Planting The Seed!
Project “Love Hoop Rwanda” came to my mind as I rode in a car with my inshuti (friend) Justin through the city of Kigali. I saw rolls of black PVC tubing that I used to make my own hoops when I lived in Canada. I started a small company called “Hippy Hoops” when I was in my late 20’s after I discovered a great love and talent for Hooping as well as a passion for creating awesome hoops!
(photo courtesy of my talented friend Amy Senecal: http://www.amysenecal.com)
I knew I came to Rwanda to learn more about how my natural skills and talents are meant to support me in my life’s purpose, so when I realized I could share this gift it felt very right. When I discovered Hooping I fell in love almost instantly and it became a big part of my life for many years. I began to make my own hoops and sell them as a way to share my energy of love. This project was the next step in that sharing and in my healing.
Justin was very excited and supportive of my idea which made it all the more solid in my mind that I was here to do this project as part of my journey. He enjoyed trying out the Hoola Hoop for the very first time and said he had never seen anything like it before! He giggled the entire time! He thought it was a WONDERFUL! He received a Hoop as a going away gift for him and his family to continue to enjoy and share with others!
(apologies for the video being sideways, I’m still getting the hang of this!)
The Power Of Intention
My intention was to share my natural gift and love of movement through hooping with the people of Rwanda to spread Love and Joy as a vehicle for healing both myself and offer a new tool for healing to Rwanda.
To bring the two cultures together, I wrapped the hoops in Traditional fabric. I was fortunate enough to have a friend, Josephine, at the local market who gave me her fabric scraps for free. The shape of the hoops represents Unity, Oneness, our interconnectedness and the never ending cycle that Love creates when we choose to live fully in our essence.
I began with trying to find all the parts needed to build my own hoops, which turned out to be nearly impossible and I was feeling like it may not be possible to make the hoops I needed. One night, I was in the local 24hr Nakumatt, the Rwandan equiviliant to Walmart, and there they were – Awesome pre-made hoops! This was such a surprise and totally unexpected – It was meant to be! I bought as many as I thought I could carry home on a Moto at 11pm! I bought a tube of rubber cement (sort of), Q-tips and went home with a huge grin on my face!
The production began in my makeshift studio, which was the patio at my home in Remera sector of Kigali City. I had lots of enthusiastic helpers and the “Hoop” part of the project was now underway! The “Love” soon to follow – naturally!
The Sharing Begins
In Rwanda, it is the norm to have house boys, Nanny’s, housekeepers, and cooks so there were always people around. The first group that I engaged with were the workers at my home. My project caught the attention of our house boy, Emmanuel, and soon I had everyone joining me in the back yard!
The beauty of creative movement is that it is a language all its own, no words are needed. I spoke enough of the various languages to encourage them as they practiced but otherwise it was all silent demonstration that taught them and a few primal noises, which feel really awesome to make and even more amazing when they are understood!!
(Emmanuel) (Visitor to the house)
(Jean Pierre) (Angel)
Once Emmanuel got the hang of it he immediately began to coach and teach the others, which was beautiful to see. He is a natural leader and this was an opportunity for him to shine. Just look at him Shining with confidence the next day when I learned he had been practicing new tricks on his own!
I found Angel practicing in the backyard one day and it was clear she was really invested in learning how to get better. She was focused and working very hard! When she noticed me, she smiled wide and laughed as she continued to practice on her own!!
This young man lives in a room with a pile of dirt the size of a VW Beetle, one light bulb hanging from the roof and a thin mattress he shares with Jean Pierre. Yet every night he would bathe just outside my bedroom window and sing as loud as he can with Joy! What an inspiration! As my gift to him when I left Rwanda he received one of the hoops and I instructed him to keep practicing and sharing with others! He was very happy and so was I!
These Streets Were Made For Hooping!
The next step was to take it to the streets! So I ventured out from behind the gates of my home and didn’t have to go far before I was met by the neighborhood kids. I would simply put down my belongings, gesture for them to watch and do a short demo, which always got a smile (usually covered by their hands), a shy turning away but a twinkling in their eye that told me they wanted to try it!! It never failed, once I handed a hoop to them and nodded or said “Yego, yawe….togenda!” (Yes, you….GO!!) they were happy to play with me!!
