Highlights of Rwanda with Yvonne and Greta

Yvonne: So Greta, what has been your favorite part of this trip so far?

Greta: I have enjoyed it all, but one of my favorite places that we went to was the reconciliation village in Mbyo. A reconciliation village is a village where perpetrators and survivors, as well as returned refugees, of the 1994 genocide live together in peace. When we first got there, some of the village elders welcomed us with a song and dance, which everyone enjoyed! After the welcoming, they gave us a brief history of the genocide and their village. A man admitted to killing six people and said that he lost humanity. He told us that he was very heavily influenced by the government to kill, but now through asking and receiving forgiveness from the family of his victims, he has repaired his lost humanity. After he spoke, a survivor spoke about her experiences during the genocide. They now both live happily in the same village and work together to move forward, “I feel like I’m in heaven!” said the man who spoke about killing.

Greta: Today we went to Never Again Rwanda and to the African Great Lakes Initiative, what did you think of these visits?

Yvonne: I thought both of the visits were unique approaches to teaching youth about peace efforts in Rwanda. The first location, Never Again Rwanda was centered towards youth ages 14 to 28. One of the speakers was a professor at the national university. Compared to some of the other places where we have heard the history of the genocide, his reflected some of the academic discussion on the genocide. I enjoyed this style of discussion because not only is it familiar but it added another layer to my understanding of what happened and the type of debate that is happening in some of the schools in Rwanda. In my opinion, education in the form of debates and the emphasis on critical thinking is one of the greatest steps they are taking towards reconciliation here. The other place that we visited was in line with this focus on education but they target primary 5 students (the equivalent of fifth graders). The place we went to was a small library called the Children’s Peace Library. I finally had the opportunity to play some soccer, which was a nice chance to interact with the kids and have some fun (though I have been having fun everywhere we go). The library was a great example of what the people at Never Again Rwanda talked about, which was that small efforts could contribute a huge change for peace.

Yvonne: We have consistently been eating at a lot of great restaurants and even breakfast every morning has been pretty tasty. What has been your favorite food that you have eaten here so far?

Greta: Fou Fou at Afrika Bite! It has been my favorite food because I grew up eating it in Côte d’Ivoire and I haven’t had the real African Fou Fou since.

Greta: What are you looking forward to for the remainder of this trip?

Yvonne: I think this weekend is going to be really exciting. I am really looking forward to getting some sun and hanging out by the pool at the Hotel des Milles Collines - the hotel that the movie 'Hotel Rwanda' is based on. It is going to be surreal to be swimming at the hotel where historic events of the genocide occurred. Then hopefully we will be able to see some great animals on Saturday and Sunday at Akagera National Park on our morning and afternoon safaris. From what I can see, the next half of our trip is going to be just as great as the first half, if not better.

Greta and Yvonne: Mzungu* out!

*Mzungu: Kinyarwanda for white person/foreigners

Potpourri - Professor E-H

Greetings from Kigali! We've had a jam packed week, but I think things are going very well. Yesterday was filled with visits to the Gashora Sector to hear about Vision 2020, the government's plan to eradicate poverty by the year 2020 and the challenges faced by rural communities; a maize cooperative that works with the UN's World Food Programme; a local collective bank, essentially what we would know as a credit union; the Gashora Girls Academy; and Mbyo reconciliation Village, where survivors and perpetrators live together, working toward reconciliation.

Re the latter, check out either or to learn more, including a trailer for the film. You will, I think, find it an amazing story. "As We Forgive" was one of the first, if not the first, documentaries I saw that focused on restorative justice in Rwanda. As we were leaving the site yesterday and several men were shaking our hands, I was stunned to realize that I was sure I recognized one of the residents who had been featured in the film. And, shockingly, I remembered his name. That's not typical for me. Clearly, the film had stayed with me more than I had realized. I asked one of our guides, Yvan, to ask this fellow if he had been in a film; if his name was Saveri. Sure enough, it was. It was so bizarre to have watched a film in North America and, several years later, to be standing in rural Rwanda face to face with one of the individuals profiled in the film.

