ROTARY CLUB OF LEWES CASTLE IN RWANDA ROTARIAN JOHN CLARK AND ROTARIAN CHRIS SPINKS John Clark’s first visit to Rwanda was in January 2006. The Rotary Club of Lewes Castle had raised £5000 to provide a mobile aids testing facility for a remote area in the south west of the country called Kigeme. John wanted to go out there to see how the money was being used. He was very impressed. The club had given the money to the Protestant Diocese of Kigeme. They were using a vehicle with trained staff to go out and test people for aids. The Rwandan Government offers free antiretroviral drugs to anyone who has aids. The drug removes all symptoms of aids while not offering a complete cure, but people live a normal and long life while taking the drug. I met a number of people who had been helped. One widow, I remember, weighed 20 kilos when she was taken in by the diocese. They had provided her with a small house. When I met her she weighed 50 kilos and looked after her two children and a plot of land. In total the project tested 3000 people and found 200 with aids who were all helped. One of the strengths of our club’s connection with Rwanda is that we know a Lewes Doctor, Richard Rowland and his wife Prilla who lived and worked Rwanda for over 10 years. Richard and Prilla inspired the club’s involvement with Rwanda by talking to us about their work on aids education in Rwanda. They speak the local language Kinyarwandan fluently and through them we have built a partnership with Southover Church in Lewes, which has organised a number of trips to Rwanda to do charity work. We have, therefore benefited from a wide network of people all interested in Rwanda. In total I have made 6 trips to Rwanda spending a week in Kigeme assessing the needs there, and then a week in Cyangugu, which is on Lake Kivu bordering on the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping with work of Southover Church . By visiting and talking to people I can more easily ascertain the ways my Rotary Club can help. There is a good hospital in Kigeme with 140 beds, serving the surrounding rural community. On a visit to the hospital I learned that the autoclave, a machine used for sterilising equipment, was on its last legs. Clearly without a sterilising facility a hospital cannot function. Lewes Castle Rotary Club raised another £6700 to pay for a new autoclave. I sourced it in England with the help of Richard Rowland and we sent it to Rwanda with the help of Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi, head of the Diocese of Kigeme, who has vast experience in marshalling aid. Over the years we have also sent £2000 to the hospital Samaritan fund which is used to pay for people who cannot afford their own treatment. Over the past 4 years I have been involved with fellow Rotarian Chris Spinks in the most exciting phase of our work with Rwanda. Pastor Francis Gakuba, a visionary and energetic man, came to me with idea of providing business training for the people in the 47 parishes in the diocese. He needed £800 for the first workshop. John, who had an interpreter, attended the three day of training course, which Francis organised and structured. John is a businessman and what was taught was all good content about GCSE or A level standard. Since then Chris and John have attended three more business training programmes over the next three years. Even more exciting is what Francis Gakuba was inspired to do after the first year’s business training. He started a micro fund and called it The Basket Fund for Development (BFD). The fund is based on the idea first put into practice by a Bangladeshi, Mohamed Yunnis, which involves lending very poor people small amounts of money through which they transform their lives by starting businesses. Yunnis won the Nobel Prize and called his bank The Grameen Bank. Francis Gakuba got together 20 local Christian worthies who put up £2000 of their own money, with little expectation of any return. Over the years I have found another £12,000 for the fund and it now stands at about £21,000 and has lent to 480 people without one failure because of the tight control and efficiency of the diocese. Over the past two years Chris and John have made a point of visiting many recipients of loans. People usually borrow between £50 and £100at 4% interest and pay it back in between 4 and 6 months so the money is recycled. Examples of how the money is used include agriculture, trading in household goods and food, and selling a drink made from sorghum. The non alcoholic sorghum drink is very popular and profitable. It is made from a seed crop, sorghum, and sold for 9p a cup. People have built small houses from the profit of this activity. There are other people who make a living preparing the sorghum seed for the drink makers, and taking loans to do so. One lady I met who did this is buying goats and pigs and sending her children to school on the profit. Other examples of how BFD money has been used are, a passion fruit plantation run by a cooperative of 20 people producing a profit of £2500 from an original loan of £200. A lady who bought a knitting machine for £200 and was making really fine garments, a teacher who was building a school, not like ours, more do it yourself, for children who in Rwanda only go to school for half a day. Growing mushrooms is profitable. What is so exciting is that we can see an economy being born and the look on peoples faces who were used to living on a pound a day and now have a business is reward in itself. On our return from the most recent trip in February this year we feel that the micro fund can use another £20,000 which we are keen to find. Another exciting development is that through our various links we have found a man from Newcastle, who is a Rotarian by chance, who has invented a water filter. This filter can make water from a ditch drinkable, one of the Southover group drank such water, and it costs £17 for a small filter capable of serving a few families. A large filter for a village costs £250 and will last several years with proper care. We intend to send 9 small filters to Kigeme for them to try. The coffers of the Lewes Castle Rotary Rwanda Charity account need replenishing so on May 18th next John Clark is starting to walk Hadrian’s Wall with a friend, Roger Hargreaves, and asking for sponsorship so we can be of more help to Kigeme. Please contact John on for further information if you are interested in donating or sponsorship.