A Grandmother and Her Place

June 8, 2020

Posted by Macky, Technical Consultant

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Spring 2012

I heard pounding as we walked up to Violette’s home. Her grandmother was sitting on a stool, carved from a tree trunk, pounding cassava into flour. The work is hard and tedious. ”Do you want to try?” As I start to pound the cassava she glares at me – not hard enough – you need to POUND! And so I pound harder but still not hard enough. With her eyes twinkling she takes her place at the stool and pounds – HARD!

There is a filter at their home and we came to check the operation of the filter and to test the water.  As we take samples, Violette tells us that the filter runs well. The family is in good health; sickness has been minimal since they received the filter in 2009.

During the visit, I was distracted by her grandmother pounding cassava. And, I became fascinated with her stool. So, I walked over and asked about the stool.

The stool was worn smooth with the years of use and looked like it was made especially to hold an old woman. The grandmother was eager to tell me about her stool. She had it since she was a young bride. When there was genocide in Rwanda she and her family had to flee, leaving the stool behind.

After the war, they were able to return to their home. The house was in shambles, most everything was missing, but behind a small building was her stool! That was when she knew she was home.

Her stool is where she cooks over the fire, pounds cassava, does the laundry, thinks, and rests. I asked her what her favorite thing to do on the stool was.

“That is easy,” she said. “In the evenings, on special nights, we light a small fire, cook small food, and I tell stories about the days of old. The grandchildren listen and then at the end of story time they dance around the fire and I watch from my stool.”

In my American ways I seldom long many things the Rwandans have in their homes. However, as I looked at the stool, and thought about telling stories and dancing, I longed to have a stool of my own.



From the Field Notes of Macky Johnson. Bob and Macky Johnson were instrumental in founding 20 Liters. Bob developed the technical solutions that 20 Liters uses today in Rwanda. Macky designed the technician training program as well as writing many of the in-country policies that guide the 20 Liters program. In conjunction with World Relief Rwanda staff, Macky helped to develop our health and hygiene curriculum. During their many trips to Rwanda Macky focused on building community relationships and spent much of her time visiting the homes of filter recipients; learning from their experiences ways to improve the 20 Liters programs.  

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