Volunteer Name: Emily Campbell
Project Location: Rwanda
Volunteered at: Orphanage/School
1- What was a typical day at the project like? (hours, work tasks)
Typically, I would wake up around 6:30 and prepare for the day, before meeting in the staff room at 7:10 for a morning meeting before beginning classes. Class instruction times were varied based on the day, and I would teach from 1 to 4 50 minute classes each day in English and Reading and Writing. During school hours when I was not teaching, I would help the teachers type mid-term exams or work on lesson plans for upcoming classes. After school was over, around 16:30pm, I would either spend time speaking with teachers in the staff room or go back to the compound and spend time with the boarding girls students until around 19:00 when I would return to the staff room for dinner. I would typically return to my room around 21:00 and spend time reading or talking with my family before going to bed.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
The most surprising thing I experienced was how welcoming and friendly Rwandans were to an American. I had expected that as a foreigner entering into a small village I may not be positively received because of past historical interactions with Americans/Europeans, but I was welcomed with open arms into the daily life and culture of Rwanda. People were willing to share the beauty and strength of Rwanda through telling stories and interacting with me through daily conversation. It was a truly incredible experience to be so welcomed into such a beautiful and loving country full of people.
3- What was most difficult to experience? How can new volunteers prepare better?
I built a very strong relationship with the boarding girls, who I now consider my daughters/little sisters. They are all incredible young girls who have so much potential and promise, and leaving them was by far the most difficult thing I had to do. It was the most beautiful thing in the world to come to love these girls as my own children and to want to protect them and provide for them, yet it was also difficult to know that my time spent with them each day was finite, and at some point I would be required to leave Rwanda and return home. My love for these girls has fueled my passion for gender equity in education -- yet each day I struggle to remember that if it is God's will, I will return one day to see them again.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
Donations of rulers, pens, and pencils would be great. The students are always breaking or losing theirs and could definitely use replacements. Also if you have childrens' clothing that you're looking to get rid of and you have extra room in your suitcase, bring it: the kids would love to try things on and keep what fits!
4.1-Other things volunteers should know:
a.- It's colder than you'd expect in Rwanda - pack light sweaters and pants to wear on chillier days. T-shirts and jeans or long sleeves and skirts would be the best outfit combinations.
b.- Bring a water purifier: I brought a water bottle that had a UV light purifier that killed micro bacteria, and it worked perfectly.
c.- The kids love nail polish and toys -- bring them if you want to spend time with the girls and play with the kids!
d.- Stay open minded and know that even if the adjustment is difficult, Rwanda is amazing!
5- Personal Paragraph about volunteering (ABV Program Testimonial):
My time in Rwanda was one of incredible personal and spiritual growth; I experienced difficulties and successes, natural beauty and man-made ugliness, pure joy and deep sorrow, and an overwhelming appreciation for the wonderful world that God had created for us to inhabit and, even better, to share with one another. My sharing of the little village of Nsinda and beyond taught me lessons which helped me to transform into a person more deeply committed to an anthropolgically-grounded process for the investment in and development of Africa. The part that had the most profound impact was getting to know so many beautiful young girls – they all have such potential and such bright futures ahead of them. I felt like a proud mom/big sister as I shared in their joys and took care of them during their sorrows and times of trouble. It is so rewarding to be able to experience young girls who have the whole world in front of them, and to see that they are being equipped with the knowledge and skills to achieve any dream they have their hearts set on. I can wholeheartedly say that I love these girls like my own little sisters/daughters, the hardest part of leaving Rwanda was saying goodbye to them!
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared).
Security and accommodation were basic but livable on-site at the school in the girls' dormitory -- bring bug spray and a flashlight because the electricity can often go out!
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
Discovering bubbles in my bag and spending the afternoon listening to music and blowing bubbles with all of the boarding girls while taking pictures.
8.- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling? Did you feel well prepared? Would you recommend any changes/improvements on getting volunteers ready to travel abroad?
The support was great and I felt very prepared. It was nice to be in contact with the local coordinator before arriving, and to have the program packet to brief me on what to expect in Rwanda.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers
Absolutely! Please share my blog and my email and I'd be more than happy to tell people about Rwanda -- I'm hoping to return to Rwanda next summer and might even be there at the same time as other volunteers.