Happy #NWED2016 everyone!

The FIR team are back in Europe already – by the end of today we will have been in 5 different countries, but for now we are waiting for our final leg to take us back to bonny Scotland!

Although exhausted, all those involved in the project can reflect on how amazing the project was for everyone, and really how important what we are doing is for the girls we managed to meet with in the short time we were able to visit Rwanda. Now it’s time for a deep breath and a step back from the hustle and bustle of the project as we make the transition back into our Glasgow routine. Though our time in Rwanda has come to an end, there is a strong feeling among all team members that this is most certainly not the end of the project. You can take the girls out of Rwanda but you can’t take Rwanda out of the girls!

FEMENG

Last Day in Kigali!

It’s our last day in Kigali! The team can’t quite believe how fast our time here has gone. Jess and Tina visited the Genocide Memorial Museum in the morning while the rest of the Glasgow team took the opportunity to have a lie in before heading to KIST to pack up our workshop materials. The rest of the day was spent packing and buying last minute souvenirs from Caplaki Market. A few of the girls even tested out the local mototaxis! It was very sad saying our final goodbyes to all the people who have looked after us and made our stay here so much better than we could of anticipated. Special thanks to Josephine Malonza for heading up our project here in Rwanda and being like a mum to all of us during this time.

There may not be much from us for a couple of days as we travel back to Glasgow, but we look forward to sharing more details and photos of our experience as soon as we have recovered from 24hrs of travelling!

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Lots of love from,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

Days 18 & 19 – last workshops

Monday was the last day of workshops. We had La Columbiere school coming in the morning. For the last time we presented Aerospace, Renewable Energy, Design and Biomedical engineering workshops.  After that we were waiting for the Minister of Education but he never arrived. After the lunch break we did a debrief of the whole project with the team. Loads of ideas and suggestions were made that will improve the project next year. We discussed the impact we made on the high school girls and what we learned from the project as well. The sum up of this debrief will be included in the future post. In the evening Glasgow team went out for a dinner at the Carwash and celebrated the last day of workshops.

 

On Tuesday morning Professor Phil Cotton (Vice Chancellor of University of Rwanda) visited us and brought certificates of participation for the whole team. We showed him quick presentations of our workshops and he was very impressed. An obligatory photo was taken and after that we moved on to the fun part. We played music and shared snacks. Rwandan girls gave us earrings as gifts which was incredibly nice. After few hours of making bracelets, pleading random braids and taking loads of photos, Ellen gave everyone the certificates signed by Phil Cotton and herself. Couple of people had to leave early and it was really sad to say “bye”. We have no idea when are we going to see each other next time. A couple of girls from Glasgow team decided to get braids made and we are currently waiting for the braid maker to arrive. To be continued…

Day 17 – Visit to Akagera

A 5.30am rise marked our earliest start yet. It was the day we’d all been eagerly anticipating since day 1 of the trip: the visit to Akagera National Park. A breakfast of fruits, eggs and strong African tea and coffee was served around the outdoor table at the Eco-lodge in the still, chilly darkness before sunrise. We were then lucky enough to watch as the red morning sun rose from behind the rolling hills, indicating that it was time for us to head on our way.

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Arriving at Akagera, we met with our safari guide who would ride along with us on our 6 hour drive through the park. As we began our journey we were amazed by the diverse range of wildlife we were met with. It was a truly breathtaking experience at times, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced before.
Standing on a vast beach observing the hippos submerged to their eyes in water while 30 or more baboons ran past, some carrying their infants on their backs. Looking down at the beady eyes of a deadly black mamba snake coiled suspiciously still by the roadside. Watching as giraffes, zebras and antelope went about their daily routine and catching a rare glimpse of an elephant washing itself in the distance.

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The day felt all the more special after a tough but rewarding week of work. Sadly, this long awaited day is also a reminder that we only have a few remaining days here in Rwanda. Tomorrow we are expecting an official visit at the University from the Minister of Education, Papias Musafiri who originally invited our team here to Kigali. This will be will be very significant in raising the project’s profile here in Rwanda. We will also be running workshops in the morning for La Colombiere school.After scrubbing today’s layer of dust off of us, we are refreshed and ready to tackle the last few project days.

