Tolu Olasoji in Reasons to be Cheerful:
Jean Luc remembers how, when he was very young, his parents would leave their house in Kimihurura, a neighborhood of Kigali, once a month in a good mood. He didn’t know what they were smiling about.
“I would always eavesdrop on my parents whenever they came [back] from it,” he says. “It always seemed like something that brightened their Saturdays.”
Now 21 years old, it brightens Luc’s Saturdays, too.
Luc, along with just about every able-bodied Rwandan aged 18 to 65, participates in the monthly activity known as “Umuganda,” a Kinyarwanda word that means “coming together in common purpose.” On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 a.m., Rwandans across the country gather together to partake in community improvement projects. In Luc’s neighborhood, this has meant trimming back bushes that attract malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and making sure roads are clear of trash and debris. “It not only ensured that we have a clean environment,” he says, “but also had a long-run positive effect on our health and physical wellbeing. And you know what they say, a healthy nation leads to a wealthy nation.”