Road Trip Rwanda by Canadian humour writer Will Ferguson was a book I was excited to get my hands on, and it didn’t disappoint. It might sound a bit odd that someone known for humour writing may try to tackle a book about a place best known for genocide, but I think it’s actually ideal to have things that are painful served up with a soothing side of something light and frothy. Of course, for topics as important as this, you have to do it right, yet even with a bit of a preoccupation with banana beer, he manages to talk about both the hardships and the lighter stuff in just the right balance.
In this book Will travels to Rwanda with a friend from Calgary, Jean Claude Munyezamu. Jean Claude is an avid soccer fan and founder of the Canadian non-profit Soccer without Boundaries which works towards providing immigrant children in Canada an opportunity to adjust to their new homes, grow relationships and work on team building through soccer. Originally from Rwanda (he was fortunate to have left the country just before the genocide), he travels with Will around the country, including places he used to live, on a tour looking for mountain gorillas, refugee camps and other points of interest in this beautiful and quickly changing country.
Although it is sprinkled with some very sad moments, this book is also very much alive with hope for the future, and mentions the many ways that things in this country have been turning around for the better. There are still some major criticisms of the Rwanda government by outside agencies, particularly along the lines of freedom of the press and public debates, but in many other ways their advancement has been remarkable. It made me want to do some digging online to check out some of the facts he talks about and there was some really great stuff out there!
Some highlights are:
- Rwanda is one of only two countries with a female majority in the national parliament according to the Inter-parliamentary Union. Currently it leads the world with a 68% female majority in national parliament. (For comparison, Canada comes in at #62 and the US at #96)
- According to an article in The Atlantic (Feb 2013) “Deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have each dropped by roughly 80 percent over the last decade and the maternal mortality ratio dropped by 60 percent over the same period. Even as the population has increased by 35 percent since 2000, the number of annual child deaths has fallen by 63 percent. In turn, these advances bolstered Rwanda’s economic growth: GDP per person tripled to $580, and millions lifted themselves from poverty over the last decade.” Current estimates show the GDP to have increased to $769 in 2015 according to the International Monetary Fund website.
- Their government website reports that “Rwanda’s health system is financed both by state funds and by individuals’ contributions through health insurance and direct fees for services…The largest is the Community-Based Health Insurance Scheme which is primarily comprised of a social health insurance program called Mutuelles de Sante…Membership is voluntary and payment of premiums is based on economic status. The program was first introduced in 2004. By 2010, 91% of the Rwanda population was insured through Mutuelles de Sante.”
- They are also taking major strides to make sure that the country has access to internet, a key item in today’s trade and education advancements- The Guardian article (June 11, 2013) “Rwanda strikes 4G internet deal with South Korean telecoms firm – Government says agreement with KT Corp will lead to high-speed broadband for 95% of citizens within three years” Current estimates show they are sitting around 25% as of 2015. Another Guardian article (Aug 2 2016) – No power or running water – but digital books galore.
So, if you like travel memoirs, human interest stories, humor and tales about the people, history and wildlife in this lovely African country, then this book might just be for you! If you would like to hear Will and Jean Claude talk a bit about the book here’s a clip:
And for this weeks challenge update:
- Blog post 7/52 – check
- Writing in the screenplay – check – word count up 1106
- Drawing – check x2!
- Feet writing & drawing – check.
Until next week…