Today was our first full day of this Summer Immersion volunteer program, and as a first-year volunteer I really did not know what to expect. I woke up with a completely open-mind and just went for it, but since it was an early start, the coffee at 6:30 was a big help.
The reason for the early morning was because today was Umuganda, which is a national tradition on the last Saturday of every month where all the members within the community clean their homes or do a service project to better their community. Cars are off the road and businesses are closed until the later afternoon. This tradition began as a way to unify the communities and has been working very well. Not only is this country visibly very clean, the people all take a tremendous amount of pride in where they are from. However, we spent a little of our time first seeing the Hope Shines Center and this really made me excited to start camp. Meeting some of the kids and seeing their happiness and curiosity was infectious. I am probably as excited to learn about them and their lives as they are to learn about me. After playing some games and having them show off their photography skills, we walked up the street to a school to participate in Umuganda. While there, our job today was to clean out the classrooms in order to prepare for the voting booths that will be in there for the election next Friday. It was an awesome time to practice my bare-minimum knowledge of Kinyarwanda and talk to all different members of the community.
After concluding our Umuganda by sitting in during a meeting of multiple members from different umudugudus, which is the word for villages, we went back to the Hope Shines Center, and it was filled with even more kids enjoying a music and their weekly dance lesson before they were about to enjoy a hardy meal prepared by some of the Mamas. After packing up our things, we grabbed our bagged lunches and traveled to Nyamata just east of Kigali to see the Bugasera Green House Project, which is a social enterprise project to help fund Hope Shines. Once we arrived even more kids crowded around to see us and interact with us there. It was really neat to come in as a volunteer and learn about all the different aspects Hope Shines is involved with; it is much more than just a summer camp and I am very honored to be a small part of it.
Our night concluded by a really great dinner and bonding as we prepared for the following days and starting camp. There is only more great things to come and I am so eager to experience them all…so stay tuned!
Shenandoah University-1st Year Volunteer