The Village of Hope.
A decade ago, the village of Nyamikamba along with hundreds of others villages, suffered the devastated effects of the 100-day Rwandan genocide.
The events of those days can still be seen in parts of the surrounding countryside. The Rwebare Primary school in the village was burned down for sheltering Tutsi refugees. Countless families died in its classrooms and its football pitch was littered with dead bodies.
Six months before our visit, the school was barley teaching, classrooms open to the sky and thick with weeds. There were no desks and no books. Yet still more than 1,000 pupils aged six to fourteen came to sit on the floor, so desperate was their desire to learn.
Only months ago, the village was in a grip of a severe drought. The fields were dying, the maize bent and burned by the scorching sun, the village silenced by a terrible quite. The problems of poverty are ever present – Aids, malaria, the exhaustion of living hand to mouth.
Nyamikamba was adopted by The Daily Mirror newspaper and Oxfam to mark the year of Make Poverty History, and through the generosity of the Daily Mirror readers and the hard work of the Oxfam team, and the village’s own determination, the school, a new health centre, plus other buildings haven been built. I visited Rwanda 6 times over a two year period, recording the progress and recovery the village had made. In global terms, this village has received a tiny amount of aid, but it has been enough to turn lives around.
These are some of the portraits I took during my visits to Nyamikamba. No matter how poor and hungry the villagers were, they always made us welcome and offered their homes open to us with a smile. We hope to re-visit Rwanda in 2008.