2011 Tufts University Trip to Rwanda
second year, Institute
for World Justice and Beacon
Grille were pleased to sponsor an interfaith group of
Tufts University students on a service learning trip, which
for many, was life-changing.
20 students departed on May 25, 2011 for Rwanda, where they
stayed and volunteered at Agahozo
Shalom Youth Village, a community that provides orphaned
children a safe and secure living environment, health care,
education, and necessary life skills. Eleven days later, the
students returned home with a much greater understanding of
the horrors of genocide, but also of the power of service
below for excerpts from some of the moving letters students
wrote following their return home. Additional insights from
their experiences are available on the Tufts
in Rwanda blog, which the students maintained throughout
this trip has been a monumental experience in my life. At
the end of the day however, I think what is important is not
how ASYV has impacted me, but how I can impact and give back
to ASYV. I look forward to being an ambassador for the Village,
raising money so that more kids in Rwanda can go to ASYV,
and sharing my experiences with others. . .
trip also confirmed my desire to work for - or possibly start
- a non profit organization in the future so that I can help
people the way that ASYV is helping hundreds of students at
this very moment."
trip has been the single most inspiring experience of my life
and it really inspired me to pursue more research and opportunities
in genocide prevention and really reaffirmed my aspiration
to be involved with international politics."
C. Luo, ´13
truly am forever changed from this trip. Many of the kids
we worked with had no family, yet they were optimistic, friendly,
determined, and hard working.
my time there, I found it very difficult to connect the village
to the genocide. The students seemed so happy and lively that
I often forgot what they had gone through, and are still going
through. Additionally, the poverty around the village greatly
importantly, however, was the impact we had on the students
living in the village. A major component of the trip was that
we bring a piece of the world to the students living at ASYV.
We discussed politics, music, Hollywood, university, and international
issues. Individually, we tutored the students in English.
Their progress in the subject was amazing to watch and be
a part of! We also formed close bonds with individual students,
who I know we will keep in touch with in the years to come.
I have never really traveled outside the US before, and I
was shocked to see the conditions in which so many other people
live. This mostly affected me after returning to the US.
my way home from Boston my parents and I stopped for a quick
lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. I was in awe of a place that
I had usually never looked at twice. I was also somewhat disgusted
at the number of options and portion sizes. This trip has
changed my perspective in a way that I never could have imagined."
embarking on our journey, my professional/academic interests
did not necessarily lie in the development of Africa, but
now my perspective has changed. I now have a personal connection
and vested interest in working for Africa in my future.
an international relations and child development major, it
was very interesting to observe first hand, how some children
in Rwanda lived, and to see how successfully ASYV functions.
To me, ASYV is evidence that such ambitions to help people
in developing countries is possible. I will forever remember
ASYV, and hopefully one day start a similar village myself.
Thank you again for investing in students like us. Not only
have you affected the students at Tufts, but you have also
affected the world."
R. Widlo, '12
the first conversation I had back at home, I realized just
how much I learned in Rwanda. I have already begun to share
with friends and family the knowledge and personal perspective
I have gained. I hope that I can contribute to an understanding
of and empathy for others that will help prevent events like
the genocide from being allowed to happen again."
was only after visiting the genocide memorial that I started
to realize how truly amazing it was that the kids got up everyday
and were optimistic and ready to learn.
the Kigali Memorial, I was heartbroken, confused, frustrated,
and angry that the world would sit idly by as millions of
people were killed. But what struck me even more was that,
despite this horror, the kids at the School still wanted to
move forward in life so that they could be successful and
Village is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen,
not only because of the hills and sky, but because of the
people who reside there. It is so inspiring to see how joyful
and happy the students are. They have hope for the future,
and it is all because of the work that the Village does.
most influential person I met though, was Wilton, who is the
principal of the school at ASYV. He shared his story with
us when he traveled to the memorial at Murambi and said he
felt very comforted by the fact that we were there with him.
Wilton is an inspiration to me to live everyday to the fullest
and to continue to fight for justice in this world. This trip
has made me realize that it takes people like Wilton and the
staff at ASYV to foster hope for the future."
students at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village are at once both
symbols of how much progress Rwanda has made since the very
recent atrocities of the genocide, and also the amount of
work that still remains to be done. The kids that we met have
come from lives which are difficult in a way we cannot possibly
fully comprehend. I heard stories about parents killed in
front of their children's eyes, prostitution rings, and homelessness.
