In 35 years of owning cars I have rarely raised the hood. I’ve been to car shows and the hood is raised and men (predominately) are standing around looking at the engine. The only other time I see a raised hood with an audience, happens when there’s a problem with the engine. As a woman who is not blessed with mechanical prowess, a hood of a car that is up is either: a) boring or b) a problem.
A few days ago in Rwanda there were men standing around looking at the engine of the car we were using and there was b) a problem. Car issues are never convenient and so it was the case that I needed to get back to the hotel to get ready for our final night’s celebration with our tour group and some of our Rwanda partners. An important night for sure, and not a good one to be inconvenienced by a dead engine.
It was 5pm. It gets dark at around 6:30pm each day due to the proximity to the equator. I know we are going to be challenged to get this fixed and get me back to the hotel. But no one seemed concerned and what I was most curious about was HOW we could get it repaired and WHO would fix it.
Our country director called a friend who was a mechanic and he said he would arrive shortly on a taxi moto. “Great”, I thought, “and then what?” Where would we take the car? How could he carry tools on the moto? How does he even know what’s wrong??
Within 30 minutes a guy showed up and joined the small but interested group of men staring at the engine. He had NO tools but he didn’t seem concerned. The problem was explained in Kinyarwanda, and he began looking around the battery on this car with 190,000 km on it (which I was told is “not so many!”)
It seems the ignition wire had burned out. But this mechanic noticed a bunch of wires wrapped around the battery (Storage? Securing it to the block? Left behind??) Whatever the case, in the few experiences I’d had in engine gazing, no battery I’d ever seen carried a bunch of wires in that place.
The mechanic unwrapped the wires. He then took one and stripped the plastic off with his teeth. He checked for a spark on the battery and then somehow connected his dentally enhanced wire to something else and started the car! Really??! He assured us he could have the car running in 30 minutes.
They got a car for me to get me back to the hotel. As I sat in traffic on the way back, I marveled at this Rwanda I love. I’ve said it before: nothing will stop people who are determined to win and succeed. Not lack of tools, not darkness, not time constraints. Innovation comes from a place of passion and inspiration. That mechanic didn’t have an office. He worked by phone. He was so confident he could repair the problem. It followed that all of us who stood around believed he would find and fix the problem. No one was disappointed.
Where is that deep sense of commitment to success in me? It seems to me that we are often hamstrung by the smallest of obstacles. Innovation; passion; focus; partnership; faith in ourselves and others; these are the things that must be present to create greatness in ourselves, in our country, a moment, and in a lifetime.
If you could have seen this mechanic who had the following tools: his mind, his focus, his confidence, his teeth(!) and watched his success, you would wonder as I do why we as individuals and the Itafari Foundation don’t accomplish more.
Our two weeks in Rwanda have come to an end. Our programs are expanding, changing, improving and being revamped. All for one purpose: to create programs and services that support Rwandans to reach their biggest dreams.
ONE of our programs: Child Sponsorship
Our child sponsorship program has over 205 children sponsored. We held a party with 275 children last Saturday. Three people in our tour group sponsored six children. To be here is to know that $30 a month for these children is life changing.
The eight of us sat in the main room of one of the mothers of the children we sponsored. The room was 8 X 8. Claudine had a woven mat on the dirt where we sat with our legs folded over each other. The cool cement walls covered handmade itafari (bricks). A door without windows. Breaks near the ceiling to let in air. Dark with a small candle burning to give us light. A tin roof to keep out the rain. And she appreciated all she had. Nothing wasted, nothing taken for granted. As we left, Claudine thanked us over and over for coming to her home. She asked that God would bless us. She prayed for us! She is not discouraged. She is hopeful. I gave her a small gift of money and she is going to use it for English lessons so that she can call me!
I’ll be writing more blogs as I reflect on our trip. This eighth trip only deepens my commitment to our Rwandan partners. We’ll continue to work with them to seek solutions.
Maybe Itafari represents the wire wrapped haphazardly around the battery. The battery represents the people of Rwanda. Inspiration is the spark. And I personally believe God is the mechanic.
Please consider supporting this work of Itafari. Sponsor a child, help us build the Kigali Parents Secondary School, buy a goat, purchase a basket, donate for a micro loan. Give a general donation to support the work that it takes to run a foundation.
Hold an event where I come and speak to your friends about this amazing country, its history, its progress and most importantly, its people.
Whatever you do, be inspired to know anything is possible in your life with just a bit of faith, focus and confidence in yourself and others.
Contact me or the Itafari Foundation to learn more about our work.