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My dream trip to Dream Village and why you need to be a cheerful giver

Katuna Gatuna boarder on Uganda Rwanda boarder.

Few days ago its been overwhelming news in the media and every where to whoever bothered to listen, watch and read. Anyhow the whole world revolves around politics and I find it so hard to dodge it or go without it. After all who doesn’t want to go in a safe country.

Besides that, I hate the constant stereotypes of some people who don’t travel or have never bothered to go but keep scaring some who would be willing to pack and go. Am one person who doesn’t listen to that anyways. So again am here packing my bags to go as usual.

A long time friend and brother Manzi Norman is running some charity work in Rwanda by the names of Dream Village NGO. Rwanda and Uganda have been all over the news the last one month for the wrong reason mainly. Closure of Katuna boarder blab bla la which I always want to give a deaf ear. So this Friday got me packing bags again.

My usual bus takes me for around 8 hours to reach Katuna boarder and this time looks deserted. Empty is a simply right word I can use in comparison with the usual movement at the boarder. A point I have used for decades.

Buses crossing Katuna- Gatuna boarder with few passengers.

Not a problem. Am not a coward and jump out of the bus passport stamped, faster faster to no man’s land and am on the Rwandan side stamping entry Visa. Lines are averagely long but apart from the machines that were making noise on the boarder construction site, activities are more less than the Ugandan side. Back to the bus to a city am used to and call it home sometimes.

It’s a normal practice for Manzi to welcome me with a smile hard our dinner and was tired to my knees and went straight to bed.

Manzi Norman- Director at Dream Village Organisation with Darius

Next day Manzi took me straight to his charity projects for Dream Village NGO that I happen to be a board member as well. Its my first time to travel for this purpose. If am not in the wild am on the hotel or on the road roaming the world. First thing as usual is food. This time its not the usual three course meals but rather gardens. Reaching the gardens am moved down to my knees how this young corporate man turned into a farmer with just a heart to help.

At first we shared an office for more than a year plus. After moving into documentary making I was forced to abandon the office and start wondering around like a headless chicken. Time to move around his charity projects. Yes, I have come to terms with myself that you should follow suit. Spare sometime for others. I mean it and this is how;

 It Forces Human Interaction

Some of the community members Dream Village organisation supports

Manzi Norman is a believer and hardly believes in anything that takes his service away. He is not religious I mean but Godly. To him, the common response among many believers is that God commands us “to be a good steward” of our wealth, which is the Christian way of saying “I don’t want to give away any of my time, energy, or resources to people who are just going to flush it away.” Thus, the accumulation of wealth is quickly adapted as a form of spiritual virtue, highly esteemed among American, Indian or African believers and attributed as a sign of God’s favor.

But giving directly to the poor forces us to actually interact with humankind, with the people God wants us to be with! Christians have a nasty habit of donating to charities and organizations simply because they don’t want to be uncomfortable or get their hands “dirty.” It’s their way of “helping” without having to actually do anything. Says Manzi Norman the Director at Dream Village organization.

It makes you happy: the science of a “helper’s high”

Most of us want to feel like our lives mean something – that we’re making a positive difference in the world. So it’s not surprising that several studies have shown how helping others can boost our sense of happiness.

  • One study showed that helping others through volunteer work increased levels of happiness in the participants.
  • In another study, people were given money to either spend on themselves or give to charity. Those who gave to charity felt happier.
  • Happy workers are more likely to report that they regularly help others.
  • Some studies have shown that children under the age of two report being happier when they give treats away rather than receiving treats themselves.

Scientists have been studying a phenomenon called “helper’s high”: helping others releases endorphins which, in turn, improves mood and boosts self-esteem. In short, helping others feels good. It’s possible that helping others does more for the happiness of the person helping than the person who receives the help.

It builds stronger social connections to friends and community

Helping others isn’t a one-way street where you do something good for someone and then you both go about your way. When you’ve touched someone’s life in a positive way, you feel connected to them; it’s a bonding experience. It builds trust through cooperation which not only brings them closer to you, it brings you closer to them.

When you choose to help others, especially if it’s face to face, you’re entering their lives in a positive way, reinforcing social connections as you go.

