About Rwanda

The Global Volunteer Network's Rwanda volunter program allows volunteers to help develop communities in Rwanda. This program has something to suit all skills and experience levels. You have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of under-privileged children and adults by assisting processes to help eradicate poverty, reduce HIV infections, and help communities through capacity building programs. Whilst sharing your knowledge and compassion with the local people, you will have a chance to make a personal contribution and connection to the people of Rwanda. The program is located in the Kigali province of Rwanda.

For more information, please visit the Rwanda webpage on the Global Volunteer Network website.

Recent Rwanda Journals:

Women’s Work

 Posted by Sarah & Brian at 3:04 am  Rwanda  Comments Off on Women’s Work
Sep 272012

The soil is so fertile here and the climate so benign that growing food is easy. Except that is for the necessity to remove all the volcanic rocks first, massive slabs and tons of smaller ones. These have to be hacked with hoes or levered and heaved. There is black magma everywhere: forming the foundations for new houses, piled up outside the doors of existing ones, just left as rubble on the roadside. There is one village where there is so little topsoil that it seems built on a slag heap or industrial site with black pathways and whole front entrances of rock. Removing them is hard work for us, especially as we have walked a couple of miles before we start. But the women of the co- operatives help each other with this as with everything else. They attack the task with energy and cheerfulness. As well as the walk we have all done, they have their daily work: collecting water in plastic containers, washing everything in cold water and in bowls outside, carrying supplies a considerable distance on their heads, caring for their children. Brian got blisters on his hand on the first day so bought himself some gloves. Everyone else works with their bare hands, hoeing, lifting rocks, raking and weeding with their fingers, sometimes up to their shins in the earth. There is a continual flow of joking, chatting, laughter to and fro. At least one of them will have a baby on her back to be fed as well . When I expressed my admiration for this one day, I was told, we have no education and there are no jobs. We have to work to live. One other main activity for the groups is that they each meet to make beaded necklaces, mats, baskets [click here to read more]

Union, Peace and Reconciliation

 Posted by Sarah & Brian at 2:29 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Union, Peace and Reconciliation
Sep 262012

The one thing most people know about Rwanda is that in 1994 there was a terrible outburst of genocidal violence. We had done a little reading about it before we came and knew that the colonial system introduced the classification of two groups in this tiny country which led directly to the slaughter. Our orientation focused on what happened and why. We learnt that the targeting of Tutsis was a political strategy implemented over many years by extremists within a government supported by the outgoing colonisers. A militia was trained in secret for the purpose and there were many earlier attacks. In preparation for the final horror of those days in April, 5 thousand machetes were imported. Eight hundred thousand people were murdered in a hundred days. To learn of the reality of what happened from someone who had lived through it was a moving experience. In one sense everyone here over 18 is a victim of what happened. Many people will tell you quietly who they lost:grandparents, fathers, mothers, siblings, children. You can see machete wounds on some;some have lost limbs. But so many are ‘walking with trauma ‘ which you can’t see. The women we are meeting in the co- operatives experienced all forms of sexual violence and many were infected with HIV. At the orphanage there are adults who were abandoned as babies by fleeing genociders or who had lost their parents when the army of exiles arrived to stop the killing. Some of these had been living wild in the forest when they were found. At the Genocide Memorial in Kigali there are 250 thousand bodies buried in mass graves, some of them unidentified, some only recently found. There is a Children’s Room with portraits of just ten of those killed. You see the name, a [click here to read more]

The Land of a Thousand Hills

 Posted by Sarah & Brian at 2:26 am  Rwanda  Comments Off on The Land of a Thousand Hills
Sep 232012

We landed in Kigali through towering banks of cloud, a herald of the almost daily downpour for an hour or so which stops traffic and all activity. But the climate here is actually wonderful if you can shelter from rain. It is warm but not too hot and the light is soft, reflected from the forests and hills all around. Kigali sits on several of these hills, so it was hard to find the centre as really there are lots. It is also undergoing rapid redevelopment with new building going up everywhere. I thought I had won my intrepid traveller in the traffic badge by getting on the back of a Moto taxi (a 125 cc motorbike) and holding on for dear life as five of them raced each other down bumpy roads into the city. The helmets don’t fit by the way. But in fact these trips were just a trial run for motos in Giesenyi where we are doing our placement. Everything here has to be hacked out of volcanic rock,usually by hand, so apart from the main road serving the big hotels on the lake and a few other routes, the roads are rocky. Really very rocky thoroughfares for pedestrians and traffic alike. As so few people have personal transport, most walk. They walk long distances from the villages into town, often with heavy loads, on their heads if women, as well as a baby on their back, an enormous bundle on their head. If men they also use buckling bicycles. Brian has more than once offered to stop a bike careering down hill because the weight is so heavy. We are both involved in a garden project for the poorest women.There are several women’s co-operatives in the villages set up to support genocide survivors and other [click here to read more]

