CMSI Volunteer Barry Leacock (St Donard’s Parish, Belfast) writes warmly of his connection with a school in Rwanda.
I was introduced to Zion Hill Education Centre during my first visit to Shyogwe Diocese, Rwanda as part of a CMSI Team in August 2015. It’s a Primary School with 284 pupils, aged from 3-16 years old. This seems an unusually wide age range for a primary school, but this is due in part to families not being able to afford to send their children until they are older. The children are well cared for, work very hard and enjoy being at school.
The school has 7 teaching staff, headed by Jonas Dushimirimana (Principal and P6 class teacher) who came in 2015. He is a man of strong faith and is married to Solange, with 2 children (Micah and Nathan).
One of my favourite memories of the school was when I visited in 2018 with another CMSI team. We had the pleasure of taking the P6 & 7 children for a week of fun, games, crafts and Bible stories. The highlight was inviting all the children and teachers to join with us for lunch at Hallelujah House, where we were staying, just a few hundred yards from the school. It was an occasion none of us will ever forget!
The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for the school, as it’s been closed by the pandemic, with the result that the teaching staff were not able to be paid. They have now reopened, but with necessary restrictions such as social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.
In order to help the school meet the new guidelines, CMSI has recently sent funds to enable the building of another classroom, and a handwashing station. These projects are part of a wider partnership link with Shyogwe diocese, involving 4 link parishes here in Northern Ireland: St. Mark’s Armagh, Castlerock, Seagoe and St.Donard's.
This same group also contributed funds towards the repair of the school roof after it was damaged by a violent storm in last year, as well as providing emergency food packages in the Diocese for church members who had lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I personally feel that the link needs to be maintained, and fortunately the CMSI committee in my church, (St. Donard’s) are in agreement with me. Education is an ongoing necessity, and the children in Shyogwe who are fortunate enough to attend schools regard this very much as a privilege. We gained such a lot from our visit there, and we are determined to keep up our support.