Sunday, July 21, 2013

St. Laurent Nursery School - The Next Chapter

In 2003, Marcelin Nirere created the very first nursery school in Musha.  The St. Laurent Nursery School consisted of 80 children crowded onto Marceline’s porch where they learned the basics in French, English and Kinyarwanda.  A lot of has changed in the last 10 years and the small school that started on a porch is almost unrecognizable, in the best way possible.  In 2008, thanks to funding from Westwood Collegiate, the St. Laurent Nursery School was taken from Marceline’s porch to two small classrooms.  Now, five years later, thanks to amazing efforts by seven students from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the two small classrooms have been joined by a fully stocked library, a rain water catch system and play structures of every type!

The quest for the next chapter of the St Laurent Nursery School started last September.  Thanks to a wonderful group of university students I met in Rwanda in 2009, I learned about the Edinburgh Global Partnership (EGP), a program that has Edinburgh University students fundraise for projects and then go overseas to help them come to life.  I submitted a proposal for the St.Laurent Nursery School and hoped for the best.  A few months later, I got a lovely little email saying my proposal had been accepted and seven eager students began fundraising to make the next chapter of the St. Laurent Nursery School a reality.  The project budget was set at 3500GBP and they did any and everything to reach their goal, including bake sales, a pub night, a marathon run in a Princess Peach costume (from Super Mario brothers), a hitch hike race from Edinburgh to Paris, and a bungee jump in a cow costume!

In early June, all seven of the students made their way over to Rwanda to break ground and get their hands dirty!  We managed to secure a home in Musha and every morning we were up at the crack of dawn to walk the 40 minutes to the nursery school.  The first week, we spent the entire time clearing the field of bushes and massive trees!  The pictures don’t quite do it justice but it was grueling work.  By day two, everyone had managed to get some good solid blisters and by day five, we were almost naturals with a hoe and a machete.  Luckily there were some skilled locals on hand to show us to it should actually be done!   Once the field was cleared, the rest of time flew by as we designed and built play structures for the kids.  By the end of the three weeks, we had the sweetest play structures in all of Rwanda.  Check out the pictures to appreciate the full extent of it, but basically we created not one but two tire mountains, a platform with a tree ladder, an awesome rope ladder and a slide, 4 tire swings, 3 pull up bars, a suspended bridge and a bunch of colourful tires!  How awesome does that sound? Check out the slide show below to see the project come to life!
On our last day, we had a big open house celebration.  We invited the parents to come see all the work that had been done and also give them a chance to see how well their children are doing with their studies.  The kids got all dressed up in new uniforms that we were able to fund and they put on a wonderful singing and dancing session for the parents.  We then gave the parents a full tour of all the new play structures and the library!  They were beyond thrilled!  We had a great meeting with all the parents and one of the best things to come out of the whole experience is that many of the parents are on board for contributing school fees so that Marceline can hire and train a second teacher.  Marceline will continue on with the older students and the new recruit will start teaching the little ones.  The parents were extremely thankful for all the work and are eager to do their part to give their kids the best possible education.  Marceline was extremely grateful for all the additions and especially for the play structures as now she’ll get a bit of a break from teaching while the kids use up some of their overflowing energy playing on the structures.  As the EGP students fundraised well beyond the target, we were able to fund uniforms for all the students, buy chalk, print out a supply of report cards, make an official stamp for the school, install a fence, make two new signs for the school and lots of other little extras to make life easier for Marceline and help her keep doing the amazing work she is doing.

Overall, the project was successful beyond my wildest dreams!  I have to give a HUGE thanks to all seven of the amazing volunteers (Ella, Georgia, Harry, Jenni, Patrick, Yii, Yuria) for all their hardwork and to all the local workers we worked with on the project!! Everyone was amazing!!! 

Definitely check out the pictures and stay tuned for videos on youtube!