So long…

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 8:35 am  Rwanda  Comments Off on So long…
Jun 212012

6/21/12 After much back and forth, I decided to come home to fully recover, The antibiotics did seem to start working, but my doctor at home had said that even if they do, I will feel weak and tired for a little while after, and my immune system will be low and I would be very susceptible to catching something else. My breathing was also not totally back to normal there, and when I went outside the dust seemed to make it worse. I was very conflicted because I knew it was possible that I would get better in a few days, but the risks seemed higher and after seeing what medical care was like there, I decided to make the responsible decision and go home so that I can recover properly, in a clean environment with better nutrition than what was available to me. On Sunday evening I headed back toKigalito stay in the guest house there and Monday night I flew out. I had a really nice last evening and went with a few of the other volunteers inKigalito the hotel that the movie HotelRwandawas based off of. It’s a beautiful hotel and we sat by the pool there for a while. I flew out at 1am, stopping inUganda(just to pick more people up) thenIstanbuland then to JFK and got home Tuesday evening. I have been recovering well and am mostly better now that I can eat and breathe properly. I’m taking it easy for the first few days and sleeping it off and am doing pretty well. I was pretty bummed out about cutting my trip short. I’ve been planning this for almost a year, and spent a lot of time doing research, preparing and meeting with people, in addition to having spent most of my savings [click here to read more]

Man plans…

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 8:55 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Man plans…
Jun 142012

6/15/12 Shabbat #2 was pretty much the same, lit candles, ate, read, slept, walked around the area. Saturday night I got sick, some sort of stomach thing and had a pretty rough night. Sunday my stomach was better but I started to have flu like symptoms- fever, congested, weak etc. On Monday, Angel (the translator and person from FVA who stays with us) walked into my room and said “you have Malaria”. I kindly explained that I don’t think I have Malaria, I am taking pills for that and it is probably just a cold. My room mate, Jane, who is a nurse then informed me that the Malaria pills are only 95 percent effective and maybe I’m part of the other five percent. I started googling, and came to see that I had all 6 of the symptoms of Malaria. I went back out to Angel and said “so… you think it  is Malaria?” She said “Yes”. So I asked what happens now. She said we go to get you tested. She called a cab and we went, Jane came along. I asked if we were going to the clinic that one of the volunteers goes to which was rather… well not exactly the type of place I wanted to be pricked with needles. She laughed and said no, we were going to a nice place, a private doctor. The “nice” place was relatively clean. If you are comparing it to the St Nich in the Heights after Christmas. They do a finger prick for a Malaria test, Jane was there to make sure they used a sterile needle, and when she looked at the packet of the Malaria test she showed them that it was expired and got them to replace it. They did the test, we waited [click here to read more]

Late start

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 8:44 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Late start
Jun 112012

6/7/12 8PM   On Monday, we left to Gisyeni at around 8am for the three hour drive. Gisyeni is a much more rural area, but I was told that we were in close walking distance of a market, which would be helpful for the food issue so that I can easily pick up fruit. There were five us being driven up along with all of our luggage, the driver and Claire, in a car that… didn’t quite fit us. The back of the car had some seats in it, but the luggage was all in there, so we ended up with the driver and Claire in front, 4 of us in the back seat and one basically buried under the luggage. That was a… cozy 3 hour ride which included unpaved roads and sharp turns. We then went to check out the orphanage and the medical clinic where some of us were working, and arrived at our new guest house at around 3, so it was too late to start working that day (the beginning was dragging too much for my liking.) I was happy to get unpacked and settled, and tried (with the help of someone translating) to explain some kashrut basics to the cook, a wonderful man by the name of Amani (means peace in Kinyarwandan.) Amani, thank G-d, has been a cook for the guest house for a few years, and remembered many of the laws from a previous volunteer (big shoutout and thanks to Tsufit for that). Other amenities of my new home- running water! Happy to leave the bucket showers behind, even if the new one was freezing cold. No sinks, but we can wash our hands in the shower too, and we need to use purified/bottled water for teeth brushing anyway. Oh and we [click here to read more]

Adventures begin…

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 3:49 am  Rwanda  Comments Off on Adventures begin…
Jun 032012

6/3/12 5:00PM   Highlights since last post: I got my luggage, which was definitely a good thing. I have to say, it was my first time really experiencing the thought of if my luggage was lost, I was actually going to have an issue. Considering the fact that it  is recommended to only eat fruit with peels and I don’t have a kitchen accessible at all times to cook vegetables, and that the only food it seems that I can buy here is Pringles, Kashrut was looking a little daunting. The anxiety was minimal though because I figured either bananas would work for a month, and worst case scenario I always feel like there are some people in my life who would find a way to get a steak (or some cholent) 6000 miles away if I needed. But, luggage arrived, protein bars, tuna packets and all. Side note: Here’s a fun fact (h/t Tsufit, whose information has proven to be continuously accurate and valuable): Pringles that are Kosher are available in more remote and developing countries, they seem to be the thing that you can always count on. Anyway… Friday was orientation where we were told the rules of the guesthouse, some common words in Kinyurwandan, we went out to pick up our phones, change money and most importantly (to me) see the genocide memorial inKigali-which is the main national memorial. Rules of the house include a curfew because there is someone who locks up at night. We were warned to not try to come back later and climb over the fence. “Because the police might see you climbing over, and think you are robbing, and then they might shoot you. By mistake. They don’t know you are meant to be here if you are climbing.” Note to self: [click here to read more]

