A Day in the Life of 2 Rwandan Children: October 1st, 2007

At 5:30 in the morning, myself and an interpreter were dropped off by motorcycle taxi to a family’s house. Their children are sponsored by the Portland, Oregon, based Itafari Foundation.  Unreachable by car,  transportation within the village is on foot or by an old gearless bikes for the lucky few.  I spent my time there following and photographing,“the day in the life” of two children, brother and sister.

Sunrise – an hour after I arrived to Claudette’s house.

Sunrise. 10-01-07

It was dawn when we arrived at Claudette’s house. Her 16 year old brother, Justin, and two children, John Claude (8), and Naomie (10), were already awake. The children were finishing the first of their morning routines, taking the chickens out of the house and putting them in mud walled pen outside. At night the chickens sleep inside to avoid theft.

This chicken wanted to come back in.

Chicken at door. 10-01-07

The family I was with are among the most impoverished in Rwanda. Where they live has no running water, and no electricity. Their house was made of mud and bricks with a fabricated sheet of metal for a roof.  The floors were the hard red dirt common to this part of Africa.

John Claude boils water for breakfast in the kicthen, a cooking area on the side of the house.Boy boils water. 10-01-07

Justin bathes while the children continue with their morning chores.Bathing in the morning. 10-01-07

On this day I witnessed something unexpected. It didn’t come in a box, it wasn’t in a museum, it was no great feat of science, engineering, or technology. In the course of an average day I saw an astonishing abundance of laughter, joy, community, and neighbors and strangers coming together.

John Claude and Naomie have breakfast.

Breakfast time. 10-01-07

Claudette waits in front of the house to see the children off to school. The house is divided into two apartments, and the four of them live in half of it.  The chicken pen is in the lower right.Mom in front of house. 10-01-07

Leaving the house for school.

Boy going out door of house. 10-01-07

On the way to school with some friends.

Walking to school with friends. 10-01-07

After breakfast and chores we walked to school. The kids are fortunate because the school is under a mile from their house. Today their mother will walk with us and introduce me to the principal so I can ask permission to photograph at the school.

In much of Rwanda, no one has ever seen a fair skinned person before.  When we arrived at the school many children crowded around me, and continued to throughout the day.

School kids approaching the photographer. 10-01-07

Their shoes, imported from China, are foam rubber and the least expensive available. I couldn’t get over how much they resemble the latest fad for school children in the United States. With a few minor modifications, they’re no different from the crocs shoes that sell for thirty dollars and up in the U.S.

My view when the children crowded around me at school. 10-01-07

The school day began with the students lining up outside by the flag to sing the national anthem and recite a short prayer. Then, class by class, they filed off to the rooms to begin their studies.

Flag ceremony at the beginning of the school day. 10-01-07

The start of school began with cleaning; the chalk boards, the classrooms, the walkways outside.

Cleaning school. 10-01-07

John Claude struggles to work a math problem and his teacher helps him out. John Claude in class with teacher. 10-01-07

At 9:30 a.m. it’s already feeling like a long day. John Claude in class - composite. 10-01-07

Next I went on to Naomie’s class. Nadi’s class room and teacher. 10-01-07

Naomie stands to answer a question after being called on.

Naomie standing in class. 10-01-07

Some other students in the class room.

Child in class room 01. 10-01-07

Child in class room 02. 10-01-07

At 12:15 school lets out for an hour and a half to give the kids time to go home for lunch. In some schools, where resources are more plentiful, children will stay in school for lunch. One of the endearing qualities about Rwandan culture is the closeness and affection shared among friends, young and old. This next photograph is a scene I’ve observed many times since coming here, in the city and the country side. You would only see this between friends. Couples do not show their affections in public at all.

Friends arm in arm. 10-01-07

After school the kids had two things to they needed to accomplish: get water and collect fire wood. In many areas of Rwanda, running water is not available. Some people spend as much as three hours a day walking for water. Water is survival, and in Rwanda it’s carried mostly in 20 liter yellow jerry cans.

Not an uncommon sight, this man has just finished filling 5 water cans and is on his way home. 20 liters of water weighs 44 pounds (Add the container and it’s 50 pounds a can).

Man on bike with 5 jerry cans of water. 10-01-07

The next time you think you have it bad, imagine caring 50 pounds of water on your head, or carrying 100 pounds (50 on each arm)? Now imagine doing that with a malnourished body on an empty stomach.

John Claude and Naomie are fortunate, their water source is less than a half mile from home. Going with empty cans isn’t bad. For kids there are smaller 5 liter containers.

Going to get water. 10-01-07

The government has piped water into many areas. Their immediate goal is to have water access within a 2 kilometer walk for everyone.

Filling water cans. 10-01-07

For a child, 20 pounds of water makes the walk home a much bigger choir.  After I took this photo, I also took a can from each of them.

