Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Umuganda: Vermonter-Style

Three weeks ago, the little state of Vermont faced one of the largest natural disasters in its history: tropical storm Irene. My town of Waterbury was one of the hardest hit; homes, businesses, and roads faced severe flooding. Despite this, the outpour of kindness and generosity from the community has been amazing. Waterbury residents and others all around Vermonter have been working tirelessly to help those affected by loaning tools, cooking meals, and helping to clean up the mess.

Dac Rowe field completely flooded

Randall Street, Waterbury

Last week, Gyslaine, a Rwandan native who works with the Harwood program, arrived in Vermont for the first time. As we chatted about the disaster the Waterbury community faced, Gyslaine noted that the clean up efforts were one large umuganda. The word “umuganda” is the Rwandan word for contribution. It is used to describe a day reserved each month for the local community to come together and work on a particular project. When I was in Rwanda, we participated in umuganda and helped to build a road. Our group worked with the locals to cut down trees, dig up stumps, and create a clear path.

I retrospect, as I worked alongside my neighbors pumping water out of basements and throwing furniture in dumpsters a few weeks ago, I was a part of one large umuganda again. The only difference was this was my community thousands of miles away, which only solidified that the power of kindness is a universal. Cleveland Amory put it best when he said, “What this world needs is a new kind of army - the army of the kind.” I’m ready to enlist and deploy in that army. 

1 comment:

Annabelle said...

Waterbury is awesome, and I miss it :)