While in Rwanda, we went on a fantastic safari at the Akagera National Park, where we saw hippos, impalas, giraffes, elephants, zebra, baboons, topi, several bird species, water buffalo, and eland. Our tour guide, Jeremiah was terrific and gave us a spectacular day, as we drove through the park in a Toyota Landcruiser, which had a pop-out roof so we could standup inside the vehicle and have an unobstructed view of the park.
He told us some of the older elephants still have a distrust for people – it is true that elephants never forget, and the older elephants remember the genocide and their distrust of people has been passed to some of their young. He said initially there were only a few elephants in the park, but over the years, the herd has increased to over 100 elephants, which is heartening.
We also went bowling one afternoon, and the bowling alley didn’t have an automated pinsetter, but rather a box to align the pins, and a person who made sure the pins were set correctly. As I was doing the saunter along the lane to throw my ball, every once in a while, a hand would adjust one of the pins, and I’d halt to a stop and return back to the beginning of the lane. I was concerned about safety and whacking someone’s hand with a 12-pound ball hurling toward them. It threw off my game and I ended with a dismal score of 75, with 7 or 8 gutter balls. Ugh.
Over the past 25 years, Rwanda has been rebuilt into the gorgeous country it is today, and I’m so proud to be a small part of an ongoing mission to help Rwanda continue to grow technologically. I can only hope that our team inspired some young people while there, and they will take the knowledge they gained and will go design products that will continue to develop Rwanda into the future, and contribute to President Kagame’s Made-in-Rwanda campaign. As a result, they have increased exports and decreased imports, to make Rwanda more self-sufficient. The Made-in-Rwanda policy is designed to help improve economic growth while promoting Rwandan locally made products at the global level.
Rwanda’s biggest exports are tea and coffee, and a woman-owned coffee cooperative enterprise called Question Coffee is doing big business – we bought several pounds of Question Coffee to bring home, which is quite delicious. Last year, a Rwandan Airline, RwandAir created a partnership with Question Coffee to serve their coffee aboard their flights. Everyone is helping each other to succeed and grow.
As I said before, SOLIDWORKS has been helping educate the children of Rwanda since 2006, by donating software and workstations to various technical schools. Over the past few years we have ramped up that effort by teaching Rwandan children directly since 2014. In 2016, the objective of SOLIDWORKS’ annual visit to Rwanda was to introduce the schools to 3D Printing. Each school received a donated 3D Printer and students were taught how design a model and how to print them using a 3D Printer. That same year, SOLIDWORKS along with other organizations and MIT, set up a FabLab for all Rwandans to have a place to develop their ideas and create locally made products, adding to the Made-in-Rwanda campaign.