After a quick stopover in Amsterdam and a surprisingly smooth journey (successfully navigating Schipol airport) we have finally arrived in Kigali. We were greeted at the airport by Josephine Malonza, professor of Architecture at the University of Rwanda and co-ordinator of the Rwandan team members, who made us feel immediately welcome and at ease. On the drive to our accommodation at the KIST campus, excitement surpassed exhaustion. Gratien, our driver blasted Rwandan music as we struggled to peal our eyes away from the bus windows, amazed by the city’s bright lights and greenery in the warm evening darkness.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we met with our Rwandan counterpart team members in the KIST’s architecture department which is housed in a tall modern building with a panoramic view of the city. The Glasgow team, UR team and high school students made introductions and an introductory talk was given by Ellen and Josephine.
We were then led on a tour of the Campus and its surroundings by the university student, taking us to engineering labs, design and masonry workshops and passing by local primary and secondary schools. We even stumbled upon some friends of the Rwandan girls who were practicing a traditional dance and kindly allowed us to stop and watch slightly awkwardly from the side – a lovely insight into student culture here at UR.
After lunch, we had our first open brainstorming session with the full team present and discussed initial ideas for the workshops. We had a chance to briefly show the Rwandan girls the workshop equipment we’ve brought before it was time to leave for our next appointment; FemEng in Rwanda’s opening remarks led by UR Vice Chancellor Phil Cotton.
It was great to officially launch the project and see such enthusiasm for its go-ahead from Professor Cotton and Professor Jolly, Director of Teaching and Education. We were also delighted to hear a few words from Michelle, from the College of Science and Technology (CST) who spoke about her experience as a women in Science in the USA.
From there we called an end to our working day and headed into town to sort out a few logistical things like getting SIM cards which will allow us to have better contact with our Rwandan team members while we’re here. We then returned to the guest house and enjoyed dinner. I’m writing this from the architecture department where we’re enjoying very sparse WIFI. Tomorrow we’ll have an Ethernet cable so should have a far more reliable connection which will allow us to update more regularly.
It’s all very new and exciting at the moment and feels like the start of something good. Thanks for reading
Picture outside the University of Rwanda headquarters with Josephine Malonza and Michelle.