It reminds me of that student’s mother I met. If I hadn’t helped her son so much, I would never have met her – she’d have no reason to meet me. Because of my actions, I made another positive connection to the people around me.

Some orphaned youth and others HIV positive on a learning workshop

You adapt better to stress and adversity by building resilience

It may seem strange, but helping others doesn’t add more stress to your life, it actually helps us manage stress better.

At Dream Village organization I was told they take immersion trips where they help the poor and unhandy. Those who took this trip were assessed months later and were found to manage stress and adversity much better than their peers.

Why is that? I asked Manzi.

It’s about perspective. By looking at the challenges of others’ lives, you can take that point of view into your own. It makes you more accepting of the stress and hardships we all have to face. Says Manzi Norman the Director at Dream village organization.

Sometimes we lose that perspective in a culture obsessed with celebrities living glorified lives, seemingly carefree. But helping others takes us back to reality by reminding ourselves that most people struggle – and that it’s ok if we do too.

It’s good for your career

There are many factors to think about when trying to find a satisfying career: autonomy, creative freedom and meaning are a few examples. But one of the biggest things to consider is how your work impacts others.

People who work as a medical professional, psychologist, religious figure or firefighter often give high ratings of job satisfaction. The connection between all of these professions is that they all help people on a regular basis.

Those who are happiest in their job, more committed and less likely to quit make it a priority to help others – either co-workers or customers.

Even if your job doesn’t deal with people directly, it can help to think about how your work helps people in some way. By taking time to think about what you do and how it helps people in some capacity, you’ll feel better about it – even if it’s just a little.

It’s good for business

What is produced from the farm is sold to local shop vendors.

What’s the goal of a business? One answer might be making money by selling a product or service. Yes, that’s true. But I’d take it a step further: businesses make money by finding ways to help people.

Look at these examples:

Google was created to make searching the internet easier and faster, with better results.

Gyms earn money by providing a place to exercise.

Uber is trying to make on-demand car service better.

Amazon simplified online buying and selling so it’s easier.

Travel with Darius TV I own is providing free guides that give our audience destinations they can travel to.

Businesses often seem shady because they’re seen as money-driven. The image of a corporate raider using sneaky tactics to weasel their way through a system is commonplace, and there is some truth to it. Not all companies help others – cigarette companies for example.

But the companies that do best, focus on helping others and solving their problems. Both Steve Jobs and Henry Ford revolutionized the world by solving problems people didn’t even realize they had. Businesses that solve problems in the best and cheapest way will win – and we win right along with them.

Better health; it can make you live longer

Dream Village participants showing me what they have at the farm with Manzi and a consultant on the project

If you want to live longer, be a giver. At least that’s the conclusion of a The link between better health and helping others is striking.

  • It lowers rates of depression and puts you in a better mood.
  • It lowers your risk of dying by at least 22%.
  • It’s good for your mental health.

The researchers were careful to not draw conclusions about why helping others is so good for health, but it probably has something to do with the social contact we make while doing it.

We’re hardwired for social interactions which includes a lot of touch, eye contact and smiles. Such interactions release a hormone called Oxytocin which helps us bond and care for others and helps us manage stress. Not only that, but doing good makes us happier which, in turn, makes us healthier.

It can help you find meaning in your life

Dream village organisation Farm

There’s a link between helping others and finding meaning in your life. And it’s not just those who have already found purpose giving back. Instead, helping others can actually CREATE a sense of meaning in our lives. Manzi says he has never been fulfilled until he woke up to a helping hand. Especially dealing with teenagers who had problems that looked like heavier to him.

“Helping others fulfills some of our most basic needs such as connecting with others and seeing how your actions make a positive difference. Those are the areas that help define a meaningful life”Echoes Manzi the Director Dream village organization.

The idea that there is a link between a meaningful life and helping others is actually a rather old one. Carol Ryff, a psychologist, reviewed the writings of numerous philosophers and thinkers throughout history and found one overarching ideas: that helping others is “a central feature of a positive, well-lived life.”

A meaningful life isn’t found, but created through our actions. And it starts with looking for ways to help others.

