled person was unable to study,” says Ntakirutimana.

She would lead this same life as a social reject, with no friends to speak of, until she was in her late teens.

The sooner that polio joins  smallpox and rinderpest as an eliminated disease the better, from last Saturday's New Zealand Herald. 

" Somalia is suffering an "explosive" outbreak of polio and now has more cases than the rest of the world combined, an official said Friday.
Vaccine-wielding health workers face a daunting challenge: accessing areas of Somalia controlled by al-Qaida-linked militants, where 7 of 10 children aren't fully immunized.
Polio is mostly considered eliminated globally except mainly in three countries where it is considered endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. India marked a major success in February 2012 by being removed from the World Health Organization's list of countries plagued by the disease.
Somalia now has 105 cases, figures released Friday show, and another 10 cases have been confirmed across the border in a Kenyan refugee camp filled with Somalis. Globally there have been 181 cases of polio this year, including those in Somalia and Kenya."

Coop breakthrough

The mother of three says she got her breakthrough in 2003 after she heard of an association of people with disabilities in Rubavu, which she eagerly joined.

“Immediately after I joined, I felt I had finally got the solace I had lacked during my entire childhood. We were all required to have a tricycle, which I did not have. I went back home and asked my parents to give me money but they initially refused,” she says.

Ntakirutimana said one of her colleagues then offered her his tricycle, on a rental arrangement.

“After some time, I learnt it was my right as a child to get support from my parents. I confronted them and asked to be given a piece of land as inheritance. They were understanding and gave me a piece of land, which I later sold and used the proceeds to buy the tricycle at Rwf60,000. It is now my source of livelihood,” Ntakirutimana said.

Good on her. Rwf 60,000 is about $110 NZ and if she is earning Rwf 7000 that works out to about $13 NZ per day. That is a great return on investment. I have on this blog constantly argued that we need to support the people of the Great Lakes Region and this is just the sort of venture that we should be looking at. It wouldn't take a lot of money to turn around the fortunes of the region.

“My life changed since I joined this business. I am now able to feed myself, I got a husband and it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have this job. We now have three children and thanks to the money I get, they are well fed, clothed and are going to school,” she said.

The woman whose job generates at least Rwf7,000 per day shares the job with more than 100 members of the cooperative.

She said over time, she managed to save up and is now a proud owner of a house worth Rwf4 million, and she sums up her story with the counsel; “To other disabled persons, sitting at home and giving up on oneself should not happen, with determination we can make it instead of resorting to begging.”

Marie, you just made my day. I get so sick of blogging about the bastards that run and ruin peoples lives in the Great Lakes. Kagame and Kabila you could learn from this story. I hope you both read it and reflect on what your jobs are meant to be about.

Other members

Emmanuel Mukiza used to manage a saloon in Kigali before the house in which they operated was demolished to pave way for development.

 “Even before managing the saloon I lived a deplorable life, depending on family members, having no education and with other sorts of problems that are shared by other people with disabilities,” Mukiza said.

“I can now earn more than Rwf 15,000 per day,” he adds.

Mukiza, who contracted polio when he was in Primary Three, says he went through a lot of pain, having spent three years in hospital where he received treatment with hope of ever getting back on his legs, which was never to happen.

The minting machine

The tricycle carries between 500 and 800 kilogrammes and the merchandise they transport include cement, sorghum and beans.

“Begging is a bad habit and not advisable. We were few when we began but we kept welcoming other members and now we are over 100, the government should also help those still begging to leave the street and create cooperatives like we did,” says Mukiza.

Exactly. And if they won't ( a forgone conclusion I would suggest ) then we need to. We need to responsibility for the deplorable situation in the Great Lakes Region. That doesn't mean handing over a few million dollars in aid to regions strong men  corrupt evil bastards.

The cooperative also has members who were handicapped in the service of the nation, mainly former soldiers.

“I was incapacitated physically when I was shot in the left leg. I couldn’t do anything for years until I joined this cooperative,” said Safari Ketu.

Official support

According to Innocent Ndagijimana, the president of COTTRARU, the cooperative has received more wheelchairs from government, which they will distribute to other people with disabilities.

He said Rubavu District, the National Youth Council and the National Council for Persons with Disabilities have all periodically supported them.

“Through their support, we managed to buy more wheel chairs, we wish to encourage other districts to also help improve the welfare of the disabled,” says Ndagijimana.

He said for people with disabilities who are unable to buy their own tricycles, the cooperatives extends to the utility to them on loan.

Wouldn't it be great to have a website / blog that is run like the fantastic one at Virunga National Park  that could spot these opportunities publicise them and allow the people of the world a way to make a difference. 

This sprung to mind as I was reading this story.

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” 
― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

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