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.
by Camille Drury ’19
At 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, June 9th, I woke up with my suitcase ready. All of us traveling to Rwanda met at Drayron Circle hoping to leave at 5:45a.m. The drive to JFK airport was long and sweaty and to no surprise the 12 hour flight to Doha, Qatar, was also long. From Doha we traveled 6 hours to Uganda, and then 30 minutes to Rwanda. This is my first time out of the United States and the journey to Rwanda was nothing if not tiring, but something on the plane rides forbid me to sleep.
I was excited and nervous to go to a place I had never been and more importantly, to meet new faces and cultures I would never experience back home. When we all arrived in Rwanda we were Flores by the beauty presented in front of us and the immense friendship that was extended to us by everyone. When taking the van to the Peace Garden were we are sleeping, I realized how peaceful the city is and even more, how silent it can be in the hills were we are staying. Today completed our first work day of the trip, were we went to the Peace Center Library for Children to paint the walls and clean the new computer room. I enjoyed painting and found myself not thinking of it as work, especially when all the children came out of class to play. All of us on the trip were swarmed by children, running, laughing, high-fiving, and even saying “I love you!” We had never seen children so full of life such as they were, and they had never seen teenagers such as us. Deciding to partake in the service trip was daunting, as the history invites preconceived assumptions or opinions about both the country and the people. However, it takes an unfathomable amount of love, courage, and strength to look beyond hate, and that is exactly what this country has done.
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