Submitted by Betsy Fries
This summer, as part of the Global Immersion Program, an organization at Blake that oversees educational opportunities around the world, thirteen Blake students and three teacher chaperones traveled to Rwanda for twenty-one days in June. Chronologically, the journey was highlighted by nearly a week long visit in Rwanda’s capital city: Kigali, a chimpanzee trek and canopy tour through the Nyungwe National Forest, a week long experience with young grade-school students in nearby Nibakure Village, and finally a return to Kigali.
Each region the students visited offered widely different aspects of the diverse nation. Upon arriving in Rwanda, students spent their first few days exploring the rich history of the capital city, where ancient, colonial, and present-day cultures collide. The Kigali National Genocide Museum, UN Headquarters Memorial, and parliament visits provided students with a first-hand experience in exploring the structure of the Rwandan government and related affairs. Also in Kigali, students visited both preschoolers and women benefiting from the ASPIRE project, a group that initiates community development in Rwandan communities. Oscar Uhler ’22 says, “everywhere we went, we saw people giving back to their communities.”
On the eighth day, as students voyaged to the Nibakure Community Village by bus, they stepped into the lives of preschool and grade school children, as they lived in former orphanage dormitories. Over the next week, travelers were able to interact with various students at many schools, along with shadowing classes at a boarding school and teaching a portion of a preschool class. As an act of service, they painted a mural on a Nibakure Community Village building and planted many trees in the greenhouse on the property. Additionally, pictured to the left, the travelers celebrated Africa’s Children Day. They passed out clothes, that had been gathered from the clothing drive held this previous school year, to hundreds of children in the community, with the amazing help and organization of the founder of Nibakure Community Village, Floriane Nibakure.
The final few days saw the return of students to Rwanda’s capital for closing activities such as reunification with old friends, a visit to the genocide memorial in Murambi, and an inspiring journey to a goat cooperative, which provides goats to families. Uhler gathers: “Without actually going to the country, we would have never learned about the unity and community that we saw in Rwanda.”