Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New Year 2010 … MIT d-Lab Rwanda


The beginning of 2010 comes with predicted astonishing events that will be included in my life milestones. Many of these events will be as wonderful as predicted; others will just appear with a terrifying pull like the recent Haitian earthquake. The class of predicted events includes the visit to Rwanda that just happened this January 2010. This is a determinant beginning of the year and gave me an insight on the current Rwanda development pace.

January 2010 I traveled to Rwanda as a Team leader of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Development Laboratory (MIT-d lab) (http://d-lab.mit.edu/). The agenda was to launch the D-lab activities in Rwanda. On board, I had five MIT undergraduate students and a team co-coordinator. It was a pleasure on my behalf to be a part of the team that was going to launch a program that would help low income people improving their quality of life in my country. The team was facilitated by the CCHIPs (http://www.wwhps.org/about-cchips-program/) project/WWHPS (http://www.wwhps.org/) and focused on five main topics: Environmental Friendly Charcoal, Improved Corn Shelling, Universal Education Access, Water Testing and Incinerator Pollution Training at Musanze Hospital.

The local authorities of Musanze District where the program was launched received warmly the team and insisted on the deliverables that they expected after three weeks of stay in the area. The team was excited, but also concerned by the words of the local authorities. One of the team members shouted: “this is a totally different administration climate compared to other experiences that I had in other developing countries”. I laughed and added “Welcome to Rwanda”. The current progress of the country in different sectors has wakened people’s mind at the administration level in turning each single opportunity into something durable for the Rwandan community. This force is driving all authorities in insuring that who comes in, leave at least behind some indicators of his/or her implemented activities in the country. The era of ghost projects has been ended in Rwanda years ago. The country is progressing at high speed and the cost of this pace is seen at each single level of the administration, local people, schools, household, etc. To everyone who might think of going to Rwanda and experience similar facts as in other developing countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, he/she should be careful with assumptions because the country progresses has transformed and wiped off many of the developing county common behavior. Rwanda should then be considered as a particular case scenario in any condition. This was experienced by the teammates during the three weeks we spent in Rwanda. It was amazing to see how people of Rwanda they could comfortably absorb the change, live with it and sustain it. I have high expectations for this Country “Rwanda” and I can see the bright future in the face of all the Rwandan people. I am very proud of my country and its progresses.

The trip excitement consisted of various community demonstrations that were experienced while training local cooperatives in the Shingiro Sector of Musanze District. The community members where happy to learn simple technologies that could change the ways they used to shell corns, make charcoal, design education equipments, etc. They realized how “technology” is not only cell phones and computers, but mechanisms of improving efficiency in the daily work, thus being more productive. One of the cooperative members told us how they used to have blisters on the fingers when shelling corns by local methods and could not proceed with the activity. He added that they used to spend a day shelling one bag of corns and put on hold other daily programs. In addition, this affected also their future activities since blisters on the fingers will prevent them holding some tools properly by hand. The corn shelling tool was then appreciated as a solution to many preexisting problems. The community was also showed how the wastes generated while shelling corns would also be used to produce charcoal briquettes used as source of fuel.

Beyond the community activities, we also launched the education program that was well welcomed by the State Minister of Education of Rwanda during the MIT – d lab team meeting with him at his office in Kigali, Rwanda. The education projects aims at designing scientific experimental tools from local available materials at rural primary school education level. The small kids in the primary school are introduced to new scientific concepts through the Introduction to Science and Technology course. This course is thought theoretical in many of the rural and urban primary schools due lack of experimental equipments. As the country is urging to the development of science and technology as basic for its performance, it is critical to insure that small kids grow with a clear understanding of scientific concepts in order to become future Rwandese innovators.

Briefly, the trip to Rwanda was a success. It took us 3 week to establish the foundation of more coming valuable techniques of hands-on practices. Different potential groups of future projects were identified and we are positive that this will have a role in boosting the technology applications for the development of the rural areas of Rwanda. Many similar tools will be designed by locals from similar perspective of simple techniques that could improve their quality of life and increase the annual income. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Moments of 2009



Year 2009 started with the new perspectives. The first Africa American President swore to become the President of the United States of American. 11 months later, he received the peace Nobel price of 2010. President Barak Obama has so far done a lot in reshaping policies, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dealing with the current threats of the economic crisis in the United States of America. His good work will soon be clear to all who still doubt of his approaches.
Year 2009 did not only bring to my table additional challenges to my daily life, but also brings gifts of the life time. February 2009, I become the uncle. The first born of my family, my sister Claudine, had the first baby “Honorine”. She is an adorable daughter. I got chance to see her for the first time 11 months after her birth. The surprises of the 2009 did not end in February, but they kept accumulating as the year run towards December. In March 2009, my birthday was organized by my colleagues in the Master’s program at MIT, who offered me three sweet birthday cakes. We enjoyed the party even if it was one of the busiest times of the semester. We were editing the reports of the projects that we worked on during the IAP period. During this time, January 2009, I and my three other colleagues (one boy and two ladies) were in Singapore, Asia where we were working on a water quality projects in Kranji watershed. During this same period of March 2009, my invitation day to the 15th International Development Conference at Harvard University as speaker was approaching, I started to prepare my first talk at the high level conference. I was lucky to have my advisor on my side helping me to polish my talk according to the audience that I was to face in few days. April 4, 2009 was the day of the talk and I was the speaker in the International Development Conference at Harvard University and my topic was “Clean Water Technologies in Developing Countries”. The year (April 2008) before presenting at Harvard University I spoke at Makerere University, School of Public Health in the 5th East Africa Scientific Conference. It was then a remarkable progress.
Various amazing events happened in 2009 and I cannot site all of them here and today. I only want to site the heart breaking news that come in June of this year telling us that Michael Jackson, the King of Pope and the all time start singer, was dead. Many of my friends were getting ready to go watch him performing in London. He was gone “too soon”. He contributed his part in saving the world, trying to make the world a better place. We hope to see another Michael Jackson Energetic Singer soon.
I will probably shorten my story telling about the pleasure that I had to meet Two Presidents: His Excellency John Kufuor the former president of Ghana and His Excellency José Ramos-Horta, the president of East Timor, who won the Nobel Peace Price of 2006. I was honored to meet these important and influential men. They have played and still play their role in sharpening the world they live in and influence many changes around them. I was honored to hear how President Jose Ramos was interested in rainwater harvesting systems similar to my previous and current work. It is always encouraging to see how many people across the world have interest in your capacity. I cannot really finish the long list of the influential people that I was able to meet during 2009, I learned a lot from them and I believe that sharpening and designing the change starts by personal innovative ideas, then it is strengthened by learning the best ways of transferring the ideas into practice from the best achievers. These are incomparable chances that I have as a MIT Student particularly as Fellow at the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship.
Briefly, 2009 sharpened me in many different ways and I believe that many lessons I learned will soon start to appear.

LifeEngine Clean Water Project

LifeEngine Clean Water Project
Testing Water Filtration Technology in Bisate Village