November 25

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Lights, Camera, Action!

LIGHTS: So after 5 months, I’m happy to be able to report some real positive changes now evident where I’m working. The big one is that we now have good lighting throughout the dispatch warehouse (and even my office area) meaning people can now actually see what they are picking! Interestingly though we initially had complaints about the new lights being too bright – it appears everyone had got used to the dark! Considering how bright it is normally outside, this did surprise me, but they are now adapting well to this and the safety is also considerably improved. Other visible improvements include the fixed windows, fixed warehouse door and gaps being filled to stop the rain entering the warehouse during storms. We are also making a big effort to “clean our house” as it is being phrased, with regular gemba walks being initiated with the management to ensure we can get to a 5S state ready for the next inventory check just after I leave. This has allowed us to remove expired and damaged stock and ensure it is in appropriate storage locations.

CAMERA: On a personal front, I was lucky enough the last weekend to visit my neighbours in Burundi – just a short 20 minute flight away. A fellow PULSE volunteer, Clement, acted as an amazing host whilst I was there, and I managed to join him and some of the other UNICEF staff on a boat trip down a river near the DRC border to see if we could spot some hippos. Given I had heard that they are normally in the water until late in the day and can be hard to spot, we were very lucky to find not just 1 group but 3 – including a few hippos out of the water! Needless to say we were all very happy with this. The wind however had become quite strong, meaning that we weren’t able to continue all the way to the end of the river and into Lake Tanganika (we did nearly end up in the river ourselves a few times) – having to settle for landing just short and having a walk near the lake. This did however also allow us to spot some wild flamingos as well (though not as pink as ones you may be more familiar with from other areas). We also managed to see some other interesting birds who build their nests in a ball shape attached to branches just above the water and provided amusement to the locals as we were all wearing life jackets! I should also mention the crested cranes that appeared to live in the hotel grounds (probably as they seem to like eating leftovers off people’s plates) – one of whom surprised me in the evening by boldly walking right through the outside bar area whilst people were still there! A few photos are included below.

Crested Crane Bujumbura Hippos in Water Group by Lake Flamingos Hippos on Land

One of the other interesting points of my trip was to see the differences between Burundi and Rwanda – 2 countries that were once joined as a single country, with a similar history and see how different they now are. It really opened my eyes as to how much further Rwanda has come in relation to its neighbours, and what could be possible elsewhere. It also reinforced how lucky I am in Rwanda with items like good phone signals that I had taken for granted. In Burundi they do not even have any traffic lights as the one set they had were not working so often that they gave up using them! Organisations like UNICEF and the PULSE support provided are really trying to help in these areas, and seeing the commitment from the team is great – I just hope they get the support they need to drive through real change and help the community to develop.

ACTION: So as my time here in Rwanda rapidly approaches an end (where has the time gone), rather than getting melancholy, I am focusing on what I can still achieve in my remaining time, and focusing on the future. As such, I am working with the production site to see where I can help them identify, prioritise and implement improvements to their ways of working as they look to expand their operations. I’m hopeful this will lead to the development of further manufacturing capability within Rwanda and hopefully encourage further investment and development in the country as it continues to develop. All this whilst still maintaining initiatives in the warehouse operations and trying to fit in a few more trips at weekends in Rwanda before I finish! To top it all I’m hoping to join the regional GSK team on their Orange day later this week (makes up for me missing my team Orange day back home) and to say farewell to the country manager Eva who will also be leaving Rwanda shortly.

So ciao for now as my colleagues in Verona would say and here’s to tomorrow’s opportunities!