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Westminster Column - 18 August 2010

I am writing this column having just returned from 6 days voluntary work in Rwanda and Sierra Leone where I joined 75 Conservative MPs, Parliamentary Candidates, Councillors, young Conservatives and Party staff on Project Umubano.

Project Umubano (meaning friendship and co-operation in Kinyarwandan) is the Conservative Party’s social action project which for four consecutive years has seen over 300 Conservative volunteers give up both time and money to work alongside Rwandans over an intensive two weeks.

As in previous years Project Umubano 2010 focused its work across the four key areas of health, education, justice, and the private sector. This year the Project was also expanded and with the help of the English and Rwandan Football Associations we started a coaching course which saw qualified volunteers working with football coaches and players from across Rwanda.

Elsewhere the five doctors who made up this year’s health contingent made fantastic progress towards establishing a family planning clinic in Rwanda’s rural south; a vital step to try to decrease the high rate of maternal mortality in Rwanda and enabling woman to control their own future.

Although this was my fourth year teaching in Rwanda the first day was still one of nervous excitement as I lined up alongside 25 other volunteers to meet my class. The group’s task this year was to deliver an intensive two week English language course to 1,300 Rwandan examination markers. A small but important part of Rwanda’s switch from French to English as the language of instruction in all its schools.

This year I was also lucky enough to briefly visit Sierra Leone, another country with a tragic recent history where Umubano volunteers are working in and around the capital Freetown across the areas of health, justice and women’s rights.

Despite the distances involved I was able to remain in touch with all that was happening in Sutton Coldfield thanks to the miracles of modern technology and Rwanda’s continued progress with its ICT infrastructure.

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Project Umubano

Rwanda Social Action Project

Click on image to download the Kigali Declaration and the 10 Year Report.