More of the small world... In what I think was 2009, while living in Canada, I had the good fortune to hear Florence Ntakarutimana speak about the reconciliation workshops sponsored by the African Great Lakes Initiative. That was when I first saw part of Patrick Mureithi's film, "Icyizere: hope" ( He's the filmmaker that, with my First Year Seminar class and the support of several colleagues, I brought to campus last November. I highly recommend it. But, I digress... It was quite fun to have heard Ms. Ntakarutimana speak in Fredericton, New Brunswick and to meet people today, here in Kigali, who know her. It really does make the world feel quite small.

This fellow, above, spoke to us about having killed during the 1994 genocide and his process of reconciliation. He lives in Mbyo with other perpetrators and survivors.

This is the type of home built by perpetrators for survivors and themselves, often with the help of survivors.

And, just for something light - have you had your banana today?

Tomorrow morning we hear from a representative of the National Service of Gacaca Courts. The students then have the afternoon free. Some will lounge by the pool at the Hotel des Milles Collines - aka 'Hotel Rwanda' - while at least one student plans to pass on that leisure activity to return to the Children's Peace Library. Then, on Saturday we head to Akagera National Park for a weekend of recreation - aka safari.

Also, a note to parents - I don't know what our Internet access will be like once we leave Kigali so if the blog goes silent for a bit, don't panic. It just means we're having trouble with access!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Just a quick note -- carolyn

What I will miss the most when I get home are the people (especially the children). These people have truly made their way into my heart.

Tuesday May 30th - Jasmyne

Yesterday was a very eventful day! My favorite visit of the day was our stop at the Gashora Girls Academy. When we first arrived, we talked to the headmaster of the school and he told us about when the school was founded, the opportunities they offer, challenges they have, etc. I was just very excited to meet the girls.

When I first sat down to eat with them, they seemed a little shy. After going around the table, introducing ourselves, they started to loosen up. Right away you could tell that these girls were incredibly smart and very serious about school. This was obvious because school was all we talked about during lunch. They asked me about Hamline, the process of getting into college, tuition, and different scholarships you could apply for. I was extremely impressed with these girls and their dedication to their education because when I was their age (14-15), I knew I wanted to go to college, but wasn't thinking so far ahead as to what I would need to do to get there. Also, the fact that I majored in Math and Education really made me interested in these students. When I become a teacher, I would LOVE to have students like these girls.

Overall, I loved visiting them and it was great to be in the presence of such intelligent women of color. I absolutely enjoy their company!  

Gashora Girls Academy--Salisa

Yesterday we had many site visits including a basket weaving collective from which we all received peace baskets as gifts from the women who made the baskets and run the collective. It was truly amazing to receive those gifts from the president of the collective. The day was full of wonderful moments like that one.

One of my best moments was a conversation that I had with a table of young Rwandan women at the Gashora Girls Academy. We visited the school and spoke with the headmaster before eating lunch with the girls. We talked about everything from future plans and university education in America to The Hunger Games and literature vs. science. I was extremely impressed with the girls at Gashora as well as the work of the headmaster.

That conversation was one of the best conversations I've ever had with anyone. They wanted to know about me at length. They asked about my Africa tattoo and my time in Rwanda, asked about my dreams and aspirations ; I was so inspired by them. When I told them that I was a writer they asked me if I had written a book yet and what kinds of things that I wanted to write. I told them that I love fiction but that I am primarily a poet and they instantly wanted to see my poems. I promised them that I would send them a poem and I got the email of the headmaster so that I will be able send a poem or two to the students.

I am so very excited to send them some of my work and continue building a relationship with the academy.

