When I first went to Rwanda in October of 2014, I really didn’t know what to expect. To say that my preconceptions of the country and the people were completely wrong would be an understatement. What I found were friendly people, a clean and safe country, and young people more than eager to learn. It’s the learning part that has stuck with me each time I have gone back, and each time I leave, I can’t help but wonder if we’re really making a difference there.
Back in May of 2017 during our most recent trip, I met Rulindana Lambert. Lambert, as he asked me to refer to him as, told me a story one night while we were at the FabLab waiting for the user group meeting to begin. He said, “Mr. Puckett, you probably don’t remember me, but I met you when you came to my school in 2014.” I certainly didn’t remember him, but he continued on. “When you came to Rwanda in 2014, I was losing hope that I would be able to realize my dream of being able to work with electronics, and that maybe my future was better off dropping out of school and working on my family’s farm.
“You showed us the military goggles they designed in SOLIDWORKS, and how SOLIDWORKS was able to solve a major manufacturing issue. And while that day we only learned the basic knowledge of SOLIDWORKS, like sketching, extrude boss/base, extrude cut, mirror and other features, it was one day of training that forever changed my mind, and I started to have hope that if I can think of something, it means I can make it!”
From that moment, Lambert discarded the idea of leaving school, and decided to start learning as much as he could about what he could do for himself and for his community. “Now, everything was possible,” he said. “The only challenge remaining was how I can turn my CAD model into a real product.
I started spending all of my free time learning SOLIDWORKS and electronic device design, and because of my hard work, I graduated third in all of Rwanda for students studying electronics.”
After his graduation he joined FabLab Rwanda that was established in 2016 by a partnership with the Rwandan Government, local institutions, and SOLIDWORKS. “Today I am proud to be working at FabLab helping others learn, and helping our country grow. Thanks to SOLIDWORKS, they gave me hope for my future and helped me to keep moving forward, when I wasn’t so sure.”
For me, this one simple conversation with Lambert, confirmed for me in my mind that everything we are doing in Rwanda is worth it. The travel, the expenses, the long days traveling around the country. We were able to help one person, and that makes it all worth it. I can only imagine the other lives we have changed that we may never get to hear about it.
See you in Rwanda in 2018!