Tag Archives: service trips



Today we woke up at 7:30 to be ready for breakfast at 8. Angie, Ike, Courtney, Sarah, Illeabeth, Priya, and I’s day started off with carrying 270 boxes of bibles into the church. I was so glad that there were a lot of hands to help with the lifting as it allowed it to go by a lot faster than if there were fewer hands. Once those were all in the church, Ike, Angie, Priya, and I switched with those the that were previously working on the roof, mixing cement. Our group worked until lunch, filling buckets with sand and gravel to be dumped in the cement mixer.

Afterward, we had a lunch of rice and beans with chicken, tomatoes, plantain chips, and so many desserts. There was cake and ice cream and cookies and more cake, Lianet gave us so so many options, it was amazing. Then after lunch, we all showered and got ready for our final walk around Holguin.

Originally we were all together but split up to venture around the plazas. Angie and I walked to a department store where I bought a shirt that says Cuba. Later we walked to a small market were she almost bought a painting but decided to save her money for  more ice cream. We went to the little ice cream shop where I only drank a bottle of water while Angie ate her ice cream. Around 2:25 we headed back to the plaza to meet up with our sponsors to go back to the church.

For about 5 hours until dinner many of us sat around entertaining ourselves while dinner was made. Later, we had imperial rice, plantain chips, fried sweat plantains, tomatoes, sweet potato chips. After, we all walked to Lianet’s house and played around with her son until around 10.

We’ve had a great time here and have grown so much. We understand so much more about the world.

These are our biggest takeaways from Cuba.

Angie: Happiness isn’t linked to what we want but rather what we have.

Maddie: There is more to life than the internet.

Alice: Travel with a mindset of self improvement.

Courtney: Happiness comes more easily than we think.

Miranda: Don’t let the lack of job security stop you from perusing your dream.

JoceLynn: Happiness is in the experience not in the objects around us.

Annarose: It is possible to understand people even when you don’t understand what they said.

Priya: Taking yourself out of your situation and comfort zone can help you see the others

around you.

Ike: No matter where you go, people are fundamentally the same everywhere.

Eric: Look around, observe, and appreciate what is around you.

Ahmed: find happiness and gratitude in the small things in life and you will never be bored.

Aaron: Simplicity is often the ultimate road to happiness.

Sara: Things are often so much more complicated than they first appear. It is in going out and seeking our own truth that we open ourselves to the world and in return, the world opens itself to us.

Ileabeth: Cuba is such a beautiful country, and its people always fill me with joy and so many life lessons. May we never forget that the simple things in life is what brings us joy. Hasta la victoria siempre, Cuba!

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Last Day in Cuba

The day started out with a healthy dose of 3-10 year olds, as we assisted Ileabeth in teaching the church’s children group. We helped the kids make craft lanterns, and sang with them, “Caminemos en la luz de Dios” (“We are walking in the light of God”). Working with the kids was really fun, even despite that we had more assistants than seemed logical, and I resorted to picking up then kids’ trash from right in front of them rather than helping the craft. We then transitioned to the church service, where many of us exchanged cheerful greetings with our host families from Friday’s dinner. Ileabeth, Sara, and I sang with the church choir. (And I sang a solo for the church! ūüėČ ). I was surprised by the ability of the choir to learn and perfect the song in such a short time (we started learning it on Tuesday, but it definitely helped that of the eleven in the choir, four were or had been professional opera singers.

After the service, and a hearty lunch, we returned to Floro Perez to finish painting the meetinghouse. This time, instead of biting ants, we found adversaries in the many spiders hiding in the corners of the church. We just barely finished painting the first coat before our truck arrived, and it was sad to think that, since we had to rush out, we will likely never see the finished product of the newly painted meetinghouse. We followed our long and treacherously bumpy ride home with dinner at a (Cuban) Japanese restaurant down the street from the church, where the food was well worth the long wait (and maybe worth a bit of complaining from the others).

Ike class of 2019

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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 ‚ÄúAfrican massage‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúAfrica‚ÄĚ 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.

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Time in Cuba has gone by quickly. Today we woke up with the feeling that our stay here is almost coming to an end. Our mornings have been filled with mango juice, eggs and bread. Carlos, Lianet, Alberto and María greet us cheerfully in the morning, and today was no different.

Today we had a day full of cultural exchanges with different groups. First, we had an outing at the park with the youth of the Quaker meeting in Holguín. At 9AM we all boarded the truck to the park.  The group was composed of kids, youth, and adults.  Our students have gotten to know the members of the church well. As we got to the park we knew it was going to be a good time. We were divided in groups to get to know each other better. We played soccer and volleyball, and rode elevated bicycles. After enjoying some time together, we walked to lunch.

The pace of life here is different than in the US. ¬†Here, we¬īre not continuously bombarded by media, social networking, or advertising. We can really take time to enjoy each other’s company. I keep on thinking about how we will readjust, and if we will continue to take the time back home to just be present and not on our phones.

After a delicious lunch, we headed to a soccer game with the local youth team.  We cheered for Miranda, Ahmed, Eric, Courtney, Alice and Aaron. Sadly, we lost but we had a good time.