But with all of that still very recent in their lives the
kids were incredibly caring, loving, and open with us and
with each other.
that many of the adults we met still harbor so much anger
and resentment (and who can blame them?) it was very relieving
to see that the next generation of Rwandans have the chance
to live lives with memory of the genocide and its legacy,
but not its spirit of division. I ate lunch with Hutus and
Tutsis together, and there was no division that I could see.
hard part about ASYV and our trip there is seeing the life
outside of its walls. I had never before seen poverty of that
kind, and that is what life is like for most Rwandans. The
500 students who attend Agahozo Shalom have received an incredible
opportunity that each of them deserved, but there are so many
more children and adults in Rwanda, in Africa, and in the
world who have not been as lucky. This is why each and every
person with whom I traveled to Agahozo Shalom will be dedicating
themselves in whatever ways they can to creating opportunities
for all of the people in the world who deserve them. And all
of the change that we create (and I know we will) is a direct
image to your generosity. So thank you again from the bottom
of my heard. I will never be the same."
to individuals share their stories gave me a glimpse into
the pain they have endured and Rwandan's incredible strength
to embrace reconciliation and redevelopment. One thing I didn't
expect was how exceptionally nice the kids were to each other
and how motivated each was to pursue a life of service. Clearly,
the wonderful community of ASYV has helped them heal, and
is helping them establish a future.
am excited to share my experiences with others so that they
can understand the power of individuals to make incredible
positive changes. I plan on continuing to support the Village
both through our newly forming group for Rwanda and ASYV on
campus and by promoting the values of ASYV in my work for
community development in rural areas throughout my lifetime."
can say without hesitation that it was the most memorable
and rewarding experience in my life.
single day, I was amazed by the students at the Village. Their
resiliency and willpower in the face of horrific events and
circumstances was inspiring. The Village and the Village staff
provide them with so many great opportunities. All of which
the students seem to be so grateful. I was also extremely
impressed by how focused the students were on their studies.
Each and every one of them has the talent to become one of
the world's next great scientists or business leaders, and
I feel so lucky that I was able to meet them and make a deep
connection that will last forever.
visiting Rwanda, it's hard for me to image the country in
the midst of genocide. All I could think about while there
was how beautiful the country is - not just the landscape
- but the people. I am glad, though, that our group learned
more about the genocide by visiting museums and memorials
and having our own group discussions. I will continue to learn
more about the genocide this summer by reading many books,
and I will do my best to ensure that genocide never happens
my experience was a lesson in the basic human capacity to
forgive, persevere, and to come together. These are lessons
I will be proud to carry with me in all my future ventures,
in hopes to positively impact the people in my life, just
as my new Rwandan friends have impacted mine.
experience I would like to share with you is when I participated
in the village's weekly "Tikkun Olam." I joined
a group of students in their project building a mud house
in the rural area surrounding the Village. After several hours
of constructing a wall for an extremely poor family, one of
the students dragged me into a room of the house where he
introduced me to the mother of the household, a sickly middle-aged
woman lying on the dirt floor in obvious discomfort. The student
informed her of the progress we had made on the house (in
their native Kinyarwanda), and a faint smile came across the
woman's face. Walking back to the Village, the student told
me, "David, this was my favorite part of the week. It
is very important, and I'm happy that we helped that woman.
notion that this Rwandan student, who for once in his life
has been given the opportunity to create his own future, values
helping others above anything else was astounding. Hearing
these words from my new friend made the mission of the Village
come alive for me. It was a truly humbling experience.
shown by this student's set of values, the Village is rebuilding
the basic foundation of human interaction - trust, friendship,
respect, and event the duty to help others - that was so viciously
torn down by the genocide only 17 years ago. This was only
one of many experiences that made me confident that these
students will go on to be amazing leaders in their communities.
of our text based discussions focused on how to give. We discussed
and debated the value of giving one's time versus one's money,
and to which types of causes. These provocative discussions
made me think, is the significant cost of our short-term trip
worth it? Could the money have been better used directly donated
to the Village instead of for a group of visitors? Are there
other causes more worthy of the help?
Rwanda, I came to an answer to these questions. Nothing in
this world can replace the first-hand experience I had at
the Village, if and only if I utilize the experience as inspiration
to do acts of good in the future. As such, this experience
has motivated me to answer the call to service, whether it
be for the Village, Rwanda, or for others in need around the
world. Your incredible act of good shall not be in vain, as
I hereby pledge to devote myself to utilize my experience
in Rwanda for good."
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