How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
The staff was great! Sarah always answered my emails very promptly and impressed me with her ability to coordinate everything that she does.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country? Innocent was fantastic- extremely welcoming and helpful and considerate.
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
For the local liberation day holiday, I hosted a dance party for all the teachers and workers and boarding students. We tore down boundaries of our different ages and languages and positions in society and just danced the night away.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
Sometimes I enjoyed being a celebrity of sorts because i was white, but some days I just wanted to feel like i belonged, which is impossible when everytime you take a walk or fetch water or get on a bus people scream ‘umuzungu!’ (which means white person) or ask you for money or hit on you or touch your hair.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
I wish I had known more about what resources the school lacked that are difficult to find in rwanda that i could have easily brought fro, the US if i had realized they would be so hard to find.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Bring shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty and that are easy to wash. Bring a few jackets, it gets surprisingly cold sometimes despite being so close to the equator. Also I stopped even bother to take my malaria pills, i was pleasantly surprised by the lack of mosquito. Bring cash. Its pretty difficult to get money from an ATM or credit card. Also they will exchange in the largest bills (5000 RWF) which almost no one will have change for especially in transportation so buy things strategically so that you always have small bills on hand. And you cant get lost, because there are people everywhere who want to help you with directions if you just ask. Oh the golden rule that i live by: Bring a little toilet paper every time you go ANYWHERE. And don’t eat while walking, its considered vulgar. The people of Rwanda are super hospitable and will want to do everything for you, start out by letting them, its their culture. Eventually you earn enough respect to do things for yourself.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
My experience in Rwanda was unforgettable. I am very seriously considering moving here after I finish college. My theme for this trip was definitely humility. Whether that was because I was without modern conveniences or getting dirty or even just from needing to ask for help because I didn’t understand things I needed to know in order to be able to successfully live here, it helped me cultivate a Christ-like humility. I have discovered that it is hard to stand out so much from everyone around you but that despite the color of my skin or my hair or my native language, I actually fit in here a lot more than I do in the United States. The love for community and the simplicity and lack of bureaucracy is refreshing. The hardest part about traveling to a different country for the first time is this: you realize its not home and yet after the experience wherever you came from feels less like home also.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? — Sure!!!
Sarah Volunteer Abroad in Rwamagana, Rwanda