We came to Rwanda to build trust with the villages, immerse ourselves in the culture and meet the families we are serving. We were met with genuine happiness in every village. They embody true humility and dignity. To think that these families have been affected by the evils of genocide and yet they have overcome it with so much grace; it is nothing short of inspiring.
Zam Zam has provided them with sustainable gardens and clean water that has prevented disease and malnutrition. In return, they have forever enriched our lives by showing us compassion and love. Seeing people living the most simple life with contentment was the most incredible experience.
Entering each village, I was overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness and love we received. Children from the village would approach us asking, “what is your name?” “how old are you?” The children would come to us with the most precious smile and hold your hand and walk around the village with you. There was a sense of comfort visiting every village, a sense of ease. I witnessed love, kindness, and sincerity in a way I had not before. What was truly remarkable was that it all felt effortless.
Our first time visiting a Zam Zam water project. We have been connected through photos and videos over the years, but nothing can compare to experiencing it in person. We spent the day visiting four water projects in the Bugesera District. All of Zam Zam’s projects in Rwanda are constructed in the Bugesera District, which is where the genocide began. Many members of this community were affected by the genocide.
The first project we went to visit was that of Jim Lossi and his family. Jim leads student groups on a trip to Rwanda to learn more about the people and the culture. In 2014, Yusuf Nessary (president, founder) was on one of these trips, it was after that visit that Zam Zam came to fruition. We are fortunate to take this trip with Jim and his family and being able to visit the project together. He has played a tremendous role in Zam Zam from the beginning, we are grateful for his kindness and generosity.
My excitement begins to increase as we are approaching the village, seeing the homes on the side of the road, warm and inviting smiles, children and adults excitedly waving as we pass, rows of farms near and far, the rolling green hills. We walk toward the village and we can already hear the singing. It was overwhelming to have such a warm and inviting welcome. The Rwandan people have shown us nothing but effortless love. As we entered the area of the water project, drums are playing, people dancing with the most brilliant smiles. In response we are clapping and in awe of the site. I was overcame by tears seeing a water project for the first time - I was in awe. To see the bright blue painted water project and the people that have benefited from this water and seeing the flourishing gardens was surreal.
A young girl came up to give a testimonial about the impact the water project has had on her life. Nayla, would walk 3 miles to fetch water for her family, so she was unable to attend school regularly. Since the water project, she no longer needs to travel a long distance to fetch water, instead she uses that time to attend school. Now she is top of her class, allowing her to reach her full potential in the classroom.
The second village we visited was the Murama Village. The water project and gardens were implemented this past summer in honor of Yusuf Noor and his family the village has been benefiting from this project for many months. The chief of the village and another person spoke to express their gratitude to Zam Zam. One woman said, as a result of the vegetable gardens the amount of hospital visits has decreased and due to better nutrition it has improved her eyesight.
One of the most recently constructed projects, in memory of Fatima Hassuneh. Fatima, passed away earlier this year at the age of 18 in a tragic accident, she was struck by a bus as she was crossing the street. Her family and friends have dedicated these projects to their beloved Fatima.
The water project is still under construction in Rwamacuma and they have been provided with goats. As we are driving up the road, we can see the welcoming celebrations commence. Over a hundred people were standing by the road ready to greet us all. Drums are playing, singing and dancing toward the water tank. We’re circled around as the performance continues by everyone. We then proceed to another area to hear from the village chief. The chief expressed his gratitude for implementing this project and that they are happy to have the Zam Zam team come personally visit them. He mentioned they will continue the legacy of Fatima and pray for her and her family.
The water project is still under construction, the tank has been put in place but the village is yet to benefit from it and the gardens. They have already received goats for their village - goats are a source of milk and cheese. When the goats have offspring, they give one to a neighbor to share the benefits amongst everyone. This project is also dedicated to Fatima Hassuneh.
As we were leaving the village, everyone walked with us and began singing a farewell song. The song was unique to this village, the message was telling us not to leave and to return soon - indeed, we will return.
Rwanda has easily taken a place in our hearts, from the moment we walked out of the airport to meeting all the wonderful people in the villages. I’ve never felt more at ease than I have in Rwanda. We will be back, God-willing, to visit our second home.