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In Rwanda, one good deed, required by law, deserves another

May 4, 2017

When the sun rises on the last Saturday of each month in Rwanda, it dawns over a country blanketed in silence. The ubiquitous motorcycle taxis, which stream across the city non-stop, disappear. Stores are shuttered, streets are empty.

Once a month for four hours, the entire country shuts down to take part in government-mandated community service called “Umuganda,” a Kinyarwanda word that means “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.”

Rwanda’s monthly day of good deeds is the government’s innovative — though mandated — solution to the challenges the country faced after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when more than 800,000 people were killed during 100 days of fighting.

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