Day 14.. and 15.. and 16

Amidst the hullabaloo of the second half of our workshop week, it’s been a struggle to muster the energy to sit and write about it. Thankfully we’ve now been able to take a breather in a place called Kayonza, and we are really excited about what the past few days have brought!

Thursday and Friday were surprisingly smooth running – a mixture of timeliness and the fact we had run the workshops so many times already really showed in these two days, and all the team members were well versed in what to say and how to make sure the children were able to engage. It is rewarding to see the Rwandan students taking workshops into their own hands and knowing that we assisted them in reaching this point. We will compile a report with final numbers of the numbers of children we have seen once we return, but it is a lot, and often more than we expected!

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A nice touch to the end of the week was also the chances we got to bond with the Rwandan girls. We took it in turns to showcase Scottish and Rwandan traditional dancing, and on Friday we gave the Rwandan team some Scottish tablet to try. Mixed responses! We have been so busy that we haven’t really had a chance to share our cultures with each other, but we plan to do more of this in the last few days before we leave.

On Friday we also got to take over the University of Glasgow Snapchat, and we managed to reach over 1000 people through the little videos we took of our day. Although it doesn’t seem the most professional marketing method, we know that this gave many people a clear insight into what the project is about and we have downloaded a full version of the videos taken that we can upload to our other media.

This morning we had an early rise so we could go to Kayonza in the East of Rwanda. We are staying at the Discover Rwanda Kayonza Eco Lodge, which is linked with many of the sustainable activities in the region, such as cow milking, coffee plantations and basket weaving. The Women for Women centre, which trains women to work for themselves, is attached to the lodge, but sadly was closed for the weekend (although we did get a chance to purchase some of their goods!). We trekked around the countryside in the morning to visit the coffee growers and washing centres, met the women who sort through the coffee beans, and got a look around the different pipes and troughs used to prepare the beans. Whilst waiting for our bus driver to come and get us, we ended up stuck in the centre of a small village, surrounded by what seemed like the entire village population. We got a few low-fives from some of the kids, but most of the inhabitants just seemed to be making fun of us, for reasons we may never know. It was very interesting to be in the midst of more rural areas, and we also got to meet some very cute goats.

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Next stop was IPRC East, a technical school and college with many branches all around Rwanda. We had previously had a visit from some girls from IPRC Kigali, so we knew a little about what the school was like. They gave us lunch and then we were taken to a classroom where we could meet some of the girls studying there. Due to altercations in the canteen (?) and a gender-based violence workshop that had happened in the morning, we were waiting quite a while for the room to fill up. However, when it did, we had over 50 girls in this one room, and all were eager to learn more about us and ask for advice about their careers. We introduced the topics we had been presenting in our workshops the past week, and then split the room into groups for us to have more informal chats with the girls. Many of them studied General Mechanics or Motorvehicle Mechanics, and were all very passionate about it. Two girls in my group wanted to own their own garage! The desire for self-employment and entrepreneurship was great to see, and although we aren’t exactly trained in giving career advice, it was nice to have the opportunity to inspire the girls to search more for themselves. We tried to get the point across that they can do whatever they want to, and that they should make sure to really investigate the opportunities that lie ahead of them. With no powerpoints or workshop materials we did initially feel a little lost, but sometimes just having conversations is stimulating enough and the girls we spoke to seemed quite happy about it too!

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We returned to the lodge and checked out the gift shop before going to milk a nearby cow. Again it was nice to be amongst the villagers and more low-fives were bestowed. It turns out that milking a cow isn’t the easiest skill! But we got to keep the milk and drink it after our dinner. Our bedrooms tonight are dubbed “Deluxe Tents”, the term “glamping” comes to mind, especially as the tents have bathrooms with running water! After an insightful day, the girls have all gone to bed early to prepare for the 5am rise that awaits us – apparently safari parks have the most animals visible first thing in the morning..

