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Summer 2017 Rwanda Blog

Day 1

Today was our first full day at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. Our schedule was tighly-packed: communal breakfast, 3-hour village tour, communal lunch, group discussion on global citizenship and allyship, free time to spend with student clubs and activities, communal dinner, family time (1 hour with a designated family), and Tufts group debrief. Despite this structured itinerary, we experienced pockets of special moments with the village youth and our own Tufts group.

Tariana

Today’s theme for me was discovering myself and others around me. One of the most special moments of today was free time to explore student clubs and activities. After a brief nap, my roommates and I sat through a traditional Rwanda dance led by village students practicing for a competition. Their enthusiasm was palpable. Afterward, we ventured to the arts center, where we heard piano sounds from a corner room. There sat a 15-year old boy, Franbo, playing a keyboard by himself. We sat close to him, and listened to him play songs,  such as, Jingle Bells, and If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands. My two roommates took turns playing, and practicing, songs with him. I nearly cried watching Franbo express his musical talent, particularly the access to instruments that allowed him to shine and grow. What could he, and others, accomplish if they were given the opportunity? I think that is why a place like the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village exists. 

YooJin

For me, the first day was very insightful and impactful. Coming to Rwanda, I had no idea what to expect. However, through the Tufts group and the welcoming Rwandans in the village, I truly felt comfortable in this new and foreign country. After breakfast, consisting of a piece of bread and porridge at 6am, we went on a tour of ASYV. Consisting of 144 acres, there was much to see. We learned about the history of the village and how it came to be, what its values are, and about the founder, Anne. Through the tour, I came to appreciate how much of an impact the village has on the students. They offer family, friends, and even “mama’s” for the four years they are here, and beyond. After the tour, we had lunch and then free time to hang out with students. A touching moment I had was when I met Franbo playing the keyboard. This was my first real, one on one interaction with a student, and I had the opportunity to sit down and teach him a little jingle. Franbo was such a quick learner! The potential these students have if given the opportunity is amazing. I truly am looking forward to the next nine days here. Even though it was only my first day here in Rwanda, I am already dreading the day we leave. 
 
 

Day 2

Leili

Today we had breakfast at the dining hall with some interns at ASYV. Interns have graduated in the past year and are working at the village. I had a very interesting conversation with one of the interns about playing and composing music. We soon boarded the bus and headed out to the NGO Gardens of Health in Kibenga. We learned about the organization, which does amazing work with mothers to address the problem of malnutrition. These women work on the farm and also learn about balanced meals they can bring to their families. The lunch that was offered to us as well as other community members was delicious, especially the guacamole! The next NGO we visited was the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center. The site was beautiful and aims to empower women through giving them lessons in English, weaving, painting, etc so that they can gain the skills to find independent success. After the drive back to ASYV, I had dinner with my family and some of the girls tried teaching me their language. Throughout the day I had a balance of fun and meaningful conversations with both Tufts and ASYV students, which I am very grateful for! 

Day 3

Amir

Today we woke up early and went to the school to help Senior 6 students with cover letters. We split into two groups. Each group attended one section of a CDC (Career Development Center) class led by one of the teachers. We listened to the lesson and then offered feedback on the cover letters students wrote. After school, some of us went to lunch. In the afternoon, we walked to the Rubona market. Some students had clothing made by seamstresses. Some of us enjoyed local Rwandan food and soda. The trip to Rubona was a window into the stark contrast between life within Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and life outside of it. We returned from the market and attended a meeting with the village’s cousins, a cohort of short-term workers who live with families and spearhead initiatives. The meeting raised concerns on how the presence of cousins, who are predominantly white Americans, affects the children’s perspectives. Shortly after the meeting, we went to Village Time. Village Time was a meaningful gathering of the whole village, and it featured performances by traditional Rwandan dance groups and other talented ASYV kids. One of the other highlights of the village time was the monthly birthday celebrations. Then dinner was served with the birthday cake presented to all the students and staff of the village. This was followed by an optional Boom Party on the balcony of the dining hall. Some of us attended church services during this time. We ended the night with the usual check ins of all the Tufts students and discussed the plan for the next day

Day 4

Anna and Fredrick

Writing to you with full bellies and happy hearts. It's our fourth day in Rwanda and we had the great pleasure to join the students of ASYV for their weekly morning run at 6AM. This unity run is called Mucaca and involves chanting, singing, and uplifting your neighbors. Just as amazing was the community service that the students fulfill every month. This time they cut grass to make sure the village keeps its beauty and we were allowed to help. We are inspired by the student's enthusiasm to participate in community service and hope to begin a similar initiative at Tufts. After community service we took a break and then began another group discussion. We continued to engage in difficult conversations that reveal so much and help us to grow. As our days in Rwanda pass, we continue to question our place here and the systems around us.

