This is an old repost from 2017. I wrote the below after having worked in Rwanda for a week and after 3 years, I still stand by my point. Especially now that I haven’t been able to visit this amazing place in almost a year.
This is going to be a story of absolute cliché’s; and why they are so damn true. So if you don’t like cliché’s, move along please. But you do know me, so please try to read the below in the light of that. That I actually mean every word of this amazing story.
After landing a job at a Dutch company that organizes trade shows and conferences for 100 years, I could not have dreamt of a better development of my career. Specifically, at the international department where we are thriving to bring people together in different parts of the world to ensure safe food for everyone. And this time: in Rwanda.
Have you ever stood still at the idea of the food and drinks, that you easily get in the supermarket within a 500m radius, is not something that is self-explanatory for everyone in the world? Have you any idea what it means that you cannot just step into a supermarket at all because they do not exist? Or do you know what it’s like when you constantly have to arrange fresh water because the tap water is just not drinkable otherwise you get sick and throw up all night while the next day you go on working? Or like last night at 9 pm, dead tired and thirsty, and there were no new bottles in my hotel room. I called the reception to bring some but they forgot and I had to wait another hour to drink some water…. yeah. First world’s problems because in other countries they don’t even have a choice at all.
I’m spending the week in the beautiful Kigali, Rwanda. A small country just below the Equator. Temperature around the 20-25 degrees all year around. A horrible history. Where the genocide just happened 23 years ago and EVERYONE we meet has actually lived it. Well. Survived it. Imagine a second holocaust in Europe but then in the 90s. Exactly the same.
Despite this (or maybe rather because of this), the city has developed so much that it has actually become more safe than Amsterdam!! Ha! I remember walking half-sober through Amsterdam in the early morning (or late night), trying to find my way to the station and still felt safe! Is that possible? How can this happen? See the answer below….
So you’ve got a country where everyone has lost someone (and in a way we cannot even imagine). You’ve got a country where they don’t want a second genocide so they set up security points EVERYWHERE (hence safety). If you step into a building (hotel, offices, etc) you will be checked. Like at the airport. And in some government institutions all your electronics will be taken away, along with your passport for the duration of your appointment. Sounds scary, right? But criminality is basically near zero in Kigali and somehow I am not bothered by this at all. Everyone is amazingly friendly and open and sweet because they know how it is to hate. They’ve seen it.
Besides, they have the same president for 18 years now whose best interest is the country’s development. 18 years! You can say it’s a dictatorship but people love him! How is that at all possible??? Yeah, we still have a lot to learn. We, in the big Western world, think that we know it all so well. We are very arrogant and for that matter liars. Somehow we managed to have 2 world wars and are still in war in the Middle-East in the 21st century. How smart is that…?
But back on Rwanda. Everyone’s interest is in the country’s development. Plainly said: get money into the country. We all live from money. If you have money, you have room for development. Which in practice means that the housekeeper is the nicest and friendliest to you. But so is the Minister.
So after back-to-back meetings with government officials I must realize, there are no words to describe how amazing it feels when you have an impact on others. I try to do my part on an individual basis every day but when I see that it actually can happen on a national, international level, when a country’s fate, well I wouldn’t say depending on us, but for sure will be pointed into a positive direction by our presence, I cannot be grateful enough for this opportunity. People are so welcoming and enthusiastic and very grateful when they understand that we actually bring more development and wealth to this amazing place; that even though you are on the job for 12-14 hours a day, THIS is what makes you keep going. Because we are not the only one who wants this for Rwanda. Everyone, local or international institutions see the amazing potential of the ‘“Pays des mille collines‘ (’’Land of a thousand hills’’) and want to help. We are in the amazingly lucky position to be able to help and make a difference on a national level (that I realize is exceptional) which will eventually have an impact on the individual in the countryside who will have safe food at the end of the day.
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