In conclusion, the team are looking forward to (and are much in need of) a day of rest, or at least a day away from the university, but we are also very eager to see what will happen in the next week, with a potential visit from the Minister of Education lined up amongst other interesting meetings. Not much time left now, so we want to make the most of it.

 

Lots of love,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

 

Day 13

 

Our third day of running the workshops went extremely well! The first schools, King David and Kigali Parents took part in the Aerospace, Biomedical, Product Design and Civil Engineering workshops and they were really engaged and great to work with. It was especially good to see the teachers of these schools so enthusiastic about what we were doing, one invited us to their school to talk more about engineering career paths which we hope to fit in before leaving next week.

As well as our workshops the school girls were given motivational talks by Professor Jolly and Beatrice Mironko who work at the University of Rwanda headquarters. These speeches explored topics such as gender stereotypes we are exposed to from an early age and why it’s wrong that girls feel they can’t or shouldn’t study STEM subjects. The empowering messages were not only helpful to the school girls attending the workshops but also for us running them. It was really encouraging for us to see women so passionate about what we’re trying to achieve here.

After lunch we were joined by Lycée de Kigali and ran the Mechanical, Software, Civil and Renewable Energy and Water Engineering workshops. Again it was an amazingly interactive bunch of girls and we had a really nice afternoon with them. It’s really rewarding to see them so interested in the workshops and coming up with some pretty creative products/structures/devices given the short time frame! It’s nice too, to hear at the end of the workshops a few of the girls were discussing what type of engineers they want to be! This group were lucky enough to be joined by Alice Tasca, a lecturer at the Department of Architecture for an inspirational speech about women in engineering and technology.

To top off this great day we received an email from The Institute of Mechanical Engineers to let us know we were successful in our application for a Group Project Award! We were unbelievably pleased as the money we received means we can definitely afford all of the transport for the school girls attending the workshops and can ensure the continuation of the project next year.

We can’t believe we’ll be flying home in a week’s time, since being here time has passed so quickly! It feels like we’ve achieved great things so far and we’re looking forward to what else we can do in this final week.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned!

Day 12

The second day commenced with similar enthusiasm and excitement!

We got another nice breakfast at the Church Guest House Canteen, and were back in the KIST building by 8:30am.

We began the day running the Biomedical Engineering workshop and the Design Engineering workshop with some more girls from Lycee Notre Dame. Some more really amazing designs came out of the workshops in the case to solve ‘a blind person in a supermarket’. See picture below of the winning team – they designed a wheel-along walking stick to navigate them around a supermarket with a camera to detect different products, and if that was not enough there was also a basket attached to the side to store the shopping in! There were equally innovative ideas coming from the Biomedical workshop.

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The second lot of workshops in the morning were Software Engineering and Civil Engineering. The girls really enjoyed making their ‘Scratch’ programs, getting really into the different sounds and movements. Also, there were some wonderfully structurally sound tower designs built in the civil workshop. Some of the tallest we’ve seen so far!

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After lunch, we welcomed a lively bunch of girls from ETEL Technical School. We ran the Aerospace workshop and 3D Printing/Mechanical workshop to start, then due to popular demand we swapped the groups over and ran both of them again.

 

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It was a fun end to the day as they let their wild side out while throwing about paper airplanes.

We look forward to the action-packed days ahead. Tomorrow will mark us as half way through the workshop days, as well as marking the Glasgow Team as only having one week left of being in Rwanda!

Until tomorrow ~ the Glasgow FemEng Team

 

Day 11 – Commencing the Workshops

We woke up extra early to get a head start on the day. We had a hearty breakfast then made our way to meet the teams at 8:30am. Everyone was excited to begin the week of delivering workshops.

Tensions rose as we waited for the morning students to arrive. Eventually, 46 girls from Camp Kigali Secondary School arrived, eager and looking forward to the mystery of what they had been taken out of class for. Their later-than-expected arrival meant the workshops had to be rushed before lunch, but we worked together and tried to make sure the girls got as much out of the time we could give them as possible! We began the day running the Mechanical Engineering workshop and Aerospace workshop, then managed to fit in most of the Renewable Energy Engineering workshop and Civil Engineering workshop. The good vibes and positive attitudes of the teams were really appreciated, and it was a successful morning.