I have gone back to my travels a much fulfilled man. Am more than committed to helping than ever before

Darius Dos Santos is a global travel blogger and video blogger. He is the founder of Travel With Darius TV. He provides free guides, tips and tour packages on www.travelwithdarius.com and on all social media as TRAVEL WITH DARIUS TV. He can be reached on dariustravels2014@gmail.com or whatsapp +256789606315.

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Why Your Next Road Trip Should Be Through Western Rwanda

A week ago I did a grand tour of western Rwanda that I would rather term as a green belt.

Beyond Nyabihu there’s nothing but volcanic fields, green tea field and  luxury resorts.

For the past decade, travel to western Rwanda has meant sleeping in an unremarkable  hotels and day-tripping to the golden Gisenyi currently called Rubavu, that 130-km circuit of green waves and rolling hills outside of town, and then capping your trip with a pre-departure soak in the lush vegetation in Gishwati forest before heading to golden lake views of all times. All done along-side everyone else stopping over between the Rubavu and Karongi. But newly opened luxury-design lodges 3B Hotels who own Kivu lodge, on the lake—are restoring the fantasy of a Rwandan lunar frontier worthy of exploration beyond a weekend.

 

Kivu Lodge.

Kivu Lodge in Western Rwanda. Part of the 3B Hotels Group.

You could helicopter between their properties between Kigali, Musanze, Karongi and the soon to be opened close to Akagera National park in the east of Rwanda, but consider going by car, driving from Kigali to Musanze on Gorilla safari lodge up to the Rubavu peninsula via the more rugged north, then looping back down to the Blue lake Kivu.  If you spread out the 227-mile drive over four or five days, spending a night or two at each hotel, you’ll have time to take in the haunting volcanic fields and vast plains reminiscent of Rwanda. Out here, you’ll see more hills, vegetation, mind blowing views than people.

GISHWATI TEA FIELDS AND FOREST

Gishwati Tea fields are so amazing for both camping close and tour onlookers

Volcanoes close to Gorilla Safari Lodge where you can start off your journey to the western green belt

Once you land, you don’t have to drive too far to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The concrete-and-green adventure is just 1 and 20 minutes from Musanze but seems a world away. Close to is Gishwati forest.  It has an outdoor hot activity for some of you who love birding life, that looks out onto massive green tea covered fields.

There is no artificial light and no noise of any kind (you will only hear bird chirp, since just there are so many trees). The other break from the silence is the gentle hiss of wind waves coming from the upper hills rolling down the valleys. It’s particularly spectacular during a soak of the afternoon, in the fading western sunlight (and even more surreal when you consider sleeping in Musanze at Gorillas Safari lodge and wake up on a mega breakfast to give you energy of stretching your eye lenses to grasp the endless fable mountains).

Luxurious 3B Hotels group restaurants.

From here, continue west to Karongi via Rubengera on the famous Congo Nile trail. Route 1 cuts through mile after mile of sharp bends and hills, but the only traffic you’ll encounter is packs of eucalyptus galloping next to your car sliding backwards. The drive to Kivu lodge Farm is nearly 2 hours, so plan to stop stare, stop, stare and stop to stare at the glamorous west. Packed snack and water is advisable as you will not find much stop centres where you can buy a trusted snack

CONGO NILE TRAIL

Part of the snake soft roads that make up the Congo Nile Trail in Western Rwanda

The 227 Kms long distance has been known as the best product so far to me Rwanda development board has ever developed, for the country that’s yearning for After Gorilla experience packages. I guess this forms part of your experience as you traverse via the western green belt in Rwanda. Here you need to plan for 5 days or so if you are to cycle around. Each stopover will usher you into another one. I did not get a chance to camp or stop a lot but managed to have a brief glance of Mugonero base camp that happens to be close to Kivu lodge where I was staying.

Warning !!!

Please do not forget to pack your camera, summer like wear as the place looks more like Hawaii and those other places you see in movies and celebrity shows. Stop take a photo and you will thank me later

In the next episode I will tell you life on water with Iliza boat courtesy of iliza expeditions.

IliZA House Boat owned by Iliza expeditions. Wait for the Iliza story next.