September 29, 2015
By Simon Chambers
When Canon Tony Bouwmeester of St. John’s, Port Rowan first visited Rwanda in 2006, he visited the community of Vunga with Bishop Jered Kalimba of the Rwandan Diocese of Shyogwe. Bishop Kalimba showed Bouwmeester, and the group he was with, an empty field by the river delta. “The government has given us this land,” the bishop said. “We want to build a school here.”
When reporting about the tour of Rwanda, Bouwmeester mentioned Bishop Kalimba’s vision in passing when he was back in Port Rowan, Ontario. A visitor to the congregation responded by writing a cheque for $25,000. “I looked at the cheque and realized that this was what God wanted us to do. It looked right, and we sunk our teeth into it,” said Bouwmeester in an interview. “Everyone got enthusiastic and away we went.” They raised $82,000 by Christmas, and a 6-room vocational school was built.
The Rwanda Education and Discovery Committee (READ) has continued to support the school since it opened in 2007, but this year approached PWRDF to work together on an expansion for the Vunga Vocational Training School. Bouwmeester approached PWRDF through its Connections program to come alongside READ in receiving the funds raised by READ for the new dormitory at the school, and to monitor the project (which is implemented by the Anglican Diocese of Shyogwe) as it progresses.
Up until now the Vunga school has only been able to provide dorms for five men and five women, which has limited its ability to accept students from outside the local district. The new dorm now being built will sleep 124 students (62 men and 62 women) to allow even more people to learn carpentry, hair dressing, masonry and other trades that allow the students to improve the financial situation of their families.
95% of the graduates from the school have found jobs after graduation. One former student became a supervisor at a reconstruction project at the Kigali airport. Another graduate went on to attend a higher technical school, and she is now studying civil engineering at university.
The students give back to the community, engaging in projects in the Vunga village as part of their learning, but also to help needy people in the area. For example, the students rebuilt the house of a local widow who couldn’t do the work herself. The students gained practical experience for their courses, but were also able to help someone in need.
PWRDF is pleased to be working with READ and the Parish of Long Point Bay, of which St. John’s is one point and with the Diocese of Shyogwe in Rwanda. “The goal of the Connections program is to enable Canadian Anglicans and PWRDF partners to experience more, different, and closer connections to their mutual ministry and work. Connections can bring people together in new ways, eliciting new gifts and resources for all concerned. PWRDF’s partnership with READ and the Vunga Vocational Training School is a wonderful example of this ,” said Carolyn Vanderlip, Director of PWRDF’s Canadian Anglican Partnership Program.