I made my way around the town via Moto, a very interesting adventure in itself, which drew a lot of attention! The drivers were all very curious and actually became one of the first major groups that I worked with while out and about in Kigali!
(Classic!! Everyone in Rwanda seems to have a cell phone! This moto driver was calling his friend to tell him what was happening – pretty confident in himself after only 5 mins!!)
I watched as slowly, over the course of 10 mins or so, these two women made their way from two streets over to come and talk with me. Someone translated for me and told me that they were saying “What a gift, What a Joy you are for the people. Please continue doing this. We Love you.” They were hugging me, holding my hand and speaking in a very gentle, loving way with genuine smiles on their faces. This was exactly the intention and this was confirmation of what I knew could happen with this project!
Let’s Hear It For The Boys!
Next stop, the Orphanage Presbeterian des Jeunes Enfants where I had been teaching “Thriller” over the last few months to the young boys who live there. Today they were in for a treat as we practiced the dance and played with the hoops for a few hours.
Even though Rwanda, as a country, says that they no longer have any orphanges they do still exist. These children live here together and each time I was there with them I had to remind myself that they had no mama and papa to give them Love. I felt the magnitude of that the more they became part of my reality. Each one of the beautiful boys deserves his presence seen on this page, so here they are!
They too were quite natural at it and when one of their friends took a turn they all laughed and cheered together! At times, they would run off with them as I taught dance to the others and explored them in other ways on the grass and in the dirt. The hoops were in need of repair after this day!
Later that day, I also managed to entice the workers at Papyrus Bakery to give it a try!! Too Funny!
The Land of a Thousand Hills
Next stop Nyanza City!
A friend asked me if I wanted to join him in Nyanza while he worked and I saw this as a great opportunity to take the project to more places and people as well as Villagers in some more remote areas of Rwanda. This was an unfamiliar place to me and people were very curious about me, within seconds of walking around by myself with hoops on my shoulder I had an audience.
People were gathered around me tightly as I did a demo for them and were much more shy than my experience in Kigali City but as always children lead the way and opened the door to more people of all ages trying it out.
One of the adults who tried it out happened to be a professional football player in Rwanda – my first Celebrity on the project!
The crowd got so big and so tight that I had a few moments of anxiety around what I was creating but thankfully some locals came to the rescue and moved us to a safer place and made space around me. Even without common language they knew that I needed support and they jumped at the opportunity. Lots of curious touching, a few sneaky fingers in my pockets, phone number and email requests and some “Sista, I love you Sista” were offered, which is a very common thing for a Muzungo to hear while in Rwanda! Overall it was an intense experience filled with lots of light, laughter, Joy and smiling faces!
Into the Wild!
It was hard to leave the energy of this crowd but I was whisked away by my friend as it is was time to get on our Moto’s and head into the mountains for the day.
We needed a break from the hot sun to have some juice and stretch which gave our Moto drivers a chance to try out the hoops as well as a few Villagers who seemed to appear out of nowhere!
The First Village
We drove for about 45 mins before we came across what appeared to be more Village like than the the few scattered mud huts we had passed on the way up the hill. The villages just kind of creep up on you and then you are in the middle of one and in the blink of an eye you are out of it! We pulled up, parked the moto, put a hoop on my waist, and the crowd slowly emerged from within the buildings. I began to show them what I had and within minutes I had two little ones trying out the hoops and a crowd clapping to cheer them on.
The Moto drivers became my camera crew and videographer, although they seemed to like to video me more than the locals so I had to redirect them quite a bit! Being a Muzungo holds a lot of power in a place like this and it can be directed into really great opportunities for others to benefit from. I enjoyed channeling this power into a fun, joyful experience for everyone.
One older man in particular captured the audience with his enthusiasm! I was told that he was saying “This is my sport! I am in the olympics!” as he was laughing loudly and holding the hoop tightly around his waist!
Ask quickly as we seemed to stumble upon this village it disappearance from our sight, we hopped back on the moto’s and headed out of the next stop.
Our next stop was unplanned, the Universe must have wanted us to stop and share, so when the Moto suddenly broke down while crossing a bridge made of a few skinny Eucalyptus trees branches, I saw it as a sign. It just happened that we broke down right next to the center of a small village. The driver of my inshuti got on my Moto and drove off in search of a mechanic and returned fairly soon with a young man in tow (keep in mind we are in, what seems to me to be, the middle of no where – this was impressive!)
