by Rishi Madnani ’19
This morning, we met to have breakfast at 6:30 AM and left the Friends Peace Garden in Kigali for Akagera National Park at 7:00 AM. We are spending two days (one night), Saturday and Sunday, in Akagera to do wildlife safaris in which we can see lots of different animals such as zebras, giraffes, lions, hippopotamuses, elephants, and more. The ride there was around two and a half hours- two hours on flat road and a half hour on the “African massage” road. Once we arrived, everybody was in shock. The game lodge where we are staying is incredibly luxurious, especially compared to our previous accommodations on this trip. The lodge has a pool, a restaurant, wifi, large and comfortable rooms, and incredible facilities. We got there at around 10:15 AM, and had around an hour of free time before our behind-the-scenes tour of the park at 11:30 AM. In this time, students marveled at the lodge and some even took a swim. In the tour, we learned all about the operation of the park, including the animals, finances, management, and more. Immediately after, we had lunch in the lodge’s restaurant. The options for lunch were multiple variations of personal pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers. Again, this was a huge change, because we have been mostly eating traditional Rwandan food for most of our meals. The food was great, and the view that the restaurant overlooked was even better. Then, at 2:30 PM, seven members of our group embarked on a boat safari tour in the lake here in the park. The other ten members embarked on a short game drive (in a jeep) through the park. Tomorrow morning, the seven will do the short game drive, while the other ten will do the boat tour. I was part of the short game drive today, which lasted three and a half hours. The top of the jeep opened, allowing us to stand and look out of the top for the whole drive, which was very fun. We saw many animals, including zebras, baboons, giraffes, hippopotamuses, and multiple species of birds. It was ridiculous to see them so up close in person- for once, it felt like we were in the “Africa” that everyone imagines. The hills and plains in the savannah seemed to be endless, and the sunset was beautiful. We got back at 6 PM and had dinner at 7 PM in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was in the form of a buffet, and the food was delicious. It had internationally-recognized foods and even had a dessert section. None of us have had real cake in over two weeks, and I think I can speak for everybody when I say it was a divine experience. Curfew is at 10:30 PM tonight, rather than 11, because we have to get up at 6:30 AM tomorrow for more game drives and boat rides. The Akagera game lodge is proving to be a fantastic way to wrap up our time in Rwanda.
by Jeffrey Love ’19
Today we went to the lake about 30-40 minutes away from our “hotel” in Byumba or as it is now called Gichumbi. We were assigned to three different boats/Canoes in which we were grouped up. Our boatmen took us all the way around the lake as we look at the sparse wildlife. the only creatures we did see were two pairs of African Cranes, which happen to be the national animal for Rwanda. As we turned back after reaching the opposite edge of the lake it began to get windier and thus we began to get colder. All in All however it was an enjoyable ride. After the boat ride we traveled back to the library which we completed and had lunch. We also thanked the librarian Francis and gave him our donations. Afterwards we went to an Expo in the town center, but couldn’t stay very long as it began to pour upon us. After the expo we headed on our way back to Kigali and the peace garden where we had dinner and were briefed by our Safari guide in preparation for the next day. Later that evening we said goodbye to Fiacre as he was not to come with us on our Safari. Today was a great day and I can’t wait for our Safari tomorrow.
by Clarence Kwong ’19
The work at the library has come to an end, and we make our finishing touches. The pictures on the wall look great as well. Organizing books into categories isn’t necessarily fun, but it makes everything easier to look through for English learners. In addition, we planted grass seeds and orange trees in the library backyard in hopes for a more lively landscape. We also learned about a group which created their own banking system. It was interesting to learn how they kept each other accountable as they also held their own responsibilities as members of the group. Later on, some of us played soccer, basketball, and helped kids to learn to use Microsoft Word. Afterwards, we listened to Congo refugees speak about their life at the refugee camps. It was disheartening to hear about the rough circumstances that they have previously and currently faced. However, I am glad that we have the exposure to refugees and their situations. At last, we have dinner where there were Rwandan tribal dancers. It is fascinating to see that these people hold so strongly onto their roots. Ultimately, today was an insane day, and I hope that we all have just as good of a time to come!
