Friday, November 30, 2012

CCA VIDEO: "Rwanda - A Co-op Quest for Food Security"


For those that weren't aware, 2012 was the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) observed by the United Nations (UN). Every year the UN observes a new focus / topic(s) for the year ahead. Previous years focused on People of African Decent (2011), Chemistry (2011), Forests (2011), Youth (2010-2011), Biodiversity (2010), the Gorilla (2009), and many more. The year 2013 is set to recognize Water Cooperation and Quinoa. More on International Years observed by the UN can be found here.

Anyways, back to the reason of this post! So this year was a really neat year to be embarking on an internship through a Cooperative organization [the Canadian Cooperative Association (CCA)] given the emphasis placed on the Cooperative Business Model this year and the work cooperatives carry out globally. I had a really great opportunity to participate in a the ICA Africa Annual and Regional conference this year, as it was being held right here in Rwanda! Really neat!

Well the UN officially wrapped up the IYC last week in New York City, and it turns out the Canada played a significant role in the closing ceremony. Below is a News Brief I received in the CCA Weekly News Briefs e-mail I subscribe to that mentions Canada's role in the closing ceremony. Enjoy! :-)

Canadian co-operators were front and centre as the United Nations held its official closing ceremony for the International Year of Co-operatives on November 19-20.

Five Canadians had speaking roles at the event, which was webcast live on the Co-operative News Global News Hub.

In her keynote speech, Monique Leroux, president, CEO and chair of Desjardins Group, focused on the important role young people can play in both the present and future of the co-operative movement.

"You need to dream big and not be afraid to share your dreams with others...," she said. "The co-op model belongs to all of us, but it will be your heritage. It will be yours to pass on to the next generation as we are doing with you."

Jack Wilkinson, former president of both the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, was featured in a panel discussion on co-operatives and food security.  Stephanie Guico, who managed the youth program at the International Summit of Cooperatives, moderated a session on co-operatives and youth.  Tanya Gracie, IYC manager for the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and Marco Plourde, public relations advisor at the Fédération des caisses populaires acadiennes, were both speakers at the youth forum.

Participants in the youth forum issued a statement on co-operatives and youth, which urged that young people engage with co-operatives "as a viable and promising option for their transition to full economic, social and civic participation."  The UN is encouraging young people around the world to sign the statement, and others to support it.  To do so, go to

About a dozen Canadians attended the UN event. In addition to those mentioned above, they included Denyse Guy, CCA's executive director;  Michaël Béland, director of communications and programs for the Conseil canadien de le coopération et de la mutualité; Alison Barter, coordinator of youth services at the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Co-operatives; Jamie Felsch, coordinator of the Manitoba Youth Cooperative Camp; and Duane Nicol, manager of marketing and communications at Assiniboine Credit Union in Winnipeg.

Go to for full coverage of the event on the
Global News Hub. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy/Sad Kind of Day

So today was both a very exciting, happy and sad day - all in one lol! 

Exciting because...
Joyce and I booked several parts of our East Africa trip, confirming hotels and methods of transport to each destination. We will be visiting Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar - yay!! Plans to visit / meet up with friends in Uganda and Tanzania/Zanzibar, go white water rafting on the Nile (yes, I said it!!), snorkeling in Zanzibar, and taking a train across Kenya - amazing!! We're also hoping to fit a mini-safari in there as well. Will be relaxing on beaches in Mombasa and Zanzibar, spending our Christmas in Mombasa and New Years in Zanzibar! We're sooo lucky... and extremely EXCITED!! =D 

Happy because...
We decided to open the gifts my parents had sent for Dec 1st early so that we would be able to open them with our friend Justine before she left (she really wanted to know what the one that smelt like a Christmas Tree was - it turned out to be a Christmas smelling candle - amaaaaazing!!). We're really happy we decided to go ahead and open the gifts early, because they were the perfect gifts to share with a friend who is going away (sad but happy face). The December 1st gifts included a Christmas (Balsam & Cedar to be exact) scented candle, a Lindt Chocolate Advent Calendar and a mini Christmas tree with decorations! LOVE THEM!! =D We decorated the Christmas tree with Justine, while burning the Christmas tree smelling candle and listening to Christmas music - Just Perfect 

Candle & Advent Calendar
Decorating our Christmas Tree!

And Sad because...
Justine has officially left us L She is off to more adventures in East Africa, and then home for the Holidays with her fam. We will miss you bunches Justine. You were our bestest friend here in Rwanda - things definitely will not be the same without you! I know that sounds cheesy, but it's really the truth. Sad to see you go, but excited for you and all the adventures ahead of you! See you soon lady 

Our last picture with Justine 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amahoro (Peace) Island

This past weekend I travelled to Amahoro (Peace) Island, just off the shores of Kibuye in Rwanda. It was our friend Justine's last weekend in Rwanda, so we wanted to spend it in style. Justine heard about Amahoro from her homestay family, so we agreed to check it out!

