I have been here for three weeks now and have welcomed every adventure I have gotten to experience in this amazing country. I am doing research and interning for the Rwanda Ministry of Health this summer and soaking in every minute of this incredible experience. I am working on a child depression project for the Ministry and it has been both fascinating and moving to contribute to this important policy issue. As a student in the Batten School, it is especially exciting to work at the Ministry and see important policies come to life right before my eyes!
I am starting to feel at home living as a muzungu (the Kinyarwandan term for “foreigner”) here thanks to the community I have found in Kigali. I am living with Claire Romaine (Hannah Graham Award recipient) and today we got to participate in our first Umuganda. Umuganda is a community work day held every last Saturday of the month where all adults in Rwanda come together in their villages to do community service and discuss important local issues. Claire and I wanted to tag along to see what Umuganda was about and were welcomed warmly by the Rwandans living in our local community. We got to join our village meeting where the chief announced important updates relating to health, security, and other community concerns. Thankfully our friend translated for us so that we could understand what was said. Our experience at Umuganda is only one example of the kindness and openness Rwandans have shown us over the past few weeks. My mom has always believed in the saying – “it takes a village” – and I am incredibly thankful for the Rwandans who make up my village here:
Cyusa, my close friend and a former street kid, whose humor, honesty, and aspirations have given me so much perspective and gratitude.
Pacifique, local artist and founder of the Niyo Cultural Center, an organization that teaches street kids how to dance and my home away from home this summer.
Jean Pierre, my go-to taxi driver and pseudo French tutor, who I can always count on for American music and French conversation.
The Honorable Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, my boss and mentor this summer, who has ignited my passion for health policy and taught me so much about creating change and impactful policy in a resource strapped environment.
There are so many more people in my village that I do not have room to talk about but I am so excited to see my community grow and deepen during my remaining three weeks here. Living and working in Kigali has been an incredible experience – murakoze cyane (thank you very much) to CGH for giving me the funds to make it happen!