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After lunch, a bigger batch of students arrived. This time there were 73 girls from Lycée Notre Dame De Citeaux (LNDC). We did the usual introducing the Glasgow and Rwandan teams and quick descriptions of the different types of engineering available, and then we split into three groups. First we ran Biomedical Engineering, Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. We had a quick change and then ran Software Engineering again along with Renewable Energy Engineering, Water Engineering and Product Design Engineering. The students were really enthusiastic and positive. They asked lots of questions and seemed interested. The girls came up with some fantastic ideas in the design areas such as the Biomedical Engineering workshop, and were very engaged. They came up with very innovative concepts for conquering different diseases that are common in Rwanda, such as photosynthesising t-shirts and a bracelet to detect different problems. We took a lot of photos and videos of interviews, so hopefully they will be available for you to see soon!

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The students left at about 4:30pm, after taking a big group photo!

We spent some time organising and tidying in preparation for tomorrow, then had an interesting selection of foods for dinner (strange supermarket choices) before having a group meeting and organising.

There is so much to look forward to this week! We are so looking forward to talking to all the different students! Over the past three days we have already managed to talk to over 200 girls, and so many have been interested to learn more and taken note of the FemEng email address.

-FemEng Team

The “calm” before the storm

Apologies for the lateness in this update – we have had a busy weekend and with an even busier week ahead it is sometimes difficult to find the time to talk about it! But we love knowing that people are looking out for what we are upto and we hope that you readers feel clued up about things.

Our Saturday started at 6am, with rushed PB&J sandwiches. We left the uni around 7am and set off on our roadtrip to Nyanza with some of the Rwandan team members. First stop – Muhanga prison, obviously! The College of Science and Tech at URwanda (also termed KIST) helped with a biogas installation there, and therefore we thought it a suitable stop on our journey. Sadly, after a lengthy discussion with the commanding officer, it was clear we could not just pop in and check out the prison without prior permission. We didn’t have 3 working days to spare that morning, so we settled with getting a short tour around the workers yard at the prison. Prisoners engage in a variety of activities from carpentry to dress-making, completing orders for external parties. The handiwork was incredible! Chairs made from banana leaves and handmade clothing were amongst the things we got to try out.

Now the exciting part – our first secondary school, Byimana (aka. Group Scowls ire Notre Dame de Lourde Byimana), one of the best schools in the country. We had not rung in advance of our arrival but were advised we would be able to set something up anyway as it is a boarding school. However this type of unexpected visiting is not a quick and efficient process, so a lot of waiting around before we got a chance to speak to some girls. However we were kindly assisted by a Sister Marie-Ernestine, who was very happy that we wanted to come and talk to their students and led me by the hand to the place we would be talking in. Approximately 30 students from S6 (final year) were sitting awaiting our chat, and we introduced ourselves and our subjects, before splitting up the room into groups for smaller discussions. Most of the girls knew what engineering was, however the different types of engineering baffled them somewhat. Being in the smaller groups allowed for more indepth discussions and questions about the different degrees, and we asked them things like “what are you interested in?” and then tried to show them how they could incorporate their interests with an engineering degree. Many were worried as they didn’t think they had picked the correct subjects, and this is a key issue, as many universities are quite particular about which secondary school subjects have been taken for particular degree subjects. I managed to chat with the Director of Studies, Emmanuel, for a while during these discussions. He was pleased with our vision and we swapped details in order for us to be able to follow up with the visit. It was short and sweet, but definitely had an effect on the girls involved. We recorded interviews with them and gave them stickers to remember us by before we moved on.

 

After a lunch of brochettes (meat kebabs) and grilled corn, we had a peaceful interlude at the King’s Palace. We got to see where the old kings of Rwanda used to live, the progression of the country’s growth by the centuries, and even got to use the old king’s toilet, apparently. The king was also big into cows, and we got to meet some of these lovely creatures up close. They had massive horns but loved being stroked and sang to by their keeper.