Kibuye is a 2 hour drive from Gitarama using the bus. Joyce and I caught the early bus (as in 7am early) on Saturday to Kibuye because of Umuganda (the whole country, including business/transport, stops between 8:00-11:00am to clean). We arrived in Kibuye by 9am and walked around trying to find the way to the "beach" and "people". Turns out there's actually no real beach in Kibuye, and the life of the town is not very lively, so we hopped on a boat and headed straight to the island.

Some pictures of Kibuye & Amahoro below (more can be found here): 

Lake Kivu - Kibuye, Rwanda
On the boat to Amahoro
Amahoro Island
Path Linking the 2 parts of Amahoro Island
Our Tents on Amahoro Island

Once on the island we ordered brochette and lounged around chatting with these very nice Chinese friends we met and a mixture of other muzungus from different countries. Joyce and I also played some beach volleyball with a girl from Poland and a Rwandan guy. I sadly injured my thumb at the end (just a bruise though, nothing serious) - goes to show how sportive I am! *blushes* lol!

EVIDENCE: Bruised Thumb #sadstory

We were finally joined by the rest of our friends (6 to be exact) later that evening. When they arrived we listed to their adventures in Gisenyi earlier that day and then set up our tents and were off to sleep!

The following day we woke up to gorgeous weather and the island monkey in our the tree behind our tent - definitely a treat to wake up to! We had met the island dog (Bobbie), cows and bird (crested crane), the day before, but had yet to spot the monkey. He was super cute and we had the pleasure of having him hang around us for most of the remainder of the day.


Cows (mean/scary cows, to be exact)

Monkey :-)

Crested Crane

We spent our day swimming in Lake Kivu and enjoying the sun. Around mid afternoon our group split up; with Justine, Joyce and I heading to see the Bats on Napolean's Hat (Island), and the others heading back to Kigali. Below is a very short video of the bats on Napolean's Island :-)

Hangin' Out in Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu

See Ya!! :-)

View photos from the weekend here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday, 23 Nov 2012

So yesterday 2 of our friends from Kigali (well 1 is actually from America and the other from South Africa lol) came to good ol' Muhanga and stayed with us here at Azizi. Justine also came over and we all headed to Splendid for dinner and then back home to watch a movie on our awesome projector that my parents and grandma sent me via our CCA Colleague (thank you again!). We watched "What to Expect When You're Expecting", which was really cute/funny. Always so nice to have friends come over and hang out here with us, it doesn't happen as much as it should!

Today was a typical day at work, nothing crazy exciting happened aside from the usual. Although, I did meet with Fresnel on Wednesday of this week and we thorough discuss my workplan for the remainder of my internship here, so now I have a much clearer idea of how to approach and get started on the work I will be carrying out over the coming few months. Feels really nice knowing how to move forward on things and to have a clear idea as to when things will be taking place and how - exciting!

It definitely looks as though I will probably have to extend my internship by another 3 months though if I have any hope of accomplishing the items on my task list. It's not that I have a long task list, but the tasks that I do have are quite large in capacity and will take a while to carry out - especially when there's 15 co-operatives involved! Here's what I've got ahead of me:

  • Market Research on Financial Tools available for co-operatives
  • Market Research on activities and options available for equal participation of men and women throughout the agriculture value chain of their co-operative
  • Help to draft questions for the Project Baseline Study and assist in the execution and analysis of the Baseline
  • Conduct value chain mapping for each of the 15 co-operatives
  • Research and suggest income diversification options for the co-operative members 
So yes, really interesting stuff ahead, but very limited time to complete it - so we'll see what ends up happening :-)

I didn't share these press releases on my blog yet, so here are the official communique's from CCA and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) on the project I am working on here in Rwanda:
So that's that! This weekend Joyce and I will be joining Justine and Leah in Kibuye, a town about 2hrs away from Muhanga located on Lake Kivu. This will be our second time visiting Lake Kivu (Gisenyi was the first), so should be really nice! We'll be camping on an island just off the shore of Kibuye called Amahoro (Peace) Island. Our bus leaves at 7am sharp tomorrow - the latest bus possible tomorrow morning because of Umuganda. So we'll be in Kibuye by 9am, giving us tons of time to enjoy the town and make it to the island. Should definitely make for a nice, relaxing weekend - will post pics upon return, of course :-) 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blog Writing: Take 2

So I've clearly been a failed blogger. Last post on October 3rd? That was almost 2 months ago!! "Sorry sorry" as they would say here in Rwanda, that's very bad of me. 