As you may have heard, Sofia, Camille, and I have a buggy and dank room. Nonetheless, we woke up well rested and excited to start the first work day in Byumba. But, as I turned to remind Sofia to get up, I saw a twitching, dying grasshopper. Then, Camille asked me to turn around to kill a spider on our bed. It was a buggy start to the first work day at Byumba.
At the library, we quickly organized ourselves and got to work. A group of us cleaned the walls, another bought paint, and the rest helped design the pictures for the walls. As soon as the paint arrived and wet walls dried, we began to paint. Now that we have had a set of workdays under our belts, painting went much faster. We finished the main room of the library, the hallways of the library, and almost all of the outside’s painting and design.
After an accomplished day at work, Jeffrey, Ashleigh, and I decided to run back to the guest house. It was mostly downhill (the main reason we ran back and not there) and many Rwandans laughed at us running by. We arrived before the bus (with the rest of the students) arrived!
I am looking forward to another work day and run tomorrow!
by Vanessa Baker ’19
Today was our second day in Rwanda. It began with me sleeping through my wake-up call from Nora and then receiving one from Lea, which I actually woke up for. We were half asleep over a breakfast of papaya, toast, chapati, and coffee. After breakfast, we had a strenuous walk to the George Fox Primary School in order to continue our work from the day before. We were in the process of redecorating two rooms, one a library and one a soon to be computer room with the laptops we collected from GS. We had already whitewashed the rooms the day before but today was for painting the rooms a different color. After we worked for about three hours, the kids began to come out and distract us with their cuteness. Deanna chased them with paint on her fingers while they tugged at Lea, Sofia, and Ashleigh’s hair. At 1, we went to the Kigali Peace Center to have a lunch of watermelon and bread with butter. We went back to work where we finished up painting the walls and windowsills and began adding decorations. After we finished working, we went to an arts center that featured beautiful paintings from several Rwandan artists. Once we were finished walking around looking at the artwork, we went outside to find the dancing that we were promised by Polly. There was a group of kids that were practicing dances and we watched for about 20 minutes until they invited us to dance along with them! We then went to a restaurant to eat beef, goat, and chicken shish kabobs where Nora and I sung a beautiful rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” After dinner, we drove back to the Friends Peace Garden, the place we’re staying at, for a night of card games and not working wifi. It’s been a good two days.
by Sofia Frascella ’19
Today we went to the market in Kigali before we traveled to Byumba. We got to see how the Rwandans shop for crafts, crops, clothes and other items. As we were shopping we got to attempt to bargain to lower the prices and it was a great glimpse into true Rwandan culture. We had another delicious, authentic meal at a buffet in downtown Kigali. We then got on the road and traveled to our next stop; Byumba. When we arrived to the guest house, Camille, Nora and I were hit with a surprise that our triple had quite a few spiders and no mosquito nets. After about an hour of adjusting our room we finally found a solution. This was a perfect example of how these service trips do not always go as planned, but there is always a solution to the problems. Tomorrow we start our work on the local friends library. I’m excited to work more with painting and really hope we get to interact with the kids more!
See our pictures here!
by Shumpei Chosa ’19
Before we left Musanze to go back to Kigali, we stopped at a children’s library in Musanze. We donated 3 suitcases full of books, writing utensils, and soccer balls that we had collected or bought with our fundraiser money. The people at the library were very thankful with what we had brought them because so many children in Rwanda can benefit from them. It’s incredible how there are so many people and organizations trying to help children to get education.
On our 2 hour bus ride back to Kigali, I was looking out the window and I was reminded of how beautiful this country is. There are endless mountains and everything is built on hills. I noticed that so many houses were built on steep hills and I was wondering how people get to those houses.