Day 5

Kella

Today we went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. There are not enough words to describe how powerful the experience was, at least there are not enough to put it in writing. Though, feel free to engage in a conversation with one of the fellows upon our return. I know I would love to chat! We then headed to Meze Fresh (the best food in Kigali since 2009! Or 8? We still aren't too sure) Essentially, we went to the Rwandese version of Chipotle...no complaints. After some time in a local supermarket where many of us bought coffee, we came back to the village to rest and discuss memory and forgiveness. As Toni Morrison writes in "Beloved," "some things you forget other things you never do." As for me, this trip is more than a singular experience. Rather, it encompasses many moments that I cannot and will not forget and hope to pass on. In dedication to the survivors, deceased, and hope for a better future, murakoze for everything.

Tali

Today we went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It was very powerful to visit this space and grapple with the painful history of colonialism and genocide in Rwanda. When I witness the sense of collective responsibility at ASYV and in Rwandan society, it is difficult to believe that the genocide happened just 23 years ago. When we got back to the village, we had a group conversation about memory and forgiveness. After dinner, we joined the family time of different families. I loved to connect with the girls in my family, and feel so grateful to the mahatma ghandi family for accepting us so graciously into their family! I am looking forward to another day of learning and connecting.

Day 6

Justin and Mel

Have you ever swam in a lake in Rwanda? Neither have we!  Today the majority of the group took a hike across local communities to Lake Mugesara. The hike included deep conversations, sunflowers, and many waves to locals. Due to the advice from our important community health majors, swimming the lake was not an option. However, we enjoyed the journey and beautiful landscape. During this time, the rest of the group shared a bonding activity of sifting through beans in preparation for meals ahead. They conversed with the kitchen staff while bumping along to African pop on the radio. Upon reconvening in the village, we had some down time to recover from the hike and bean foraging. From washing clothes, to reading in the grass, to advising ASYV students on their college applications, the gang had a relaxing and fulfilling afternoon. After ASYV students were released from their classes, we had the opportunity to observe and engage in their Enrichment Programs. Many of us spent time in the Arts Center where students painted, played music, sewed, took photographs, and more! Other members played volleyball and basketball while some participated in the cooking workshop. Following the EPs, we had a meaningful group discussion about genocide awareness and education. From there we walked to dinner and ate another classic dish of rice and beans. We gratefully ended the night spending quality time with our families. Some focused on tutoring for exams this week while others played games and danced happily together. Today was a day filled with reflection and laughter.  As we are nearing the end of our trip, many mixed emotions are surfacing throughout the group. Although we are not looking forward to our departure (and the long flight home), we are excited to continue exploring Rwanda, engaging in insightful conversations within the group, and getting to know the students of ASYV.  Hoberano (Hugs)!

Day 7

Maureen

As a Rwandese, my trip to Rwanda was really unique because it was seeing my country in my eyes and foreigners’ eyes. Some moments were funny, others were so uncomfortable such as seeing children on the streets staring at us because I once did it too. I have learned a lot through the questions that the whole group asked, and thought critically about the genocide education in Rwanda and every where in the world. I really appreciated visiting the Murambi memorial site 

Hakeem & Luke

Today was our last full day in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. After a powerful day at the Murambi Genocide Memorial, spending the whole day away from the village, it was greatly appreciated to stay at ASYV. Some people started the morning early, participating in basketball and zumba through the Learning Communities. The whole group convened at 9am and walked up the road to the neighboring solar field, which sits on land leased by ASYV. There, we learned how the Africa-shaped solar field- the second largest on the entire continent- supplies more than 5% of Rwanda’s electricity. We then headed back to the guest house and had a discussion about responsibility in relation to global service, specifically genocide. Afterwards we had insightful meetings with the Health and Wellness Staff, as well as Vincent, the village director. To end the day we had our family time, which was very emotional as we all said our final goodbyes to the groups we had gotten incredibly close to over the course of the trip and then gathered around a bonfire to do closing activities. Both of us cannot believe that time in Rwanda is coming to a close.

Day 8

Olivia & Thaw

Today is our last day in Rwanda and it’s a bittersweet feeling. We are very excited to go home but also sad to be leaving this group of fellows and this beautiful country. We woke up this morning, packed up the rooms and cleaned the guest house, then had a last group discussion about how to bring what we learned back home. All of us boarded the bus  and said our last goodbyes to Mabubu, the wonderful intern who helped us throughout our time here. We then headed to lunch in Kigali, then continued on to the Kimironko Market which is a local market that sells food, crafts, clothing, and varied tchotchkes. Many of us bought gifts for loved ones back in our respective homes and then we proceeded to the airport. We said our last goodbyes to Edmond and Lauren, who helped us with arranging the bus for our travels within Rwanda. The sun was setting as we entered the Kigali International Airport, reminding me [Thaw] of a quote from Maureen. “God travels around the world but rests in the evening in Rwanda." Thank you Nina and Allison for your leadership and support. Thank you to everyone that put time and energy into this fellowship. 

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