As a result of my failed blogging skills, I have decided to take a new angle at blogging: instead of writing ginormous life stories for posts every so often, I'm going to try to just write a brief synopsis at the end of each day (or at least every other day). Hopefully this way I won't be such a fail and every one (including myself) will be continuously updated on what's happening in my life here in Rwanda. 

I'll start with a brief roundup of my weekend, etc.:

Had a going away dinner for Alvin, our awesome friend from Uganda who returned home to Kampala on Sunday. Nine of us enjoyed a lovely dinner at Zen Oriental Cuisine in Nyarutarama (Kigali). Lots of wine, sushi and a variety of oriental dishes - wonderful food and gorgeous restaurant!
Friendsgiving!! On Saturday some of our lovely Kigali friends hosted a Thanksgiving dinner/potluck at their home. About 30 people attending this splendid gathering, and the food spread was outstanding. Sadly I arrived super late due to language barriers with moto's and lack of vehicle taxi's, among other set backs, so I failed to produce the sesame green beans I had promised - oopsies! Bottle of wine had to suffice. Below are a few ridic photos from that night :-)
Sunday I came down with the initial symptoms of what turned out to be a small flu virus, which is finally almost gone - so I wasn't feeling the greatest on this day to say the least. However! It was Alvin's official last day in Rwanda, so Justine, Joyce, Alvin and I all went to brunch at Bourbon Coffee for his final send off. Sunday evening I retreated to my bed Muhanga in an attempt to save my body from the lovely illness I had adopted. Tuesday I went to the clinic in Kigali where I was officially diagnosed with a minor flu virus and prescribed this wonderful medication that has nursed me back to health in lightning speed - success! :-)

Alright my loved ones, that is my update for now - I promise to be more effective at providing short, daily updates in my blog. 

À bientôt! :-) 

xox MM.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weekend in Gisenyi

This past weekend, Joyce, Justine and I headed off to the town of Gisenyi for a little weekend getaway. Gisenyi is gorgeously situated on the great Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes, which lies on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It's the perfect place for a nice beach getaway - exactly what we were looking for!

Gitarama (home) to Gisenyi (red star)

We were a bit hesitant at visiting Gisenyi when we first arrived in Rwanda, given its proximity to the DRC border and all the talk in the news about the instability at the Rwanda-DRC border; HOWEVER, there was a "big" party going on there last weekend called "Earthdance Kigali" - so we thought it would be a good reason to check it out regardless of the warning lol! Glad we did too because the border was nothing to be scared about - probably one of the quietest borders I've ever seen. We walked to the border our first night in Gisenyi with a couple of our Rwandan friends - didn't get to cross it though, since the visa fee is CAD $120 - not worth it for just a couple of hours lol.

Here's a pic of the border sign, just to prove I'm actually not lying =P haha

Congo-Rwanda Border
So anyways! This Earthdance Kigali party was being held on the beach at the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel both Friday and Saturday Night. DJ's from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya comprised the DJ line-up for both days. The set up was really nice and the music and sound system were really amazing, but sadly not too many people showed. Friday night was legit just mzungu's, and not many of us lol... So we (Justine, Joyce and I) headed to a local bar with our Rwandan friends Monik and Didier and one of the guys from the hotel staff that we had made friends with at dinner. He brought us first to this one club that was small, but very packed. We stayed there for a bit, and then headed to a bigger club in town which also had a good crowd. Was definitely a fun night of dancing!

Saturday we spent the entire morning at the Serena Hotel pool, and the entire afternoon (and part of the evening - until about 6pm or so) on the hotel beach. Definitely an amazing day! Met some cool people too (both local and mzungu - oh! and Alvin who's from Uganda, lol!). Justine and I ventured over to the "public" side of the beach, as most "adventurous" mzungu's do lmao! I say this only because, obviously its normal to go to the public side of the beach when you're visiting a country in order to hang out with locals and get a taste of the culture.... Was definitely an adventure though, to say the least lol! The beach was mostly guys (younger boys) from the Congo - we didn't last long there, maybe 5 mins and then we headed back to the Serena beach and our lovely Rwandan and Ugandan friends lol! Good adventure, but we preferred the Rwanda side better lol.

Here are some pics from the beach and pool... :)

Lake Kivu Serena Pool
Justine & I in the Poool :)

Lake Kivu Serena Hotel Beach & View of Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu
Sunset at Lake Kivu

So if that wasn't exciting enough for you, then I should also tell you that the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel is a 4-start hotel [yes, we splurged - just a liiittle ;) ] - meaning that we also enjoyed a weekend of luxury with amazing food and HOT WATER SHOWERS [with pressure! added bonus]! lol! Oh the things in life that make us so happy... But yes, the hotel is absolutely gorgeous; the food is amazing; and the staff is very very friendly and kind. Great place! I had 5 showers over the span of 2.5 days - yep, that's right! It was that exciting lol. Here's a pic of our room at the Serena:

Isn't our little Gorilla & her baby keychain just the icing on the cake? loved it! lol!