Wonderful day,



The Events of Tuesday the 29th - Cami Marie

First of all, so far this trip has been exciting, intense, and emotional. I am grateful to be here. As a near graduate, it is refreshing to have an experience so closely relating to what I studied. I have been interested in restorative justice and mediation since my second year of college. The events of Tuesday really highlighted how this process can work, even in extreme cases. After a genocide leaving one million dead, it is hard to imagine what the proper steps would be to encourage and support the healing of a community. Yesterday we visited with a man from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) and the creator of Prison Fellowship Rwanda. The meeting with the NUCR really exposed me to the role of the government in community healing. This compared to the small organization of the Prison Fellowship really emphasizes the benefit of grassroots organizations and the government working together. It amazes me the turn around that the country has made over the past 18 years. Both meetings really inspire me. In fact, I am seriously considering applying for an internship with Prison Fellowship Rwanda in the next year.

Hearing Pastor Deo from Prison Fellowship Rwanda speak was bone chilling and beautiful. This man lost a significant number (45) of family members to the genocide. To this day, he doesn't know their location or death details. Yet he finds the strength in his heart to speak with prisoners, perpetrators of the genocide which harmed his family and has caused him great pain. He doesn't only speak with them. He has forgiven offenders and has even befriended some which he now works with. His work also includes mediating meetings that bring victims and perpetrators together, collecting supplies for women with babies in prison, and caring for street children. As we were leaving, one of the street children he has cared for came out and spoke with us and told him how this man, Pastor Deo, is his father and has changed his life. It was proof of the great work Pastor Deo has done. The young man also showed us a rap, dance, song, and flips that Deo inspired him to learn. Pastor Deo has truly moved me. I hope I am able to contribute such needed love and dedication to the world one day.

Other highlights of the day include a delicious lunch at Afrika Bite and short trip to the market where I made many delightful purchases.

More later -


Tuesday -- Carolyn

The past few days have been so overwhelming and so exciting. Only being here for a few day has allowed me to learn so much. Its amazing to be able to have a conversation with people you meet in restaurants and hear straight from them all about the topics we have been learning. I never thought I would receive the opportunities I have already received since I've been here. I've met so many new friends and the people here are so nice. So far, the most eye-opening experience has been the day we spent at all the memorial centers. Seeing the pictures of the victims reminded me of the photos I have of my family, and it truly allowed me to wrap my head around just how tragic this event truly was. It was almost overwhelming to truly be able to understand what happened here and to finally see it in a real way instead of trying to understand it through readings. While it was extremely frightening and painful to learn about, I am so grateful to get the opportunity to get a glimpse into what these people have been through. Despite their horrible experiences, most Rwandans are so positive and have so much hope for the future. I am so amazed at how much strength it must take to forgive the perpetrators of these crimes. The courage these people have is so much more than I have ever even heard of before. I know I will miss this place when it is gone because it has already left such a great impression on me and I cannot express in words how proud I am to know these amazing people.


Monday - Angela

Our group just returned to the hotel from a family style dinner at a
Rwandan restaurant called Republika. I have to admit that I have been a
little worried about food. Last evening we ate pizza together at O Sole
Luna, which is an excellent Italian restaurant. Today as we traversed
through our day, people pointed out many restaurants – none of which were
Rwandan. I worried that most of my gastronomical experiences here would
default to cuisine from other ethnicities because they’d be more familiar
or conveniently located. Rest assured; I tried new foods tonight. The
most daunting was a little fish about the size of a minnow. It was deep
–fried whole and served with a dipping sauce that resembled tarter. Kari
suggested not eating the tail, but the rest was to be devoured in a single
bite. Thankfully what I’ve heard is true – it tasted mostly like something
deep-fried. And the eyes didn’t have a slimy texture. The rest of the
meal was recognizable – fried bananas and plantain, goat, beef, chicken,
seasoned rice, Irish potatoes, and steamed spinach are just a few of the
dishes we were served. Most things were seasoned with curry or other
spices that are common here. Our meal was delicious and filling.

