My project includes studying abroad in Rwanda during the May semester of 2019. The Genocide and Its Aftermath in Rwanda education abroad program takes place in various locations in Kigali. The sites visited will all me to study the origin of the genocide and understand the current state of Rwanda.
My study aboard in Rwanda was a life changing experience for many reasons. When deciding to go to Rwanda I viewed myself as someone well informed on the world. I had taken a history course on African countries and learned a lot about Rwanda. This along with my African and African American studies classes gave me the assumption I knew how colonialism had shaped East Africa. After just a few days in Rwanda I found myself experiencing and learning things my text books hadn’t covered.
When visiting, Never Again Rwanda a peace building and social justice non-governmental organization reconciliation was discussed and explained . There are levels of reconciliation. The estimated level by the government is 95% but many have a different perspective. The government looks at reconciliation on a macro level resulting in 95%. Never Again Rwanda focuses on the micro level and how individuals interact with each other. One’s behavior in the market is different than in their home with their family. Micro level reconciliation emphasizes trust, tolerance and empathy. Through the peace keeping initiatives there are internships and summer opportunities offered at Never Again Rwanda for young adults to help reconciliation at the micro-level.
In addition to further learning about reconciliation I had the privileged to meet the youngest senator of Rwanda and chairperson of ITORERO Commission speak. He shared his experience of growing up during the genocide. As someone of a Hutu background he struggled originally to share his story but today is open. He believes with the work being done today Rwanda can move forward and heal as one. His ability to forgive is one of many examples of Rwanda’s progress.
Lastly, the experience of staying with a host family taught me about community, resilience and forgiveness. My host mother and her siblings were survivors of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi. While with her family I had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the events and partake in a walk to remember. The community’s ability to forgive and rebuild was something I had never seen. Throughout Rwanda the acknowledgement of their past mistakes and ability to reconcile is displayed. Reconciliation is not perfect but progress in the right direction. Their approach to rebuilding is not one applicable to every county but they hope to be an example for countries such as Sudan, Somalia and the global community.
My experience in Rwanda will forever impact my perspective and outlook on the international community. As a future healthcare provider I will interact with people from all different walks of life. When interacting with various ethnic backgrounds I will not communicate from a level of superiority but from a place of openness. I will utilize my cultural relativism to hear their concerns and wishes.