Our week in the 'land of a thousand hills' was full of observing, learning and exploring.
Thoughts on Rwanda from some of our students:
"Our time spent in Rwanda came with a wide array of emotions, but by the end I came out of the trip filled with hope for this new life of reconciliation in Rwanda. What we experienced was real and heart-wrenching, but the joy and hope that we witnessed that has come out of the genocide outweighed the hurt and proved that forgiveness and new life is more than possible, it is happening."
~Joanna Benner, Messiah College '17
"Having the opportunity to visit Rwanda has been an incredible experience; the things I have learned and seen have truly had an impact on my world and how I see others."
~Allie E. Wynn, Columbia International University, '16
"If you want to know about a place where God's healing power is tangible, visit Rwanda. I was here just 10 days but was able to learn of unfathomable horror and to experience unbelievable healing through stories of reconciliation. Life was apparent and life in abundance was peeking through a tragic history. I am so thankful for the experience and fully believe the world has so much to learn from this country."
~Shanna Johnson, Cornerstone University '15
So what did we do?Umuganda is the last Saturday of every month; communities come together to do a variety of public works. Our students had the opportunity to participate in Umuganda this year by helping pour a cement floor at the diocese in Kibungo where we stayed.
Our first Sunday in Rwanda our students participated in church services in rural areas of the country.
During the week, we traveled to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center as well as Nyamatta Church, both memorials of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where we learned about Rwanda's tragic past. We also visited CARSA, a Christian organization devoted to reconciling perpetrators and victims of the Rwandan genocide. We worked on a community project alongside CARSA participants.
Since the horrors of the genocide, Rwanda has made impressive strides forward in the area of economic development. This successful development has been fueled by grassroots microfinance groups being formed all over the country. We were able to visit a few of these groups and talk to the members about how these groups are helping them in their everyday lives. We also experienced a taste of the beautiful and vibrant cultural community of Rwanda when we visited Inema Arts Center. The students learned the cultural dance of Rwanda and toured the art gallery.
We ended the trip with a few days on Bushara Island in Lake Bunyonyi, just across the border in Uganda. This purpose of this time is to reflect on our experiences in Rwanda through formal and informal debrief sessions, as well as the space to enjoy some down time together in a beautiful location.