Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

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If you are an Irish citizen the above catchphrase has a special meaning. It’s attributed to our legendary footballer Roy Keane in the run in to his sensational departure from the Irish camp in Saipan 2002. This split a nation. No, it really did. Did he walk or was he fired? Debates raged across the land and not a household remained immune from the controversy.

Well its’ an incredible thirteen years on from that historic episode, and I’m putting the last minute touches to my preparations for my volunteering trip to Rwanda. The departure date of July 24th is looming, and as you possibly have read in this blog before, my mission is being underwritten by my employer IBM as part of their Corporate Service Corps commitment. Hence the hashtag #ibmcsc Rwanda . I do have to say I buy into the ethos of ‘preparation’ so what have I been doing?

The specific project I will be working on relates mainly to female empowerment in Rwanda, with the underlying theme that technology may play some part in this initiative. Obviously I am very under-informed at this point about the local culture, gender politics, poverty, opportunity, infrastructure and sociological trends. But I and my fellow project team members hope that we’ll collectively build a rapid learning curve and also rely on building trust with our local partners the Imbuto foundation to get them to educate us quickly.

Beyond that? Well it’s funny how you start to notice things in the press and coincidences happen. A bit like when you decide you want to buy a particular car you see them all the time. Recently in the news was the arrest of Karenzi Karake in the UK (June) associated with events in 1994 during Rwanda’s darkest genocide days. Then totally by chance I happened to tune my radio into a long interview with Paul Rusesabagina, who was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali during the 1994 troubles, and was immortalised in the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’. An interesting interview.

Then I managed to get my hands on what is seen as the definitive book on the Rwandan genocide – ‘Shake hands with the Devil’ by Canadian General Romeo Dallaire. This is a VERY long book and some of the military-speak is almost impenetrable but it does paint a very credible picture of what happened in 1994. He has his own perspectives and they do seem to be based on his first hand experiences. I had also previously read some great books about the Congo/DRC (not too far away), notably Blood River by Tim Butcher and the long but moving novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Plus I have always had an interest in wildlife so I think I know what to expect in terms of different climactic zones in Rwanda.

Obviously there is a limit to what you can absorb in a limited space of time but I think having an open and inquiring mind will help to get a sense of ‘what Rwanda is about now’ and enable the exercise to be as rewarding as possible. I also started following President Paul Kagame and a few of the official government feeds on Twitter so that should prove educational too.

On the home front I’m trying to get as many things organised as I can, so that my absence is acceptable/understandable/regretted/un-noticed (delete where applicable). I do think this trip might inform me about many things I need to know more about and I plan to take full advantage of that. Robert Louis Stephenson (no less) said ‘It is better to travel hopefully that to arrive’. While I have to say I do plan to arrive on this occasion, I think it’s a good motto to have in my back pocket. Eight sleeps now to Kigali on July 24th

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