Thursday, 15 July 2010

Record of Samvura Antoine's visit to Britain

24 May - 12 June 2010
Samvura Antoine is Inspector of Friends Schools in Rwanda (about a dozen) and clerk of Rwanda Yearly Meeting sessions and Executive Committee. He managed to get a UK visa and spent 3 weeks staying with Elizabeth in London.

Tues 25 May
Preliminary visit to Friends House.
Bus ride to Waterloo Bridge; walk along South Bank and across Westminster Bridge.

Weds 26 May
Friends School Saffron Walden (FSSW); head Graham Wigley (GW)
This is an all age school, from 5-18 - primary and secondary. School founded in 1702. Moved to Saffron Walden c.1870.

30 physics and 30 chemistry books promised. Means of transport not yet decided, or covering the cost.

Student visit to FSSW agreed - probably into year 9/ Sec 3. Ishimwe Sandrine (Antoine's elder daughter) to be first student from Jan - July 2012. Then see about the future. Elizabeth Cave would be her guardian. The school would pay her tuition and board, and could provide second-hand uniform. Her travel costs will have to be found but local Quaker meetings might be glad to help.

We discussed ongoing contact through letters, Skype etc. Teacher exchanges were also mentioned and GW thought welcoming a teacher from Rwanda to FSSW might be possible but accommodation might be a problem.

Antoine invited the head or other teachers to visit Rwanda. GW's reply was that FSSW would get intangible benefits and would not necessarily need to send individuals to Rwanda in exchange.

EC mentioned the DIFD Global Schools Partnership - Department for International Development is a branch of UK government, but the programme may be cut under the new financial economies.

Thurs 27 May
Sibford School; head: Michael Goodwin
This is an all-age school, founded in 1842.

They hope to take one Rwandan student for 6 months each year, providing free accommodation, food and education.

They hope to invite Rwandan teachers to join the school for short study visits. And they hope to visit you.

They will try to provide books and, perhaps, computers.

MG will discuss these ideas with other heads of Q schools and encourage them.

Friday 28 - Monday 31 May
Britain Yearly Meeting
All sessions attended. Programme can be seen in 'Documents in Advance' (and on BYM website: Many important subjects were considered, including progress after last year's decision of principle on same sex marriage and whether to include journalists in YM sessions. The matter of journalists had been under consideration for at least 30 year and the meeting struggled to arrive at a change of policy, through two sessions of consideration.

It was good to see how the members of the meeting arrived at decisions, and how the minutes were drafted by the clerk and agreed in the meeting after further contributions from the floor. The participation of children and their presence in some sessions was striking. Also the quiet behaviour of Friends and the respect given to the clerks.

In the breaks between sessions Friends could buy main meals or snacks as they chose, rather than everybody being given the same food. Accommodation for distant Friends is provided in the homes of London Friends. A payment of £15 per night is suggested. Some Friends prefer to stay centrally in a hotel and the clerks are give hotel accommodation to enable them to do their work well.

On Sunday Growing together in Rwanda (GTiR) hosted a lunchtime meeting for 20 people, where Antoine talked about l'Eglise Evangelique des Amis au Rwanda (EEAR) including the schools, Friends Peace House and Elizabeth's work, with projected illustrations. On Sunday evening GTiR had a display at the Groups Fair and a 5-minute verbal presentation in the courtyard.

Tues 1 June
Evening talk to Muswell Hill Friends
About 12 people heard Antoine talk about the EEAR in general and the activity of FPH and Growing Together. We showed pictures of the aspects of the church's work. Elizabeth did some translating.

Weds 2 - Friday 4 June
Visit to Yorkshire, as guest of Arthur Pritchard (clerk of High Flatts Local Quaker Meeting, member of YM Agenda Committee and Quaker World Relations Committee)

Visit to Ackworth School to meet Andrew Ward, co-clerk of Ackworth Meeting and a teacher at the school. The head was away because the school has a week's holiday. AW hoped discussion would lead to benefit for UK and Rwandan students, and would raise the subject of exchange visits with the head. The provision of text books was discussed.

Brief visits to The Mount, Quaker Girls' School, in York, and Bootham School.

Evening talk about EEAR at High Flatts Meeting to 15 Fds from Central Yorkshire and Brighouse West Yorkshire Area Meetings.

Visit to the Quaker Tapestry at Kendal.

Sunday 6 June
Worship at Ealing Meeting
The meeting was beginning the process of discerning its future involvement in GTiR. Antoine described the work of EEAR and spoke about the possibility of EEAR and BYM growing together.

In the evening a meal with the Sender family - Wendy, Peter and Sam.

Monday 7 June
Appointments at Friends House:
Interviewed by Jez Smith for 'The Friend', the British Quaker weekly magazine (founded in 1843).
Discussion with Gillian Ashmore, Recording Clerk. Invited her to Rwanda and especially to Rwanda Yearly Meeting.
Met Laura Shipler Chico, formerly a volunteer in Rwanda for 3 years at FPH, now East Africa Peace Secretary for BYM. Joined for lunch by Jaci Smith (Peace Education Programme Manager) and Lucy, an assistant in Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW). After lunch a meeting with Steve Whiting (Turning the Tide Programme Manager) who will be taking the training in active non-violence for social change to Western Kenya later in the year.

Tuesday 8 June
Visit to Mayfield Primary School, a state school attended by the children of one of the members of Ealing Meeting. Shown the school by Belinda Ewart, head teacher. Visited many classes. Admired the teaching style and the number of adults present in various capacities.

Lunch in the house of Sue and John Flemons, with Martin Raven (all members of Ealing Meeting). Joined by Tewedaj Mekonnen, an Ethiopian woman who attends Ealing Meeting.

Wednesday 7 June
Sightseeing in London: the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Thames path, Tate Modern, across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's Cathedral, bus to Trafalgar Square.

Thursday 10 June
1. Visit to Sidcot School, Winscombe, Somerset
School founded in 1699. Present buildings date from early nineteenth century, with the arts centre completed only last year. The school owns 80 hectares of farm land and hopes to cooperate with Yeo Valley Farms on organic cultivation.
Head: John Walmsley
JW chairs the meeting of UK Friends school heads, which will take place 11-13 June. We understand that Kathryn Bell, head of Ackworth is also interested in arranging visits from Rwandan students and the sending of text books.
JW thought that encouraging gap year students (18-19 yrs old taking a year between school and university) to go to Rwanda as English language assistants or in other roles would be a possibility. He himself would like to visit Rwanda.
On the tour of the school a particularly impressive aspect was seeing children from year 6 coaching children from years 1&2, which they do once every week.

2. Evening event at Taunton Friends Meeting, West Somerset Area Meeting, organised by Zoë Ainsworth Grigg.
The meeting house dates from the 16th century, and has a burial ground as well as a meeting house building. The evening began with shared food, prepared by Zoë and others.

Elspeth Waldie, a member of the Society of Friends, from Purple Field Productions, spoke about her work making films on subjects such as HIV/AIDS, AIDS testing, and domestic violence, for showing to audiences in the countries concerned, who may well be illiterate. Then we watched her film about Centre Marembo in Kicukiro, made in 2006 to show UK audiences a positive view of Rwanda. She gave Antoine copies of 3 of her films, and suggested a return visit to Rwanda.

Antoine talked about EEAR and its programmes, using the photos prepared for earlier talks. Then Elizabeth showed pictures of her perceptions of Rwanda and her work in micro-agriculture. The group showed genuine interest and asked stimulating questions. They suggested making sack gardens with the children in their meetings.

Friday 11 June
Shared evening meal with members of Elizabeth's Growing Together in Rwanda support group, and informal evaluation.