Project Umubano - Conservative Party visit to Rwanda

3rd August 2007

It is sometimes tempting to think of 'international development' as being impersonal, remote and lacking relevance to our daily lives.

Having joined a group of Conservative MPs and other volunteers on a visit to Rwanda I can say that those assumptions could not be further from the truth.

Global poverty affects us all, be it through disease or by providing fertile ground for extremism, and it is a problem that we will have to continue to engage with.

Britain already leads the world in the provision of aid to Rwanda and it is vitally important that we should understand how British Taxpayers' money is spent.

Rwanda is only now beginning to climb out of a period of suffering which beggars belief.

Project Umubano, which means friendship or cooperation in the Kinyarwandan language, was an opportunity for us to give something back to the country but also to learn from our own experiences there.

Volunteers, who were all self funded, saw at first hand the challenges that the country faces by working on around 20 separate projects, covering education, politics, governance, health, tourism, Aids, justice, sport, media and culture.

I worked with a group of other volunteers on the Girubuntu school and orphanage refurbishment project in Kigali which will provide a lasting legacy for the whole community.

Girubuntu was founded in 1995 to provide for some of the thousands of orphaned victims of the Rwandan genocide in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were butchered in under 100 days.

The school still serves around 80 children, mostly orphans, but the facilities were much in need of improvement.

Conditions when we arrived were truly basic, from the complete absence of mains water to a variety of dilapidated classroom buildings and living quarters for some of the 'survivors' who still live on site.

But in two weeks we were able to install mains water and two new water tanks, rewire the classrooms, and get busy with plastering, painting and a thousand other odd jobs needed to restore the rundown facilities.

This trip showed international development in its best light.

We were in Rwanda to help and to learn, not to dictate; and we have reaffirmed our commitment to overcoming global poverty while also making a lasting and tangible contribution to the country."

CSJ Homelessness Report

Download the Centre for Social Justice Report on addressing the blight of homelessness: "Housing First - Housing Led Solutions to Rough Sleeping and Homelessness" by clicking on the image below.

Housing First Report

Click here to download

Centre for Social Justice