Muraho all! Yesterday, our group had a pretty packed day, but I want focus on our time at the government center. Our group met with the Executive Director of the center, who presented us with information about Gashora (a town of 20,000), the role of the sector government, and his own position and duties. His work involves designing and ensuring the success of what are called performance contracts, which are documented goals that all stem from the question, as phrased by the Director, “How can we improve the health of our people?” The goals listed within these contracts are sector-specific but are derived from such documents as the Millennium Development Goals and Rwanda’s own Vision 2020, the national plan with a wide variety of indicators to guide Rwanda into middle-income status by the year 2020. Issues addressed in these performance contracts ranged from land consolidation to increasing food production to mandatory school attendance. He described how one goal was to provide 150 cows to Gashora’s families, a project funded through taxes.
We were very lucky to have the opportunity to meet with the director, as he is obviously a very busy man, but especially now, as his performance contract for 2012-2013 is due this coming week! These performance contracts are a huge deal – they ensure that everyone is working towards the national vision for Rwanda’s future. But there is so much more to Rwanda’s vision than the policies themselves. It is so evident that the dedication to these goals exists not just within the government but among the people of Rwanda – it is so evident that everyone shares this common overall goal of empowering each other from the ground up. Gashora is currently home to 15 cooperatives, 12 of which are women’s cooperatives (such as Covaga, a collaboration of women weavers). We will also be fortunate to experience umuganda, Rwanda’s nationally mandated day of community service, falling on the last Saturday of each month. We have been told by many people about this day, who all seem to be enthusiastic and proud of having such a holiday. Rwandans’ commitment to improving the country is palpable – it is evident in our amazing translators, Jean de Dieu and Claude; in Rogers and Steven, the men we met in Kigali who worked on kitchen gardens with last years’ group; in the people we meet on the street every day.
That was the remarkable thing about yesterday’s visit – seeing this same attitude in the Executive Director himself. The entire presentation from the director (who prefaced his talk with a comment about how poor his English was before proceeding to speak eloquently to us for the next hour) was incredibly moving. When discussing Rwanda’s health care, he described how Rwandans fall into three categories based on wealth and that those considered “poor” are supported by the government. When addressing health insurance, the director explained, “They pay nothing because we love our people.”
This caused me to tear up. Not in a “Wow, what a good job Rwanda has done for itself in the last 20 years” sort of way – not at all. I was so moved because I realized, wow – this is how the world should work. This is what existing as a human being in a cooperative society is all about. There was so much sincerity in explanation of the government’s mission, and comparing this to how the United States addresses issues of welfare was just mind-blowing.
Of course, the director would have some personal motives for fulfilling his duties – not accomplishing the goals of the contract would mean dismissal from his position. That just makes sense, if you think about it. But there is an enormous, genuine heart behind his position – he seemed to wholeheartedly believe in the system and his impact on his community. “If don’t meet my goals,” he explained, “I am killing my people.”
What a responsibility and what an amazing character to honor that responsibility with such compassion.
Towards the end of our visit, he said something that resonated with all of us, I think: “If I don’t do what I am supposed to do, then why am I here?”
That is the fuel behind Vision 2020. This sincerity must be one of the most powerful tools against corruption in this country. It is also a lesson that the world and its leaders should learn from. And we as a group all feel so fortunate to be here to experience this firsthand!