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 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.
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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