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"What Do I Have? What Can I Offer Them? Cashews

By Cynthia Perry, chaperone and Operation Day's Work director

Although we stayed mostly in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, a two-day excursion to Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas gave us a searing glimpse of rural poverty in Rwanda. Below is an excerpt from a journal entry written by Thetford Academy teacher Cindy Perry, who coordinates Operation Day's Work in the United States. The excerpt begins as we returned to our Land Cruiser after hiking into the jungle to see the gorillas.

Part 3: Teens Challenged by Rwanda's Contrasts

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda -- Hand outstretched, the small boy chases our white Land Cruiser as it jolts along a dirt road deep in the Rwandan countryside. His thin legs churn to keep up until our car leaves him behind amid the red dust that swirls in our noisy wake.

I Wish You Were Here to Experience This Place

By Cynthia Perry, chaperone and Operation Day's Work director


Thetford Academy teacher Cindy Perry kept in touch with family during the trip. What follows is an e-mail she sent to her partner, Thetford Academy teacher Marc Chabot, on our third day in Rwanda. It describes a meeting of Amahoro Association, a group providing support for children affected by AIDS, to which we brought gifts of athletic equipment and clothing.

Part 2: American Students Struggle With Stark Differences


Kigali, Rwanda -- Basketball will have to wait, at least until her novelty wears off.

Kylie Butler, a 16-year-old Thetford Academy student, has been invited by a Rwandan girl to join some young men playing a pickup game on a rough cement court at a primary school in Rwanda's capital. But as she leads Kylie toward the court, a group of children abandon their nearby soccer game and form a tight circle around Kylie and classmate Lizzy King, 17, clamoring for attention.

Hugo's World

Hugo Chávez's sweeping election win may be read as a simple mandate for the demagogic Venezuelan leader to push on with his plans to transform his country with what he calls "21st-century socialism," designed to empower the impoverished masses with state-controlled oil profits, as described in my article last week. But for the region and the world, his victory could mean much more.

Chávez Marches On

A small crowd gathers at six each evening on the steps outside a dilapidated high school in one of Caracas's many impoverished barrios. With the sun dipping in the distance, middle-aged women arrive with their daughters. A few old men stand smoking cigarettes. One guy with tattoos on his arms labours up in a wheelchair and two rugged-looking characters help him ease it down the steps. The whole scene feels like something out of a Hugo Chávez infomercial.

Oil Fuels Chávez's Economic Shift

Alberto Robles stood beneath a street lamp whose yellow glow hung over a corner of the barrio where he has lived his whole life.

Robles, 36, pointed to a steep hillside dotted with lights nearby where a block of crumbling shacks was recently replaced by sturdy houses. It's a shining example of grass-roots government at work, he said.

Chavez is Potent Force

Women faint when they meet him. Men create stampedes to keep up with caravans he leads through impoverished cities where prior generations of leaders have not dared tread.

"When you see him in person, it's something that cannot be explained," said Susana Fonseca, craning her neck for a better view of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as he worked his way through a mob of admirers here earlier this month.

"We've never had men like him in our history," said Fonseca, 43, a public accountant.

What Follows Genocide?

We stopped our car along the main road that snakes from Kigali, Rwanda's capital, to the country's western region. We were heading to the volcanoes that soar along the northwest border for a story about mountain gorillas and what has happened to their habitat. But the light was good now, streaking through the rainy season's ever-present clouds, and the cameraman I was traveling with wanted to shoot.