Tag Archives: service trips


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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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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Cuba Day 3

by Courtney Heffelfinger ’19

So today was our second full day in Cuba and it was better than the first, for me at least. Today we woke up and ate breakfast of fruits, toast, and eggs. Alice and I struggled to keep our eyes open during breakfast even though we got about 8 hours of sleep.

After breakfast we went right to work with Roxy where we were getting the gravel we moved from the ground to the second floor up from the first with our pulley system. It wasn’t so bad because I was with Priya, Alice, Maddie, and Miranda and we had our rotation system down so each of us could take breaks. Priya struggled a bit with moving the wheelbarrow full of gravel to the big pile we were making on the roof, so Jose helped her each time that it was her turn to push the barrow, saying in Spanish that she needed “one big push”. After we got all of the rocks up we moved this huge thing up from the floor the rocks were on. I literally have no idea what it was or what purpose it served, but I had to stand on bags of rice while Eric had to climb up the wall and help Jose get the thing onto the roof. We also filled buckets with sand and did the same thing that we did with the gravel. I think it was easier because the sand wasn’t as difficult to shovel up into the buckets.

After our shoveling and filling the wheelbarrow, we had a snack and watched the World Cup on the TV in the living room. Ahmed was rooting for Egypt against Uruguay but I think it ended up being a tie at zero, however I could be completely wrong because we missed the end of the game. Alice, Miranda, Sara, and Maddie washed the dishes after lunch while the rest of us continued to watch the World Cup until we started rehearsing for our dance for our Sunday service. That was a mess. We’ve been getting better at it but I think we have come to the understanding that we are all really bad at timing. Aaron has to be a grandpa in the ending scene of the dance, but when asked to walk like a grandpa, he instead walked like he was having a heart attack. He tried and eventually fixed it, because that wasn’t exactly how Leo, our choreographer, imagined the dance.

The last sort of event we had today was our first family dinner. My group was Sara, myself, Maddie, Ike, and Angie with our host Sergio and his family. We were apprehensive at first because we had just met them and only half of us knew Spanish – myself, Maddie, and Eric excluded. As we continued to talk with the family, I started to understand more and more of what the conversations were about. Our family made every effort to include us in conversation and they had the most bubbly and amazing personalities of the people I have met so far. Sergio is an artisan who makes bracelets and we found that out after he pointed to Maddie’s bracelet she got yesterday in the shopping plaza and said he makes them. He elaborated on how he works and what he does saying that he uses cow bone to make certain parts of the bracelets and then makes a certain design with the string and puts it all together. He asked us all what our favorite colors were and at the end of dinner gave us all bracelets that he had made. We walked all the way back home from his house which took nearly and hour but I’d say it was worth it. Today was actually such a good day and if I could spend all of my time walking around Holguin like we did, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do it forever.

-Courtney Heffelfinger 🙂

p.s. Mom and Dad, we got my luggage and I’m happy as a clam. Thanks Pops.

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Arizona Day 4

by Anney ’20

Thursday night was the last night we spent with our host families. In the evening, we and our host families all had dinner together, talking and sharing with each other the experiences we’ve had. Although it has only been four days, we all felt a sense of belonging to this big family. 

After dinner, each of us got to spend some time with our host families. Mel and I were hosted by Adrienne, and as we talked, she showed us pictures of students from previous service trips. I found it beautiful how members of George School from different times are all connected by this Arizona service trip.

After departing from the host families Friday morning, we spend Friday afternoon hiking at the Grand Canyon, 1.5 miles down the Bright Angel Trail. We were astonished by the terrific landscape of the Grand Canyon, as well as the animals we saw along the way, such as elks and mountain goats. Although the hike was tiring, it was a delightful and memorable experience.

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Cuba Day 1

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by Maddie Keith ’19

If I was asked to choose today, word to describe today, I don’t think I could find one to encapsulate sll of the emotions, encounters, or adventures that we’ve had today.

Our day started at 2am, technically our second day of travel, as we met the before to travel to the airport. After a night filled with Apples to Apples and countless Vine references, us girls found it difficult to get up. Eventually, everybody met downstairs and we headed to check our bags, where we waited for what seemed like forever. All of us, delusional as we were, managed to make it through security with just enough time to walk right on to our plane. It was fairly empty, so obviously we all moved around to keep each other company. Ahmed, Aaron, and I played different card games, one of which Aaron taught us from China. Also, on this particular flight because it was so early, we got to watch the sun rise.