After sharing soda and smiles with the group, we headed back to the church to relax and have dinner.

Our Cuban friend, Leo, came to pick us up to go to the Vista Alegre Quaker meeting. We had a great time with the youth there. We played games and got to know them. The students got so involved in their conversations that it was hard to pull them away in the end.  Our dog friend, Chica, is still following around the streets of Holguí, and it is really cute.

Today was a great day, full of companionship with new friends.

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by Sara Shreve-Price

It was another busy day in Cuba for the George School crew. We woke up early to have breakfast and be on the road by 7:30am. Today we focused on cultural exploration. We spent most of the day in Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city.

We visited the main cemetery and the monuments to Jos√© Marti, Fidel Castro, the Buena Vista Social Club’s Company Segundo, and main other prominent Cubans. It was interesting to see the different customs here in terms of memorials. We also saw two museums.

Lunch was delicious as usual. Then we had the afternoon to explore central Santiago de Cuba. Many of us went shopping and looked around the city. The students enjoyed siestas during the ride back to Holguín.

After dinner we had an evening meeting during which many of us reflected on how much more complicated the world is than it first appears. Finally, a few of us went to choir rehearsal while everyone else played card games and chatted. Now we are hanging out in our rooms getting ready for bed (which honestly looks a little more like a dance party than whatever you as a reader are imagining). Then we are off to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow.

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Cuba Day 8

I woke up to Sara’s wake up call. I was running¬†relatively late this morning. ¬†We ate breakfast as usual and dove into hard work. Today, we started plucking wheat out from the ground; however, this did not take long and our truck arrived outside. It took about 10 minutes to arrive at our destination, we stopped by a government building with people waiting for us.

Our activity today was meeting “young communists” who were about 40 years old. One of them was a History professor at Holgu√≠n University. ¬†He passionately talked about the rise of the Cuban system and how before the Revolution, the dictators were manipulated by the United States. One of the interesting things he said was that every year Cubans submit a plea to the United Nations, and within the proposal they ask to lift the Cuban Embargo that has devastated the Cuban economy decades. Every country in the UN voted for the embargo to be lifted, except Israel and the United States. Many of us were shocked. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition between Cubans in Cuba and Cubans in the United States, because they both have reasonable opinions about the government.

Being from China, I personally love the political system here where there are no social classes in Cuba. Education, health care, housing, and more are all provided by the government, which embodies the true definition of communism. In Cuba, there are no illiterate people and they have the most doctors per capita. This is truly a unique country that is progressive in human rights and equality. Moreover, Cubans do not believe in working for money. I know. It is a rather unique definition of freedom, but they believe there is no dignity in life once a person is enslaved by monetary limitations. He said a newly drafted constitution is in play and the first article is going to be about working for the sake of service and for the people. This sounds like a Utopian society where everyone lives equally, but let us see how it plays out.

Admittedly, I wanted to ask more questions, but it was 12:40 and I was too hungry to stay there any longer. We went back to the church and did more work after eating. One of the better experiences today was after dinner. ¬†We all went salsa dancing at Leo’s dance studio. We had so much fun and the day finally came to an end.

I would love to talk to the students here in Cuba that are my age so I can get to learn about their perspectives of the education in this country. It was a tiring but fruitful day and I am willing to experience more of this country as we now only have 7 days left. I have fallen in love with Cuba and I will make sure to come back to visit Havana and this Church again.

See photos.

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by Nora

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!

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cuba (2)

by Ahmed ’19

The service today was not too long but was very early in the morning (editor’s note: the service began at 9am). We sang a song and performed a dance for the service. It was a special service because it was fathers day. It was finally time for the thing we have all been waiting for: going to the beach. The bus ride to the beach was really chill. It was air conditioned, comfy, and I saw a lot of beautiful scenery.

We went horse back riding as the first thing we did once we arrived at our destination. Personally I just wanted to go to the beach but I was wrong. Once we started riding I had so much fun. I got a really good horse. I started going slow at first but then I learned how to maneuver my horse and once I did that I was able to do so many things. Everybody was going way too slow and I wanted to go faster. Oh my god I loved riding that horse. It was so much fun. Near the end more people started riding their horses fast and Eric, Maddie, Aaron, and I started riding our horses together really fast. It hurt so much. I thought I was going to die because I kept bouncing up and down on my horse.

Then we went to lunch which was so good. We watched part of the Brazil vs Switzerland and we saw Coutinhio score.

Then we finally went to the beach and it was so much fun. We took so many pictures and enjoyed the view. The water was so clear and there were so many fishes. We tried to catch them but it didn’t work. When we went in the water we took videos of us messing around in the water. It was beautiful. None of us wanted to leave, but sadly we had to. Everybody was enjoying their experience at the beach.We took some fire pictures there. Today was by far the best day. We all want to go back for a second day.

The food here has just been amazing. We all ate dinner together and it was also really good.

We then went to chill at the plaza and after we played card games when we came back. Ileabeth said that she never lost a game of Sushi Go, so I played her in that and I won. People are adjusting pretty well and I think people are really enjoying it.

Check out more photos on Instagram.

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Second Day in Rwanda

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.

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Rwanda Day 6

conflict in rwanda

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.

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