Next we went to our final school of the day, Indatwa n’ Inkesha, also in the top 5 best Rwandan schools. We had to wait quite a while to find out if we were able to talk to anyone, but just as we were about to give up we were ushered to a classroom which had some girls in it. We started chatting with the girls who were already there, and I was called to meet with the Head of Studies, Joël. He was pleased with our initiative but worried we would not get to speak to as many girls as we wanted. However he then started calling to all the girls walking around the campus and gathered them in a troop to follow us back to the classroom. Conversation was buzzing and eventually we had around 40 girls to chat to. We found out their interests and tried to get them over to speak to the most appropriate members of our team. Surprisingly these girls knew a lot more about different types of engineering – many of them wanted to be biomedical engineers, and some even aspired to do aero! There were worried they couldn’t study these subjects in Rwanda, however we assured them that there would be more courses established with the years, and encouraged them to look into scholarships abroad as well. Again, we swapped information to ensure we can follow up to these kids and their teachers and provide relevant guidance from the University of Rwanda. It was difficult to leave – we kept getting asked for our details and more questions about our subjects – but we had left the driver for so long that he had fallen asleep, and darkness was almost falling. So we scuttled back to the bus and were on our way.

Even though we only visited each school for such a short time, each of us gained a great deal of insight into the different issues and worries that these girls had about progressing into university. There seems to be some fundamental confusion about exactly how the process works, but we need to see how we go with the other schools before we discover the best way to assist these children. It was lovely to have been able to visit these out-of-the-way institutions and I believe we had an impact on the children – and their heads of studies – despite the slight haphazardness of it all. I was really amazed at how the team were able to instantly engage with the children and we all felt like we have now had a taste of exactly what this project is about. Being able to reach so many children in this small period was rewarding and the experience gave us a boost of energy for the week ahead.

Sunday got to be more relaxed – we had a lie-in (or at least tried to – being near so many religious buildings makes Sunday mornings rather musical!) and paid a visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. Learning more about this particular part of history is crucial for the team and was a harrowing but very interesting museum. The impact of the genocide is still so widespread and it is hard to fathom exactly how awful this event was for those living here.

The day ended with a late-night clear up of our workshop rooms ready for the next day, with only a few gecko encounters, and preparing what we need for the workshops. An early rise with a lot of sign-making and delegating was ahead, but after a restful Sunday we are geared up to get inspiring! Look out to see how we get on with our first workshop day.

Lots of love,

The FemEng in Rwanda team

 

Day 8

We had a dynamic start to the morning with a quick game of Ninja. We quickly got to work though, presenting both the Fold-a-rap 3D printer that we brought as well as the printer we will be borrowing from the KIST design department and how they both worked. This was presented to everyone involved in the project as many had not seen one working before and those who had, had little idea of how they worked There was an atmosphere of curiosity and intrigue as we were joined by some KIST architecture students filing into the room to see the tiny 3D printed elephant being passed round.

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We then ran through the remaining workshops: Biomedical engineering, Design engineering and Mechanical engineering. Again, this was very useful to see how well the workshops were going and aspects that needed to be improved, as well as ensuring that they ran within the one-hour time slot. Everyone worked really hard and stayed late to ensure all the workshops had been run through and were really helpful in giving feedback. We really owe it to the teams involved, having spared so much of their time and enthusiasm to this project. Final preparations were made to presentations and practical’s ready for our first workshops on Monday!

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Meanwhile, members from each of the teams went to visit schools and collages again in order to invite them to our workshops. At the end of the day we were able to confirm eight of the ten slots for next week! We all took a few minutes to greet them back

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Tomorrow will be a full Saturday, with 17 members of the team leaving campus to travel to several interesting locations out with Kigali. Beginning by visiting a prison in order to see their biogas facilities, we will then be visiting a boarding school to talk about different stem career prospects. Last of all we’ll travel to Nyanza to see the Kings Palace Museum and The National Museum of Rwanda before visiting another high school and returning home.