First Monday: Our First School Visit

After late night planning and going over last minute details for our work sessions with the KIE students coming up later this week, the bright morning began with a delicious breakfast of eggs, fruit, and toast with butter and honey in the beautiful courtyard of our hotel. All 12 of us jumped in ‘the van’ for the first time and embarked on a tour through the hills of Kigali. I was truly awestruck by their scope—something that truly needs to be experienced and can’t be captured through pictures alone. We stopped at the house of Leon, one of our gracious hosts. I learned he had only moved in six months ago, and I was excited to hear about his plans for the house, as well as to meet the rest of his family. I was fortunate to get to hold his middle child Lionella. Not having come prepared with toys and goodies, I pulled out my deck of playing cards, which greatly interested her. We then had a lengthy drive through the hills, spotted many locals, and had a chance to walk up to the Ugandan border.
The main focus of our day was a visit to a school in Byumba. Upon arrival, I didn’t know what to expect, and we were immediately greeted by some of the students’ performance of dance, drumming and song. Their inviting us up to join them in dance was a particularly great moment, as was seeing all the other students file in. I was really moved by my classmates—Melanie and Abby—and the sharing of their scene, which takes place in a refugee camp and focuses on the relationship between a displaced woman and American doctor who has come to help. Despite language barriers, the scene seemed to generate some interesting thinking amongst the students. My favorite moment of the day was sitting in the audience with several of them and talking about the scene and some of the activities led by Chris and Helen. I am learning that communication can often be quite difficult as English is a language that is still developing here (I am striving to learn more words in Kinyarwandan each day)—yet the students were still excited to dialogue and converse afterwards. As the afternoon came to a close, we all gathered outside the school. The students were so thrilled to meet us and take pictures with us. I spoke with so many bright young people today, and felt saddened by the fact that our time with them proved so short.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, and conversing over dinner with our group about the day, I am left wondering about how this work can be sustainable with such a short amount of time spent here. If anything, it encourages me to find ways to keep in communication with the school we visited, but still leaves me with a lot of questions. In general, I feel awakened, challenged, and inspired. I look forward to another school visit tomorrow and the journey that lies ahead.

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