Telling the story

 By Kari Costanza in Rwanda.
Children curious about the Mzungu. (Jon Warren/WV)

Children curious about the Muzungu. (Jon Warren/WV)

I mentioned in the last blog that we were having trouble being invisible in Rwanda. It really is a first. Even when we stayed in the hut in Kenya last November for the hunger story, we never had crowds of people watching us. We just kind of blended in. We became part of the family.

But here, wherever we go, we hear the shouts of “Muzungu,” or white person. People are fascinated by us. Children follow us wherever we go. Crowds of people gather as we try to do interviews—sometimes 50 people at a time. It is impossible to ask the kinds of questions we usually ask when so many people are standing around.

Kari at a source of the Nile, where World Vision's project in Nyaruguru begins. (Jon Warren/WV)

Kari at a source of the Nile, where World Vision's project in Nyaruguru begins. (Jon Warren/WV)

With my psychology background, I am always watching the people I interview—their faces and their body language—to try and make sure that I’m not making them feel too vulnerable. I don’t want people thinking after I’ve left, I wish I hadn’t said that. I said too much.  So, to conduct an interview in a context like Rwanda’s—a place where everyone has been touched in some way by the 1994 genocide—it is important that interviews are conducted with care, dignity, and in private. It has been nearly impossible.

I was beginning to despair. If we can’t get the story, we have failed the people and programs we’re covering. But the Muzungu factor was making things difficult.

After a day of striking out, we were worried. The next morning we prayed for guidance. We were meeting a man named Jean Marie Mugwaneza, one of the project workers. He was going to take us to see some of the work World Vision has done in Nyaruguru.

We picked Jean Marie up at the office. As we waited for the driver to unlock the vehicle, we asked him how long he’d worked for World Vision. He told us he was the first person hired for this project. “You must have seen a lot, Jean Marie,” I said, “being here from the beginning.” 

Jean Marie nodded and said, “One day really touched my heart. I came across a child who was living under a cow shed. He couldn’t keep his clothes dry. They would always get wet. He would try to cook, but the rain would put out the fire. He was the first sponsored child who benefited from a house.”


Jean Marie, a World Vision worker who has been here from the beginning of the project. (Jon Warren/WV)

We were witnessing God’s guidance. Jean Marie would be the person to tell the story. He had been here from the beginning. He knew the programs and most importantly, he knew the children. We asked him if he could take us through the project and show us everything that inspired him to think: “That’s here because of World Vision.”

We had a wonderful day with Jean Marie, which led to another wonderful day with more amazing stories he’ll tell in the spring magazine piece. I am so excited about this story from Rwanda. It may be the best story I never wrote!

Read the Rwanda country profile.


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Filed under Burundi/Rwanda, On Assignment

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