Driving through Kigali, the cleanliness and the lack of trash has to be seen to be believed. There is not a speck of refuse, not a piece of paper, not a thrown away plastic bottle. While the local government pays some residents to tidy streets, on the last Saturday of every month each family must help clean up their community. This is known as Umuganda, which translates as “coming together in common purpose.” Umuganda is part of a wider healing process going on across Rwanda. The government has also restored the tradition of Girinka, a welfare scheme in which vulnerable families are given their own cow. Meaning “may you have a cow,” Girinka has played a huge role in bringing society back together. It’s not just traditions that are being used to help create a new Kigali. Mathias Kalisa is a young entrepreneur utilizing one of Rwanda’s greatest exports, coffee, to show just how this city has changed and developed over the past 25 years. This same energy can be found in Joselyne Umutoniwase, a designer and the creative force behind Rwanda Clothing. Like Kalisa, she is on a mission to show a new and different side to Kigali. Tourism, outside of the Covid pandemic, has become a key factor in Rwanda’s regeneration and rehabilitation. And nothing entices outsiders here like the chance to catch a glimpse of the mountain gorillas that hide deep within the rainforests of the Virunga Mountains, which stretch across the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The efforts of local conservationists to protect and preserve that fragile, endangered species has seen their population slowly start to rise.
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