Hello Everyone! It’s Zac here, coming to you from Kigali, Rwanda with an update for day two of our amazing journey! A day that started with thunderstorms, turned out to be the best day yet! From visiting the Congolese Refugee Camp, to visiting businesses started by local Rwandan students, it was one for the books.
We kicked off day two with a delicious Rwandan breakfast joined by student scholars from These Numbers Have Faces (TNHF). TNHF focuses on university education for students from multiple areas of the country ranging from local communities to impoverished refugee camps. An hour long bus trip took us through the beautiful Rwandan countryside with hills and valleys covered in the vibrant greens with paths of red dirt carved through them. Upon arrival, we noticed a mountain top lined with small clay huts aligned in many directions – this beauty was the Congolese refugee camp, Gihembe. Due to conflict in Congo for over 15 years, many refugees fled from their home to Rwanda. It now consists of 15,000 Congolese refugees.
While visiting the refugee camp, I was able to meet Rafiki, a scholar from TNHF. Rafiki and his family welcomed me and my team members with open arms and invited us into their home, a clay building that housed 15 members of their family. After his mother passed away at 13 years old, him and his older brother raised their siblings while their father worked in the camp to provide for the family. Rafiki excelled academically, but could not afford to go to college. Never giving up hope, he learned about TNHF through other students in the camp. After sending in an application, his prayers were answered as he was selected to be sponsored by TNHF to attend a college in Rwanda.
We visited multiple homes and were provided with a delicious lunch from some of the families. They cooked a very tender beef stew, green vegetables, rice, beans, bananas and my personal favorite, the chips, (their version of potato wedges). Our meal ended with a heartwarming prayer spoken with the sweetest words of compassion and care. As we prepared to leave, something soul touching happened as we made our way along the winding path between houses. Before we knew it, we were in the presence of hundreds of kids surrounding us with smiling faces and out-stretched hands. Their faces were beaming with excitement and intrigue as they closely examined us. Touching our skin and hair and hanging off our arms we were told that simply being there was a great life experience for many of them; a story that will be told by some for the rest of their lives. The bus ride back was spent mostly in silence as we all reflected on the past few hours.
The bus dropped us off outside of what we were told was the super market, but this wasn’t any ordinary trip to Walmart. Vendors everywhere with hand woven baskets, intricately patterned fabrics and plump chickens for sale. We all picked up items to bring home to our friends and families. Our last stop of the day was to a local business started by one of the students in downtown Kigali. Inspired by her passion for the arts and crafts of the Rwandan culture, she partnered with another student to open up two businesses. Half of the business is a coffee shop while the other half is a Rwandan art store with handmade clothing, jewelry, accessories, and paintings. With outdoor seating and amazing coffee, this place had it all. It’s amazing to see what hese students can do with so little. When given even the smallest opportunity they will embrace it to the fullest.
We are looking forward to another inspiring day.
“Only when you want to succeed as badly as you want to breathe will you be successful” -Eric Thomas