Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Harsh Realities (repost)

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this blog now that I have been back in the states for a few months, but I came across something very important that I think I need to share. Current volunteers Bret and Dorota have composed a very frank blog post about the idea of volunteering. It is more of a warning for younger folk wanting to adventure around the world during a gap-year before they settle into college. Please take a moment to read their commentary.

Harsh Realities

I can only speak for myself in this matter, but I know that I was not nearly as prepared for this trip to Rwanda as I should have been. I could not fathom the difficulties or challenges I would face along the way. But I am pleased to say that my two years at St. Mike's did me well as I tried to navigate the complexities of working in a foreign culture. And with the help of my friend Ally, we were able to use our skills (as best we could) to leave our boys with something sustainable that will last long after we have left.

To anyone interested in volunteering abroad, I would say you must be a self-motivated, independent, and a confident person. Your values, your ideas, and your culture will continually be questioned and you must be able to stay focused on your ultimate goal: sustainable improvements.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

And the Beat Goes On...

Despite the fact that I've been out of Rwanda for a month, I still think about the boys and the center often. Many exciting things are happening there and volunteers Bret and Dorota keep a blog of their own that recounts the weeks events!

Check out their most recent post about new mattresses, basketball hoops, and special guests!

Here's a video Bret created about the boys testing out the hoops, some rollerblades, and scooters!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Please check out Ally's Blog concerning our friend, Willy. I've mentioned him many times before. One of his biggest dreams is to visit America. Ally and I are attempting to make this dream come true. It may seem like a daunting task, but Willy is in the process of getting his Rwandan passport and will be able to apply for a U.S. visa in the coming weeks.

We have already raised about $500 for his plane ticket, but we'll need about $1500 more. If you're interested in helping, Ally has a donate button on her blog. All of the money donated will go towards Willy's dream of visiting America.

Don't forget to check out Ally's blog:

The donate button is yellow and is located to the right hand side of the screen!

Home Sweet Home

After 26 hours of travel, Ally and I made it home safely. I have been home for about a week now and I’m still trying to get my feet back on the ground. I wrote the following in my journal while waiting for my flight in Brussels:

Ally and I rode to the airport in the center truck driven by Jean Baptiste. I choked back tears as I took one last look at the Kigali skyline. The place I called home for the past 7 months would become a small dot on the ground in a matter of hours and I tried not to think about it. Even as I sit in Brussels Airport, I’m tearing up. I won't see buses packed with people so tightly that people have to crouch forward and angle their bodies like acrobats to fit; only to file out and pile in when the person in back has to get out. I won't hear the excessive honking of car horns substituting for breaks. I won't be around the smiling faces of my boys or hear their English improve every day. I won't be able to hang out with my friend Willy after work and talk about America, the world, or any other topic he has questions about. Each piece forms my own Rwanda. It was my world and in one day of travelling, everything will change.

Everything has changed. My mind often wanders to Rwanda. I find myself absentmindedly calculating the 6-hour time difference and realize I no longer need to add hours, but subtract in order to get the time in Rwanda.

We left in the midst of big changes at the center and although I know I did the best I could in the time I was there, it is still difficult to walk away. I do find consolation in the fact that two amazing volunteers arrived to take our places and continue our work. Bret and Dorota are working hard as we speak to make sure the center continues to progress forward.

Although I have left Rwanda, the stories of the boys at Les Enfants de Dieu continue. You can follow along with Bret and Dorota on their blog called B,D and the Boys. Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog over the past 7 months. You love and support means more to me than you will ever know. It was one wild ride and an experience that I will hold in my heart forever. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Dancing Adventures of Ally Bataille

Ally and I have a lot in common. One particular thing we both share is our love for Ellen Degeneres. No matter how bad of a day we have here in Rwanda, when we watch a few clips on YouTube of the Ellen show, we can’t help but smile.

If you are an Ellen fan, you know that the show has been asking people to perform “Dance Dares” which entails finding a random person in public and dancing behind them without them noticing. It’s made for some pretty hilarious videos such as this one below:

Ally has taken it upon herself to fulfill Ellen’s dance dare here in Rwanda. Check out the finished product!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Want Some TOMS Shoes?

ATTENTION! Do you like TOMS? Boy, do I have a deal for you! Les Enfants De Dieu received a shipment of TOMS shoes, however, they are impractical for the boys. Now, we are reversing the one-for-one campaign. Buy one pair of these navy blue TOMS shoes for $20, and we will buy the boys one pair of shoes they will actually wear. Available sizes include: 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5. First come first serve. Leave a comment if you want one. I must know by Monday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Genocide Commemoration

This week marks the 18th year since the Rwandan genocide. Genocide Commemoration week is one of the most important times of the year for Rwandans. It is a time to remember and reflect on the past so that tragedies such as this will never happen again.

Ally, Elizabeth, and I decided to partake in one of the many ceremonies happening this week called the “Walk to Remember.” We met at the Rwandan Parliament and were joined by hundreds of others to make the 30-minute trek to Amahoro Stadium. This walk was organized by Rwandan secondary and university students many years ago and has since been adopted by the government as a kick-off to the commemoration ceremonies.

As the rain slowed, we walked with many other purple-clad people up the blocked-off street. On a normal day, the main road to Remera is packed with honking cars and buses. On Sunday, April 7th, 2012, it was silent. I couldn’t help but think about what the road must have looked like on April 7th, 1994 after President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. Did Hutus set up roadblocks on this road, killing any Tutsi that tried to pass?

Walking down the road in Remera to the stadium

When we reached the stadium, every seat had a candle next to it. President Kagame lit the first candle and soon, everyone in the stadium held their very own flame. It was a very moving sight to see thousands of people, holding a candle in memory of those who were killed during the genocide.

Rwandan students who helped organize the event took
center stage for the candle-lighting ceremony

More people arrived throughout the night

The ceremony was predominantly made up of songs about the genocide with the message that Rwanda must learn from its past. It was definitely an emotional experience for the Rwandans who had lost their friends and family. A few people needed to be removed from the stadium as they were reliving the trauma they had experienced 18 years ago. If there is one thing I’ve learned during my past seven months, it’s that the scars of 1994 are still present in every day lives.

During this week, it is impossible to avoid the past. Radio stations are only allowed to play songs concerning genocide. Purple, the official color of genocide memorials appears on billboards, signs, and clothing to remind everyone of the tragedy. Although this is a painful time for many, I believe it is so very necessary.