I surprisingly didn't take any food pictures this weekend, I think I was just way too excited to eat all the amazing food that I forgot to take pics of it lol! I'll describe it for you though, cause it's worth it lol! So breakfast was included with our room, which usually isn't super exciting in North American cause it usually just means a dinky complimentary breakfast that consists of cereal, muffins/toast, boiled eggs (or scrambled - usually cold - if your "lucky") and some yogourt or something lame like that.... but no. Rwandan's and Serena Hotels don't mess around with food here - this breakfast was impeccable! A full, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet was what was included - tables and tables of anything you could think of - all the pastries known to man, cheese, meat slices, tons of fruit, rice, beans, chicken wings (?? random, but awesome nonetheless lol!), porridge, a million different juices, yogourt, and a pancake/crepe/omelette making station with chef on-hand to make them fresh for you - amazing! We were lucky to have two mornings at the Serena because that breakfast was to die for lol. 

For dinner the first night I had beef brochette, which was yeummy - but the second night was a million times more exciting - MONGOLIAN BUFFET. Awee yeeeeehhh. Soooo good!! Again, all-you-can-eat buffet with everything from appetizers, main course, to dessert. We start off with French Onion Soup (always a fav), then went to the main course which was Mongolian stir fry - you pick your ingredients and the chef's fry it up for you in front of your eyes. I had beef strips, bacon (YEUM!), onions, green peppers, garlic, mushrooms, something else, and soya sauce in mine lol. And then added some rice to the plate and some other main course goodies - SOOO GOOD. The bacon honestly probably was the best part of the meal cause the taste of bacon took over the rest of the stir fry and I was ridiculously happy about that since I miss bacon soooo much lol! Then for dessert I had creme brulée and passion fruit with an African Tea - perfecto! :-)

After dinner Saturday night we went back to our room to get ready for the night. Saturday night was supposed to be the big night for the Earthdance party and people had been arriving at the Serena all day, so we were pretty excited. Sadly I guess people got discouraged cause no one stayed at the party long enough to give it a chance to populate - they all just went to a local club instead - but that's besides the point cause we didn't even really care lol. But yes, so we got ready and then Joyce, Justine and I started playing drinking games (mainly "never have I ever" and "Kings") with our famous "White Mischief" vodka that Justine had purchased in Kigali before we left lol! (name is soo perfect for the occasion haha). See pic below for White Mischief lol!

We were joined shortly after by Alvin and Patrick (2 guys we hung out with at the beach during the day) who so innocently agreed to partake in our ridiculous drinking game fiasco (they had noo idea what they were getting themselves into, especially Patrick lol!). It was good times for sure.

Since the party was a bit of a flop we just spent the rest of the night having some drinks by the beach and pool and hangin' out - it was a nice, relaxing night.

Sunday we checked out of the Serena and headed off to the taxi park to catch our bus back home. Oh, I completely failed to mention our bus ride TO Gisenyi, ha! Well we decided it would be totally convenient to just grab one of the buses from Muhanga (district that we live in) that goes "directly" to Gisenyi, instead of taking a bus to Kigali and then one from there to Gisenyi (which is what most people do - but we didn't understand why... now we do). So anyways, this bus ended up being one of the regular buses that picks up and drops ppl off everywhere and anywhere along the route... it also happened to be one of those buses that cram a million in at once, along with live chickens among other random things lol. Definitely not a fun way to travel. Three people were puking out the windows the entire drive (which took something like 5hrs, when it's really meant to take 3.5 or something), we were crammed in the back seat all tightly together with chickens pecking at our feet (a man put his live chickens in the trunk under our seat lol) - and then every time we stopped and they opened the trunk, my bag would fall out, which wouldn't have really been a big deal - except for that one of our bottles of White Mischief was in my bag - so it became a sketchy situation real quickly lol! But anyways, we made it. It was funny to look back on after we arrived, but definitely assured us that we would be taking the "via Kigali" route on the way back to travel in a normal bus lol.

We met Alvin at the taxi park and he took the bus back to Kigali with us, which was fun. This bus was waaaaay more enjoyable - very spacious, no squishing 7 people into a seat intended for 4 lol. No puking people, no chickens pecking at your feet.. no stopping every 5 seconds, and my bag was safe up front in the baggage area behind the drive - happy mzungu's! :-) lol! Very nice way to come home from a lovely weekend in Gisenyi.

Kigali is this weekend - we're looking forward to that as well =D