Going home with water. 10-01-07

After returning home with the water, we headed out to collect fire wood. The walk was much further this time, almost an hour, to a spot where Claudette rents a small plot of land to cultivate food. Here the children collected fallen wood from the side of the road. Due to deforestation, cutting down trees is strictly regulated in Rwanda.  I tried to help collect wood, but the branches they were gathering had small thorns on them and were piercing my skin.

Naomie gathering wood.

Naomie gathering wood. 10-01-07

Walking back Naomie was able to easily balance her load. John Claude had to hang on.

Walking home with a full load of wood. 10-01-07

John Claude walking home with a full load of wood. 10-01-07

The last thing the family did before I left was feed the chickens. Each bird was taken from the pen, and one by one Claudette tied a crudely fashioned rope to their legs.

John Claude holding two chickens awaiting to be tethered.

John Claude and chickens. 10-01-07

Then the chickens were placed on the ground and given corn.

Feeding the chickens. 10-01-07

Naomie holding a rooster to be put back in the pen after feeding.

Naomie holding the rooster. 10-01-07

The last photos I took before leaving for the day were of two of Claudette’s friends. This woman lives with her family in the other half of the house.

Woman and child. 10-01-07

This woman looked wiser than most people I know.

Woman - serious. 10-01-07

And she had a great smile.

Woman smiling. 10-01-07

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child in Rwanda, or want to help in another way,I encourage you to contact the Itafari Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization ( http://itafari.org ),and help support their extraordinary work.

Copyright 2007 Adam Bacher. All rights reserved. Absolutely no use without prior authorization.

Adam Bacher
Adam Bacher
When your vision becomes a reality, how will you tell your story? I’m a commercial photographer and photojournalist based in Portland, Oregon, since 1991. I specialize in commercial location photography for businesses. The majority of this work is for architectural, corporate, editorial, and public relations clients, and appears in a variety of print and electronic media. You can view samples online at: www.adambacher.com. Since 2007 I’ve been taking a month each year to devote my time towards humanitarian missions. Three trips have taken me to Rwanda, for a project documenting the countries recovery from the genocide in 1994, which claimed the lives of one-million people in the course of 100 days. Images and stories from the places I visited are featured on my blog site at: www.bachersblog.com. This November, I’m going to Haiti for 4 weeks, to help two non-profits working tirelessly to save and rebuild lives following the earthquake in 2010. As well as donating my still and video images, I plan to create a traveling print exhibit, and a multi-media educational presentation to build awareness and remind us of Haiti's needs. If you’re interested in project please see this link: http://igg.me/p/44329?a=249927&i=shlk My commercial work makes this humanitarian effort possible. I exhibit and speak nationally, offering a provocative visual and journalistic insight into contemporary Rwanda and the recovery, reconciliation, and reconstruction of the of the country. This message of hope, peace, and diversity, has been enthusiastically received at peace conferences, corporate gatherings, and in public schools. Specialties All aspects of location photography including: Architectural, Corporate, Editorial, People, Public Relations, Travel and Photojournalism. .
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Showing 10 comments
  • ^_^

    wow thanks this will really help 4 my project

  • Rose

    This recount of your trip to Rwanda is so moving that i have told all my friends about it!!

  • law lemon wisconsin

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about day in the life.

  • Kim

    Thanks for sharing this. I wanted to show my son a day in the life of a Rwandan child and this was perfect.

  • Cindy Beams

    Hello Adam,
    When I met you at the Clinton Global Initiative I thought you were pretty special. And having now looked closely at your blog, I know that my first impression was spot on! I have spent a lot of time in similar circumstances in Rwanda, and you have captured the physical and emotional landscape with soulful clarity. Congratulations and I look forward to following your superb work.

  • Jo

    this is so helpful and resourceful. thank you for sharing all of this information. the pictures and the story is beautiful.

  • Barbara Bean

    Adam, thank you for sharing. I wouldn’t have found your site on my own and so appreciate the human side of a people you were able to capture. Safe journies! Barbara

  • Karen Freelander

    Hi Adam,
    I can’t even tell you how much I am enjoying this. I can’t be there but I love seeing Rwanda through your eyes. Keep up the fabulous work.

  • Becky Engel

    Adam, terrific photos and inspiring stories. We are touched by the respect and humanity you’re bringing to this assignment. Safe and rich travels to you.

    Becky Engel

  • Amy

    I am so moved by the triumph of human spirit. So often we focus on what we wish we had and forget to appreciate the blessings we’ve been given.
    I am humbled following you through this journey Adam. Blessings to you and those who lives you are touching!
    During the holiday season there are so many gifts that we feel compelled to purchase to show our love and appreciation. I will be showing that I care by purchasing goats. Thank you for sharing all of this info.
    Safe journey~

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