Day 1

 Posted by Miriam Apter at 10:32 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Day 1
May 312012

5/30/12 5:00 PM   You know your standards have changed in the span of 24 hours when three days old is fresh, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (that’s 3 days old) is the most substantial and delicious meal you could hope for, and when you are looking forward to your bucket shower. Well. Landed at about 1am, my flight from JFK toIstanbulwas delayed so I had to sprint and fight my way through to get to my connecting flight on time. Turns out my luggage doesn’t sprint and push as well as I do, and didn’t make it toKigaliwith my. After I waited in the one room airport at the single luggage belt conveyer, and watched the same 6 pieces of luggage pass, someone from the airport came up to me and asked (or rather played charades) about my bags. I flailed my hands in ways which seemed to indicate that my luggage wasn’t there, so he took my tickets and went out a back door which took him onto the runway, I guess to make sure it wasn’t let in a corner of the very small cargo of the very small plane. Then I went to the office. They had computers there but it didn’t look like they were ever used, and without speaking the same language I somehow manage to describe my luggage to him, and filled out a triplicate form. One of the other 5 people on line for lost luggage (it seems they aren’t so good with getting your luggage to come with you when you travel toRwanda-no one seemed concerned) translated for me that he would call tomorrow and a number that I can call and check. They didn’t call, but I called today and they said they had it. Luckily I had a [click here to read more]

Mini-vans, Mzungus, and Major Charades

 Posted by Heather Padilla at 6:37 am  Rwanda  Comments Off on Mini-vans, Mzungus, and Major Charades
May 152011

Each morning I wake up at about 6:30am like clockwork. I’ve discovered that even if I’m tired, my body has somehow gotten used to that time and it’s no use to just lie there in bed with my eyes closed but mind awake. It gets light really early (and dark really early too for that matter…about 6pm!…maybe b/c we’re below the equator…barely, might I add) and I can always hear the cook in the kitchen preparing breakfast. I usually head off to school around 8am making sure to “look smart.” This is a phrase commonly used by the gatekeeper of the guesthouse that I chuckle over each morning. The first day he exclaimed, “Ahh, you are smart today!” with a thumbs up sign I thought he was referring to the fact that I had figured out how to lift the padlock off the gate myself and open the door (as I had seen another guest do). I just smiled and said, “Well, thank you.” He continued to say it everyday though until I thought, “Thanks, but it’s really not rocket science to figure out how to get outside ;)” I finally realized after being told by some teachers at school a few days later, “Ahh, you’re dressed very smart today!” that he was referring to my clothes and not my intellect. I actually decided to test the theory one day by walking out in a t-shirt and jeans…yep, no ‘smart’ compliment. He’s not the only one at the guesthouse who watches out for my appearance though. My first day of school as I was leaving the breakfast room one of the housekeepers tugged on my dress and led me by the hand to a room and pointed at an iron. In my defense, the material was the type that was [click here to read more]

Rwanda 2/24/11

 Posted by Margot Crandall at 5:00 pm  Rwanda  Comments Off on Rwanda 2/24/11
May 102011

This will be my last post about my journey in Rwanda. I’ve had a hard time missing Rwanda since the second I got on the bus in Gisenyi. As I’ve been pondering and pining away for the past, I have come to the conclusion that no matter what is going on in my life, I have to live in the present. I need to be passionate about whatever it is I am doing, whether it is just going to work everyday, or developing new talents and hobbies. My last night in Kigali Lynn, and I talked a lot about “the circle of life.” All of us came from all over the world for the same purpose and were placed in a home together to learn and grow from one another’s examples. We laughed, we cried, and formed life long bonds and now it’s time for the next phase of our lives. Although it’s time to move on I realize I didn’t have these experiences just for that short time in my life, but I will have these things with me for the rest of my life. Another thing I discussed with my “sisters” is how strange it is that we as human beings put ourselves in situations that will be emotionally hard for us. I knew I would be working with people who have had some of the worst atrocities happen to them. I knew I would form bonds, and then have to be ripped away from that. I knew this would be one of the hardest things I ever did, but there I was in Rwanda. Why do we do that? Well this is my closing of my time in Rwanda. I hope I brightened someone’s day, I hope I helped change a life, but I know the people [click here to read more]

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