During our layover in Miami, we had some free time so we grabbed a quick breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and then just chilled, recharged for our next flight. Within the last thirty minutes before we started to board, I noticed people starting to say their “final goodbyes,” meaning that this was the last time that we would be connected to wifi or even have service at all for the next two weeks. This seemed to be the hardest hurdle to overcome, but once we were up in the air, there was no turning back.

The flight from Miami to Holguin was short and sweet. Besides some minor turbulence, we landed in Cuba with ease. Getting off of the plane and breathing in the hot Cuban air for the first time was an experience I will never forget. With no social media to post on, I found it amusing we all still wanted to document the moment we first stepped foot in Cuba. Alice brought out her disposable camera while Miranda and I recorded videos of us just screaming and spinning around, taking in the foreign landscape.

Then, we had our first bit of an issue, which was pleasantly surprising given how far we had come. Courtney’s suitcase did not make it to Cuba with us. After doing all we could and filling out a lost baggage complaint, we all got on the bus and headed on our approximately 30 minute drive to the church where we are staying. While arriving, I couldn’t help but stare out the window the whole time. I have never seen or visited a place like this in my whole life, so I was completely taken aback by Cuba’s astonishing beauty and unique personalities that scatter the streets.

Arriving at the church, we were greeted by many friendly faces, one of which was Carlos, a tall, dark skinned man. with kind eyes and a warm smile. We were shown to the boys room first, then taken upstairs to where the girls would be staying. Set up much like a typical overnight camp style cabin, we all immediately fell in love.

After taking time to settle in, we had our first group meal at the church, which consisted of a spread of rice, beans, a turkey and veggie mix, fried plantains, mango, and guava. I honestly could not have been happier to sit down and have a quality meal after the seemingly endless day of travel that we had just endured.

Stomachs full, we all changed into cooler clothing, and split up into different “service” groups for the day. Aaron, Eric, and Ahmed went and filled up the water bottles for members for the community that get their filtered water from the church. While Ike and the girls met in the little annex of the church to begin to prepare our song for service. Needless to say, the song will be needing a lot more work. More updates to come.

An hour or so passed, and all of the sudden BOOM. thunder, lightning, pouring rain. The boys quickly returned and we hid out in the annex. We used that time to begin learning our dance piece for service as well. A young man named Leo helped us out, and with little, but some initial resistance, we began learning our way through a piece dedicated to fathers. that will also need work as well, but it is moving in the right direction.

We ended our first day in Cuba with a family dinner of pasta and cookies. Even more delicious than lunch. Stomachs full once again, and tired as ever, we decided to call it a night and meet for our daily worship sharing. Oh, I almost forgot to mention our new friend Jesus! He is a five year old boy whose mom lives in the church, and after dinner, Angie, Miranda, Alice, and I all played with him. It was amazing to see how even with a language barrier, kids are still silly, fun-loving , little balls of energy.

Bed time for everyone was super early tonight, as needed. Tomorrow is our first full day of working in Holguin and we are going to need to catch up on as much sleep as possible.

We all miss home a little. but cannot wait to see what adventures Cuba has in store for us

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Arizona Day 1

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by Charlie ’19

Over the past four days, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the kids in Kayenta. We’ve helped them in their classes, through lunch and recess, and getting on the busses to go home. Today we organized a field day for their last day of summer school. There were many relays, games, and a water station so that they could cool down and keep hydrated. They seemed to really enjoy playing with us and I loved cheering them on when the succeeded (especially when they were afraid to make mistakes. They are not only adorable, but their unabashed excitement and friendliness has warmed our hearts. There were some tears today when we had to leave (from both us and them), but a few of us made plans to be pen-pals in the upcoming year.

Fiona, Mitch, and I have been staying with Lena, who helped organize our trip and works at the school. She has been so caring and warm towards us, and her very young and incredibly cute granddaughter comes in almost every night to make sure that we are ok and that we know to take our shoes off. Although we haven’t spent much time there, we all got a chance to talk with her and she told us about her parents.

We also have visited and hiked in various parts of the reservation, including Canyon de Chelly and along the toes (rocks shaped like toes just outside of Kayenta). We visited Monument Valley and purchased traditional jewelry and ornaments. It’s been incredible to be so immersed in the Navajo culture and experience the kindness of everyone here. It’s saddening that we don’t get to spend more time here, but we are excited to continue with our journey to Page and Flagstaff.

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Rwanda Day 2


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.

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Rwanda Day 1


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.

See more from Rwanda on Instagram!

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Cuba 2018


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by | June 11, 2018 · 10:55 am