Besides eating, we spent the day visiting three different genocide
memorials in or near Kigali. At the first site this morning, the thing
I’ve had the most trouble coming to terms with is that at least 500,000
women who survived the genocide are rape victims. I’m wondering what kind
of counseling and therapy is available to these women. How can these women function normally in their lives, without shutting down a part of
themselves and their memory to do so? And by shutting out these painful
memories, can true reconciliation take place? In restorative justice,
there is an emphasis on open dialogue between the victim, perpetrator, and
members of the community. However, if only part of what happened is
acknowledged (I’m not sure at this point how openly instances of rape are
discussed), how can true reconciliation take place? I understand that in
the next several days, we will be meeting with organizations whose goals
are oriented toward social welfare, and I hope to find out more about what
kinds of services are available to the citizens of Rwanda. My interests
include not only how women are being helped, but everyone who has suffered from the violence during the time of the genocide.

At dinner last night, after I had question Rwandan access to medical
treatments, our guide mentioned that he contracted malaria last summer. I
was interested to find out that he quite able to obtain the quinine needed
to treat it fairly easily. It seems that Rwandan national health care is
quite helpful. Yvan went on to say that being ill for two weeks wasn’t a
picnic, but that he has no lasting effects of the disease and that there is
no preventative medication that citizens here take. He said that cases of
malaria in Kigali are only about 5-6 per year and, in the country as a
whole, the worst areas are only at about 1-2 cases per month. These
numbers are significantly better since the government has given out
mosquito nets and regularly sprayed in most areas.

Kigale Genocide Memorial Centre - Professor E-H

I didn't know that this was part of the plan, a part of our visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, our local contacts arranged for the "Hamline delegation" to more formally remember the victims of the 1994 genocide. As trip leader, I was asked to place the arrangement. Everyone else in the group then placed a single flower. This was followed by a minute of silence. In the photo, you see the flowers resting on one of the mass graves at the Centre.

When we left the Centre, we visited two memorials that are about an hour outside, Kigali - Nyamata and Ntarama. Hopefully at least one of the students will choose to offer a post about today's experiences.

Tomorrow we visit the National Unity and Reconciliation Commisson where we are scheduled to meet with its president, Bishop John Rucyahana. After lunch, we will visit Prison Fellowship Rwanda. Stay tuned!

Rwanda Day 2 - Lauren

Today was very mentally taxing as we went to visit three memorials of the genocide. The reality hit pretty hard for me. We had seen some of these places through different videos in the classroom, but actually being there is an entirely different story. It has never been in my character to cry much at all, especially in front of people, but I found it difficult to not let the setting get to me. I think the most sickening and most memorable part was seeing the churches full of the clothing the victims were wearing, their remains, and the wall of the church with it's gruesome reminder of what happened. Being in these places made incredibly real the past. I almost felt like I had no business in these places as I could never fully understand what these people and their families went through, but I realize how important it is that everyone try to allow themselves to understand the tragedy so as to prevent a recurrance. Being in Rwanda is interesting because going to these places was more than somewhat depressing and has made me question humanity, but at the same time they are doing so much to move forward and reestablish themselves as a united, successful nation that my faith is restored a little. Going to these sites provoked a heavy feeling that I would have liked to avoid, but I think that's the point of these. Hiding in a comfort zone is easy but letting yourself fully experience the situation will at least allow for growth.

Boys Boys Boys -- Jennifer

Our first day in Rwanda was incredible! Kigali is a gorgeous city I am absolutely in love with! I love seeing all of the different kinds of cars and buses, and the amount of people who travel on foot still surprises me. The best stop of the whole day was at Les Enfants De Dieu, a center  for street boys. When we first get there the founder had a few words to say about the institution and how it is run.  The center has set up a ministry system for the boys to teach them responsibility. The boys elect eight different ministers to oversee the administration, staff, sports, money, and other things which are escaping my memory at the moment. The ministers are the bosses of the institution controlling how money is spent and who works there. This system really stuck with me because I am in Education. Giving young boys who were living on the street such responsibility is an incredible self-esteem boost. In the ministry positions they have trust, responsibility, and the power to make a difference. One boy spoke to me about how he used to be angry and full of hate when he was on the street, but the center has taught him to see love again. He has found happiness at the center and is studying hard for the examination that will get him to the next level of schooling. He wants to learn, and ultimately share his experience with others wherever he can find them. This boy, along with all the others I met, will stay in my mind forever. I can't wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store for me.