While the locals and our drivers worked on the Moto (seen in the background), I took this time to share the gift of Hooping with the people who quickly gathered around to see what was happening.
One woman in particular had a very special sparkle and was stuck to me like glue!
She was talking to me like she believed I understood every word and from what I understood she was hungry and wanted money but she was also VERY funny and had me in stitches most of the time!!
Of course hunger and poverty is a reality here in Rwanda, if not all of Africa and that is something I am well aware of but I have had to learn that giving money is not the way that I choose help people and actually disagree with it on many levels. I believe that empowering people and helping them believe that they can help themselves is the best way to create change. How does a girl with a hoop do that? I simply trust that what I have to offer does in deed offer something vital to human existence, maybe not food in the moment but something that we all need – Joy, Connection and Love.
Within 30-40 mins of us breaking down, we were good to go and we carried on to our next planned destination!
It is a very common sight to see children running after a white person in Rwanda, but this time was different. To have a group of people that I have only known for minutes waving goodbye with smiles, laughter and an undeniable energy of Joy, that feels like something bigger is at work and I trust that feeling. I may not have brought them bread for their stomachs but I do believe I brought us all food for our Souls!
We have reached the top of a long, beautiful and gently winding road and it is at this point that I realize I am not prepared for the sun the way I need to be. I need a break and I need shelter from the Sun! Here we are at the top of the mountain with the most gorgeous view, a bunch of smiling faces and curious participants, I need to honour my needs but also do what I came to do.
This amazing landscape, combined with the beautiful colours of Rwanda, the even more beautiful people and the intention of the project made this one of my favourite stops!
When you give a child a toy, especially a child who does not have many toys, it is amazing to watch them explore, figure out and then master something. The potential that lies within each of these kids is immense and yet here they are at the top of this mountain with nothing but a few rags to wear and a ball made out of garbage. I was very tempted to leave a hoop behind for these kids but have learned to ensure that when I give I must have enough for everyone or it causes more harm than good. Instead we all share in the experience.
One of the most noticeable differences in Rwanda overall for me is how well the children behave and interact with each other, actually I can say that it is how all people there interact with one another – with a great deal of Respect.
There was no pushing, yelling, fighting or upset children on this project. They all shared in the joy that each child was having and joined in by laughing, clapping or helping out. When it was their turn, which was decided by the children themselves, they took the gently took the hoop and simply enjoyed the experience. I have many thoughts about why the children are like this here, why do you think this would be the case?
My time in the shade allowed me to meet some of the adults as well who happened to be very curious about my camera. This woman wanted to know what it was and how to use it. She covered her mouth in laughter as she looked at herself on the screen.
She took what was probably her first photo’s ever and here they are! Nice photo bombs in the background guys!
And we are off again…..
At this point I am burnt pretty bad on my shoulders and back of my neck, needing water and looking forward to taking a rest! I actually thought we were done for the day but we had one more stop on the way down.
We passed so many beautiful people and places along the way back down the mountain!
Then we arrived at a small village and stopped for what was about to be the biggest crowd, the most fun and the most endearing of all the stops! Complete with Mama’s handing me babies so they can hoop their hearts out, independent game playing by the adults when I needed shade and my first experience with one man being a bit drunk and having the crowd protect me from his antics!
I handed over my camera and the hoops and took refuge in the small bit of shade where both myself and this young mother chose to sit and relax while everyone else continued to be engaged in the energy of the project.
Suddenly I heard a loud roar of laughter and got up to see what was happening! What I found warmed my heart so deeply. It was a group of men who had gathered around one man who was demonstrating his trick with the hoop. It felt like a creative experience for everyone and I was honoured to facilitate it. I
It would not be uncommon here in North America to see this movement but in Rwanda, out in the villages, with these people, it felt like an incredibly powerful moment for us all. These types of activities and opportunities just do not exist out here or even here at all. It was like Cirque du Soleil Rwanda!
One mama in particular was enjoying this project so much that she handed over her baby so she could give her full attention to the hoop!! She was sweating, laughing, out of breath and had no signs of stopping!! She had many fans cheering her on. It seemed as if there was no end in sight for this spur of the moment part but alas we had to move on….
A few photos and then we hit the road!
The drive home was long, hot and beautiful!
We were on our way back to Nyanza to the hotel for some food and rest, BUT……..