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A Newspaper Article in My Home City of Gütersloh
Saturday, 08 January 2011 Written by Gerd Hoecker

Gerd Hoecker

Through a small newspaper article, which was cut out for me by a friend, I got interested in a vocational school in Kivumu, Rwanda (Africa). I was captivated by that brief article written by Rolf Ruediger Essmann about Padri Vjeko Center in Kivumu.

They were looking for tradesmen, who would help the teachers. After consulting and getting agreement from my family, the date of the flight was set. In the evening of December 2nd the plane from Brussels landed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.  At the small airport I was greeted by Valerie, a Canadian volunteer, and Ivica Perić, a Franciscan priest from Kivumu. While driving to Kivumu I asked if there were wild animals here, and they both had to laugh. Well, although I’ve been to all the continents of this Earth (thanks to my former firm), I did skip Africa. I had no idea, especially about Rwanda.

The first week passed without thinking about classes, because the practical carpenters’ and welders’ work was limited. So I worked with the students and teachers from the electricians’ course, and together we first fixed the general carpentry machines, two edge sanders, one welding machine, and an air compressor. Spare parts, mostly the basic ones that get worn out very quickly, are a big problem here. But Fr. Ivica knew all the places and shops in Kigali. The Canadian container could be painted once again, the iron shortened, and planks planed.

Father Vjeko Center

The lessons with the teachers were a great satisfaction for me. I did not expect such interest. Sometimes the communication was not so good, which was probably caused by my not so good English. Though the math is simple to understand, the basics of electrical engineering are not. All in all, it was a great deal of fun and also, as we say, “some of the stuff remained in the heads”.

The evening students’ drumming in the school, the morning being awakened by the two ibises, meeting people during my walks, the evening mood with the warm sunlight on the Kivumu hills... I will miss all of that a little bit, but especially the ingenious meals of our main chef Olwaldi, and the support of the Franciscan Monastery’s brothers Joseph, Ivica and Kizito.

I thank all of them for letting me stay here.

Translated by: fra Branimir Mlakić
Edited by: Valerie Kae Ken

Father Vjeko Center

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