AMAZING, Nasteha Ahmed

Words can not describe how amazing the first day in Rwanda has been. We got to tour the Kigali (pronounced Chigali) and I can honestly say that it is one of the most beautiful cities I have had the opportunity to see. I did not expect it to be so green and lush. The people were unbelievably great to all of us and our tour guides have been very helpful. Visiting Les Enfants de Dieu was amazing and hearing about all the kids' backgrounds and stories. I was impressed with the way they were willing to try out their English by communicating with complete strangers. One of the kids who used to be part of the youth center but now comes back regularly told me about how much he loved being part of the youth center and his upcoming adventures to London to present a hip-hop film he made. Being from Africa myself I thought Rwanda would be familiar to the other places I have been to and in some ways it is but there are great differences as well. I am so excited to learn so much about this amazing culture and its people.


Murakaza neza (Welcome): First Day In Kigali--Salisa

I have never felt so welcomed in any space, Rwandans really know how to make you feel special, like family. I am happy to say that the joy that I felt overtaking me as we landed in Kigali last night is still floating around my stomach and spilling from my smile. I am so happy to be here, so happy. I am constantly trying to control my urge to scream and sing and dance. I'm in AFRICA, the Motherland.

Today we took a two hour tour around Kigali which is where we will be staying for a good chunk of our stay in Rwanda. It was pleasing to hear Rwandan history from Rwandans first hand and not simply from books or people who have studied or lived in Rwanda for short durations. Giselle (one of our guides) told us a bit about pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Rwanda as well as pre and post-genocide Rwanda. Our guides are kind people who smile and laugh with us and thank us a lot. I try to thank them at least as much as they thank us, they have to put up with 14 inquisitive Americans for the next two weeks so I appreciate them.

I was very conscious of looking and feeling like a tourist today so I was extremely happy to be received so well by so many. As a Black American woman, I have made Africa very much a part of my identity, and yet there is that subtle fear that the love that we, as African Americans who were stolen from Africa and know only America as home, have for Africa will be only a romanticized dream of a home that was lost so long ago. After today I know more now than ever that this is not true. When I look at the beautiful people of Rwanda I see people who look like me, people who look like those that I know and love back in the U.S. And when they see me, many of them see an African woman, not unlike their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and friends, which is what I am. While I know and understand the differences and the cultural context that is at play (because I know that I am not Rwandan and that I was indeed born in the U.S.) I no longer fear that Africa is not for me to call home, my ancestors called it home and I will never trade that for the title of "American" alone. So much has been confirmed for me today and my heart is the fullest that it has ever been.

While on our tour we visited the Belgian Troop Memorial where 10 Belgian troops were killed in 1994 which was very moving and unsettling at the same time, as well as the Hotel des Milles Collines where approximately 1,200 Rwandans were saved and where the movie Hotel Rwanda is set. We will be returning to the hotel on Friday for the afternoon. One thing that I appreciated about the Belgian Troop Memorial was a display of global genocides that was hung on a wall inside. This display illustrated all global genocides that they recognized, and it included North America on the list of genocides beginning in 1492 and with no end date. I appreciated this because in America we are often quick to turn our noses up and look down upon other nations with difficult histories yet in my opinion we have so much of our own mess to be concerned about before passing judgement on others.

After the tour of Kigali we visited Les Enfants de Dieu which is a youth center for Rwandan street boys. That organization was so amazing. They greeted us with a dance and pulled some of us in to dance with them. The little girl that I danced with had the smile of an angel and when she grabbed my hand I felt like I was flying. There we learned about the history of the center from their project manager, a man with so much joy in his eyes that I instantly liked him. We met the students and were welcomed by one of the eight youth ministers before we had lunch with the boys and some of the girls who came for the dance.

We met so many wonderful young men today. We talked about everything from Nicki Minaj to Kobe Bryant to nationalities. Many of the boys were taken aback that I, a Black woman, was also American and even more so that I was born in the U.S., and even further more so that my mother was also born in the U.S. One of the young men, the minister of administration who welcomed us to lunch addressed Jasmyne and I in Kinyarwandan which is the native language of Rwandans. He assumed that we were Rwandan and one young man even exclaimed, "But you're Black, aren't you African?!" To which I replied, "Yes, I am, I'm African American." Identity is oh so interesting and I learned so much from these young men today.