Back in Kigali, we had our first day of HIPP (Help Increase Peace Program). It was our first opportunity to discuss the 1994 Genocide with local people and it was an eye-opening experience. One thing that I thought was particularly interesting was when one of the facilitators asked if conflict is a good or a bad thing, many Rwandan people thought it is a terrible thing, but many of us had the idea that it can be a good thing if it results in positive outcomes. I am looking forward to exchanging more ideas about peace and learn about the genocide from a local perspective.
The highlight of my day was watching the World Cup at a local restaurant. I never thought people in Rwanda would be so passionate about soccer so I was really excited to be able to watch the Portugal vs Spain game with our guide Fiacre and many screaming local men surrounding us. Towards the end of the game, two men started arguing loudly about Messi and Ronaldo. It was the same exact argument that I have with my friends and it was really cool to see the world connect through soccer. I am excited to keep following the World Cup here in Rwanda.
by Ashleigh Azan ’19
We were up and ready for breakfast at 7:30 like most mornings where we had the usual hard-boiled eggs, fruit and coffee. By 8:00 we were in the church ready to start our workshop with HIPP. HIPP stands for Help Increase Peace Program which is a program set up to teach people about non violent conflict resolution so we can help ourselves as well as others. The day was full of thoughtful discussions and fun activities in which we were all learning from one another. Today was a lot morning interactive and discussion based than yesterday which made it easier for us to engage with one another. The final activity we did was split into small group where we answered the queries what it feels like for us to give back and for the Rwandans, how it feels for us to be here helping them.
After speaking in our groups we came together and shared some of the things we learned. You could tell people learned a lot from that activity and had more of an understanding of the differences and similarities in the two cultures. My favorite part of the day was playing a very competitive game of football with our new Rwanda friends. It definitely brought us together and was a fun experience. We then played all the way up until dinner. We ended the night activities with a talk from “Momma Eve” about the work she does with survivors of the Genocide and refugees which was very heartwarming to hear about. Now we are all gathered in the common area ending the night off with out typical music and card games.
by Liam Bernard ’19
We had a very fun and productive day today. As usual we started with breakfast at the Friends Peace Garden, the last we would have there for the next two days, and then headed to Children’s Peace Library in Kigali for our last work day there. Being the last day there, we had to bring our book and computer donations with us. Among those were soccer balls for the children – something that would come in handy when they swarmed us later in the morning. At the library we did our final touch ups on the wall art and lettering on the outside walls, and then moved furniture and cleaned the floor inside again. As we were working outside for the most part today, we were greeted by many curious children as they watched us paint. We didn’t have much time to work once they came though as we were distracted playing soccer with them with the new balls we brought, and all of the piggy back and shoulder rides they begged for. Once we had finished eating lunch, we headed back to finish cleaning up and then jumped on the bus to Musanze. The ride was so beautiful. We enjoyed the picturesque landscape outside of Kigali, with views of lush hills and trees. We saw another side of Rwanda that seemed untouched, unlike the densely populated city of Kigali. Once we arrived and checked into the new hotel we had dinner together to finish off the day on a high note. I am looking forward to the golden monkey hike we have scheduled tomorrow, and the possibility that we may see gorillas while we are there.
by Polly Lodge
Muraho (hello) from Rwanda! We are having a terrific experience. We’ve spent three days painting a children’s library and soon we will push off to Musanze. Our donations of books and laptops were well received. The children at the school are super energized with our presence and we play hard during the daily breaks in the school day. Accommodations have been simple but sufficient. There’s lukewarm running water. Food has been varied, but lots of fruit and the local Shish kabob last night was delicious. Clean drinking water is always available. Tomorrow will be an early morning to see the rare Golden Monkeys followed by a visit to a cultural village for drumming, dancing, and local food. Kids are in good spirits, engaged in the work, and learning to work as a group. (Almost) everyone is healthy. Please don’t worry; we will reach out to a parent if someone is ill. So far we have only suffered minor diarrhea for one child.
See photos here.