Umuganda day near Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

10 Takeaways From Umuganda

What is Umuganda?

Beautiful memories stay with us entirely. One of my fondest memories growing up in Rwanda was seeing everyone participating in community building activities. This happened every Saturday at the end of month. People work together in cleaning streets, planting trees and take care of each other by facilitating productive conversations and actions that are beneficial for the society. This day is called Umuganda. Umuganda — the word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbors to help them complete a difficult task.” Read more at Rwandapedia.

Here are 10 Takeaways from Umuganda

1. As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context.

2. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions — culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is Umuganda.

3. By law all able bodied persons above the age of 18 and below 65 are expected to participate in volunteer community work.

4. Participation in Umuganda is usually supervised by a manager, or Umudugudu chairperson who oversees the effectiveness and efficiency of community participation.

5. On Umuganda day, business activity halts, public transportation is limited, and people are seen everywhere working. People participate in cleaning streets, cutting grass and trimming bushes along roads, or repairing public facilities or building houses for vulnerable persons.

6. People with particular skills offer their services for free on this day. For example, doctors may offer free medical examination.

7. The benefits of Umuganda are not merely economic. The day is intended to build community involvement and strengthen cohesion between persons of different background and levels. One such a benefit is that people can access authorities to articulate their needs and voice opinions on various issues.

8. The labour cost from Umuganda contributes to national development programs.

9. By reaping the rewards of the volunteer labor and by having more capital to invest in the country, Umuganda has contributed to the growth and development of the Rwanda.

10. Today close to 80% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Successful projects include the building of schools, medical centers and hydroelectric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The value of Umuganda to the country’s development since 2007 has been estimated at more than US $60 million.

Umuganda Day

The tradition of Umuganda is a beautiful and inspiring one. It connects people to their surrounds and creates a responsible community. Replicating this tradition globally is the continuation to achieve a common good. It is with great honor to partner with IHopeWeek and their UmugandaAfrica Initiative. To extend an invitation, please participate and share the objectives of Umuganda by offering services as well as kindness to the community. Same Sky in New York City is apart of this significant event, and the UmugandaAfrica Consortium has already shown us that Umuganda is a simple yet effective approach by successfully applying it in Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Benin.

You are invited

Joining is easy, on Saturday, March 28th from 9am-12pm EST find yourself a service task, here are some reference ideas that you can take upon.

1. Organize your own clean up in your local community: contact a local park for volunteer opportunities.

2. Encourage your friends to do an act of kindness: volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate old clothes to goodwill, or even just make a warm call to an old friend or family members.

3. Be an advocate and join our conversation on social media using the hashtag #Umuganda and tagging @Clemantine1. Share your acts of service or kindness and post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on March 28th from 9am-12pm EST.