We had dinner at a beautiful Italian restaurant close to our hotel called O Sole Luna and finished the night with a nice walk around the area. The night was beautiful, the day was beautiful, Rwanda is so beautiful.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

From the Land of a Thousand Hills,


Les Enfants de Dieu

A few snapshots from our visit...

Sunday - Angela

On the way to MSP on Friday, I saw a hearse and I had to chuckle.  Was this a sign?  My mind flashed to the extent I've gone through to prepare for a trip of this nature.  The required yellow fever shot, updates on other immunizations for diseases that we don't usually encounter in the US anymore like measles and TB, anti-malaria meds, as well as an assortment pills to deal with GI issues. Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, bug spray...the list is a little exhausting and so is my bank account now. Sadly, the amount of money I've spent on drugs for the trip will probably dwarf the amount of any souvenirs I buy.  The main reason for this is, as I understand it, is that buying handcrafted African items is not very expensive.   We talked in class before we left about negotiating prices for anything we buy at markets.  I feel uncomfortable bartering with someone who makes approximately 500 US dollars a year, so I can get their product for half of the price they originally ask. I feel like I'm contributing to the perpetual ideology that Africa is less. I'd feel much better about the ability to negotiate for the malaria preventives-and I'd definitely save more money. Instead, I feel like I just lost an arm wrestling match. Drug companies are very powerful to be able to state the price they want, and with no allowance for negotiation by the consumer, get it. Why do I, again as a consumer, get to arm wrestle a street market vendor in Kigali? Who makes up the rules for these games, and why aren't the rules questioned more often? I guess it goes back to the hearse. How much is the idea of health and wellness worth? Or a life for that matter? I wonder how many Rwandans have access to, and the means to purchase, anti-malarial meds...


Kigali - Professor E-H

We arrived in Kigali just after 7 pm last evening. From our Friday noon meeting time at MSP, it was a 24 hour trip as we're 7 hours ahead of Sint Paul. As expected, Kigali was hopping when we arrived. Except for the birds, an occasional rooster, and infrequent car, it's very quiet now - at 6:50 on a Sunday morning. I'll leave it to the students to post anything more about our trip and/or arrival, if they wish. Just wanted any friends or family who might check to know we've arrived safely. On to our first day!


This is all REAL! --Cami Marie

In a matter of a few hours I will be making my way to the airport. I'm inspired to write long sentences in all capital letters exclaiming my excitement!

I'm glad gorillas have been a theme of these posts. I spoke with the same man as Yvonne at REI. Marc was extremely helpful, and I greatly enjoyed everything he shared about his own gorilla trekking experience. He even showed me pictures! Last night I watched Gorillas in the Mist with a couple of friends. The DVD player decided to quit working in the middle, but I saw enough to decide I'm just not going to leave the mountains after the trek. Gorillas, I'm moving in! (I wish.)

Is it bad for me to admit I have yet to complete packing? I mean everything I'm bringing is right next to my packs. It's just a matter of putting it inside. For some reason this is always the hardest part for me. I can't help but wait until the last few hours to do so. But once I do it, I'm going out to breakfast and going to the airport! I'm hoping for an easy time sleeping on the flight. After all, I generally can't stay awake when I want to no matter where I am.

In just a few hours I will be sweating. Two years ago I would have been grimacing at this thought. Now I am simply delighted.

I think the most difficult part of this trip will be physically being in a place with such an intense recent history. A lot of the literature for class has put me into tears. I'm interested to see how I react once I'm actually there.

Enough ramble for now-

See you in Rwanda.


