‘The most shocking thing for me was the sheer lack of facilities at the school. I do not mean computers or even books, what I mean is pencils and paper. One of the first classes I observed about five of the children simply sat and did nothing for the whole lesson because they did not have a pencil. Another child brought me his book to look at and because his pencil had no lead and there was no sharpener, he had literally etched his drawings into his page using the wood of his pencil. He didn't seem remotely fazed.
It is incredible how I have taken things for granted - more so than I had realised; being able to use a clean loo, or being able to get clean water from a tap. In the rain, and we have had a lot this month, the classrooms leak. I do not mean a few drops here and there, I mean torrents of water. I have to play 'Musical Children' as I try to move them around the classroom to avoid them having a shower - much to their great amusement!
It is a private school but don't let this be misleading. It is not like the private schools in the UK, far from it. The school was set up after the genocide as an orphanage for children who had lost their parents during the war. It then grew and grew and opened its doors to all the needy children in the area. Many of the children at the school today have nothing, they are incredibly poor. But one of the most striking and poignant things is that despite having nothing, they are so happy and content. They are always smiling, laughing, playing - because they do have something; they have their lives, others have not been so fortunate.
Working at the school has been an incredibly humbling experience. It has been trying at times and my patience has been well and truly tested but ultimately it has really opened my eyes to the world. It has made me realise how easy we have it, how lucky we are, and most of the time, how miserable we are! Not once were the teachers or children without smiles on their faces, regardless of the troubles they were facing, which in many cases were simply horrendous.
The joy on the children's faces when I produced balloons, or stickers, or even just coloured paper was beautiful and I will cherish the happy times that I was fortunate enough to have with them for a long time to come. It has certainly been one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I am so pleased to have been able to do it.’
Rebecca de Glanville, April 2009