Rwanda - Greta Opsal

I am getting extremely excited for Rwanda!  My dad has been there multiple times. He has stayed at Hotel de Milles Collines and has gone gorilla trekking in the 80s.  From the videos of the gorillas to all the stories he has told me, it has gotten me very excited to go. I made Noah watch Ghosts of Rwanda with me today because he has never seen it, which made me realize that every time I watch it I learn something new! Well, I guess I will be seeing everyone at the airport in about 13 hours, I can't wait to go back to Africa!

Excited!! - Jasmyne

YAYYYYY! I am finally packed and ready! I am about to take my Malaria medicine now (scary) lol.  Anyways, get some sleep and I will see you all tomorrow! (Super excited) :)

Tomorrow Already!! - Lauren

I bouncing between the emotions of anxious and extreme excitement and some emotion in between, but I feel so blessed to be going on this adventure! No doubt it will be an experience remembered by all of us for a life time!!!


Just thought I'd post a quick note to say that in fewer than 24 hours we should be airborne. Lots to do between now and then! I think we've got a great group of students and a fantastic itinerary. Please feel free to share the blog with others so that they can follow along and keep your fingers crossed that we have access such that we can post regularly! I hope my next post is from across the pond!


Interactions Before Rwanda/Gorillas - Yvonne Thorpe

      The last few days since my last final at Hamline have included many interactions in which I have had the opportunity to share that I am traveling to Rwanda. One of the most positive interactions was with Mark at REI. He was the ideal person to ask for help in choosing specific supplies I needed for the trip. He had been to Rwanda himself with his wife and shared his own story of trekking to see the gorillas. As a decently fit person that hikes relatively often he said that the guides had them go on the more challenging hike which took a bit more time and a lot more energy according to him. He advised being honest about your fitness level with the gorilla guides. He showed me a picture of how close he was to a gorilla which made me even more excited about that aspect of the trip. I already know that  it is going to be one of my favorite parts.
     Gorillas share 95-99% of our DNA and Rwanda is really one of the only places where we still have the ability to connect with this species. Under these circumstances, I think it is a great supplement to our restorative justice studies to attempt to understand the multiple perspectives on ecotourism that might exist in Rwanda and the role it plays socially, economically, and politically in a country that is "comparably the size of Maryland."  

Two cents by Angela

I have a fascination for gorillas and have wanted to travel to Africa since I was a child.  I am a fan of drumming and other music that I consider to be African, as well as an appreciation for the way in which people adapt to their surroundings – whether that be environmental, governmental, or relational.  The chance to see what beliefs I hold about Africa, and whether they hold true or not, appeals to me.

From reading about restorative justice, I get the feeling of hope and healing.  Realistically though, I think that ideas sound much better conceptually than they turn out in practice.   It’s my goal to gain an understanding of what has worked and what hasn’t in Rwandan restorative justice, so I can more accurately gauge the idealism of the theory with the realism of what’s actually happening on the ground.  In my experience, it’s always best to go the source and gain a feeling understanding of what is happening, in addition to an intellectual understanding.  I look forward to the experience of Rwanda.


Only a Handful of Days Left! - Jen

That's right, only five days until we are off to Rwanda!
I have been wanting to go on this trip since last fall when I took the First Year Seminar on Rwanda, and now it is right around the corner.
This trip is going to be incredible. Not only do we get to experience the geographical beauty of the "Land of a Thousand Hills," but we get to see the beauty in a nation that has utilized restorative justice in creating reconciliation.
I find Rwanda to be the most inspiring nation in the world. Coming from such a broken past to looking towards such a bright future, Rwanda stands as a symbol of hope.There is a lot to be learned from Rwandans about restorative justice and peace, and I can't wait to learn more by studying the work being done there. The more I read about the Rwandas actions of reconciliation, the more I want to begin my travel.
The journey we are about to embark on will be one which we will carry with us forever.
The final countdown to takeoff has begun.


Excited to Arrive in Rwanda! - Carolyn

I am so excited to go to Rwanda! Ever since I read the announcements about this trip and signed up, my anticipation has been building up. I am, however, getting a new perspective on what it may be like.

After taking the first class, I realized that my initial expectations about Rwanda were way off. The speaker spoke of the current safety of Rwanda and how it is more safe there than it is living in New Orleans. I was very surprised by this and realized that I had a very limited view of what the country was really like. She also spoke of how as a member of the middle class there, you are expected to have a staff to give people in your community jobs. As a sociology minor, I was very intrigued by how much the people of Rwanda care about each other and how much they rely on each other for support. Coming from an individualistic country, I will be interested to see how their views and daily lives differ from ours.

I am very excited to experience a new culture and I can't wait to get a perspective on another part of the world. Experiencing new food, culture and scenery are the things I look forward to the most!

--Carolyn Paulet, '13


10 Days Until Take Off- Salisa

I am beyond excited to depart on May 25th for our journey to Rwanda! Not only have I been counting down the days since the day that I turned in my application in November, I have been in a semi-state of disbelief since that day as well. It is still difficult to fathom that in ten days we will be in Africa.

There are many things that I am looking forward to during our time in Rwanda but for me just being there will be more than enough. While I know I will enjoy the gorilla trek, and be moved by the memorial sites, and fall in love with the scenery, I am certain that even without all of that, this trip would be life changing for me.

After reading the many engaging readings that we have had (especially As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson) and watching Hotel Rwanda for the first time, I know that being in the actual country where nearly everyone that we meet will have been impacted by the genocide in 1994, I know that there are many powerful moments to come.

I am so excited for these next ten days to hurry by and to get going on this amazing journey ahead!

--Salisa Grant, '13

Les Enfants de Dieu

Our first site visit will be with Les Enfants de Dieu. Their mission? "To effect a transformation in lives of Rwandan street children by alleviating their hardships and providing them with opportunities to mature into valued and respected individuals that can be reintegrated into and contribute to society."

Other information, quoted directly from their website:
'Les Enfants de Dieu' or 'Children of God' is a non profit organisation to assist street children in Kigali, Rwanda.

The organisation is secular. We adopted 'God' in our name to symbolise the protective and compassionate qualities of all religions and spiritual movements.

Our mission is to effect a transformation in the lives of Rwandan street children by alleviating their hardships and providing them with the opportunities to mature into valued and respected individuals that can be reintegrated into society and be able to contribute their skills, knowledge and ideas.

'The Association "Les Enfants de Dieu"' owns and runs a residential care center in Ndera, a suburb in Kigali near the international airport. The centre is situated on over 4 hectares of land, mainly in the valley.

At present we look after 117 former street boys aged between 7 and 18.

The facilities include:

Dormitory - can accommodate 150 children
Kitchen - with two fuel efficient stoves and a store
Classrooms - blackboards, desks and chairs.
Infirmary - dispensary, special care room
Multi purpose hall - under construction.
Agricultural Land
Fish Pond

We employ 19 staff including teachers, a nurse, a counselor, social workers, operations coordinator and a project manager.


Check back in late May and see what the students have to say about what they learned!

Counting the days...!

Here it is, 15 May. In ten days - a week from Friday - we leave for Rwanda. The class had its first meeting on 5 May. We had a great presentation by Andrea Plautz, a public health researcher in Saint Paul who recently returned from over two years living and working in Rwanda. She had some great insight and terrific photos to share. We discussed the course requirements and spent a lot of time on logistics such as clothing, packing, etc.

I'm at my home in Canada right now and have my "staging area" set up. I'm piling up the bug juice, sunscreen, socks, fantastic washable underwear, snacks... And, I will soon pick up my Rx for Malarone, an anti-malaria med. I've tested out my new camera and am hoping to be able to post photos via my iPad. We'll see if I get that figured out. Hopefully students will post between now and when we meet again, saying a bit about what it is they are most looking forward to, etc. Counting the days? Indeed!


Prison Fellowship Rwanda is one of the organizations we'll be learning about when in Rwanda. This video provides a brief overview of their mission.
The journals that I created for the students are complete and will be handed out tomorrow at our first class session. Three weeks from right now, we'll be en route to Amsterdam and then on to Kigali. Stay tuned. If we have reasonable Internet access, we'll be blogging from Rwanda!