Greetings all. As I wrap up my third full week with Aegis, there is a lot on my mind and heart. Last evening, Aegis hosted its annual Kwibuka (Remembering) event for its employees and friends, to honor victims and survivors of the genocide (many of whom work for or with Aegis). It was an honor to have been invited, being the only person in attendance whose life was not altered by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. And as the citizen of a country that stood back and did nothing as hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, it was a moment of great contemplation on my place in the world as a privileged American.
The ceremony began in the court-yard, then moved to the mass graves, then the eternal flame, then the Peace School. From place to place, there was a time of silence and reflection. Once at the Peace School, the Kwibuka Ceremony officially began. Singers sang songs about their fallen loved ones. Survivors told stories about their lives before, after, and during the genocide. Politicians and soldiers gave encouragement and spoke of Rwanda’s bright future. It was a truly inspiring, but somber, place to be.
Events such as Kwibuka remind us that the past is always part of the present and the future, something that can’t be ignored or forgotten no matter how ugly and tragic it was. Being an intern with an NGO like Aegis Trust, which is consistently striving to remember the past while also focusing on a brighter future, has taught me many lessons about the importance of acknowledging this aspect of life. I look forward to the many other life lessons I will learn in the rest of my time in Kigali.
Welcome to Blog #3! Hard to believe I’m already at 3 out of 8 weeks…time does indeed fly when you’re having fun. Everyday I get up with a smile on my face, energized and excited to go to work in this beautiful city of Kigali.
But that doesn’t mean things are always easy! In general, being an intern comes with a few challenges…you are young, you are temporary, you don’t know people, you don’t have the same life experience and knowledge as your co-workers, ect. So then on top of those challenges, add: you don’t speak the language, you’ve never been in the environment, you’ve unfamiliar with the culture…needless to say, things can be difficult when working internationally.
Lucky for me, I have a houseful and officeful of supportive people who I know have my back when things go wrong. But in the everyday uncertainties and discomforts stemming from my own ignorance and naivety, I must look within for guidance. And what I have found in these moments, is that smiling and proceeding with confidence is the best way to pull through. If I am interacting with a person who only speaks French or Kinyarwandan, that doesn’t have to keep us from forming a relationship! If I am catching a moto to get to work and the driver takes me to the wrong part of the city, it doesn’t mean I won’t eventually get to where I need to go.
Being afraid of or close-minded towards what we interns don’t know, will only serve to hinder the chances for us to truly grow and learn (the whole point of an internship). With confidence on my side, I can CONFIDENTLY say that no matter the obstacles I face working in Kigali, everything will work out how it needs to be worked out. I strongly encourage those of you thinking about working abroad, to just GO FOR IT! Follow your dang dreams, people.
As I finish up my first full week of work, I wonder: how has time flown by so quickly? Every morning I come into the office, greeted by smiling and friendly faces, eager to answer my every question and show me the vast work of Aegis and its RPHE department. In this environment, going into the office doesn’t feel like a chore, but a privilege, something I look forward to every day. Wednesday, May 30th was an especially interesting work day, as I had the opportunity to attend a research conference at Kigali’s Lemigo Hotel.
The conference was organized by the Rwandan government’s National Unity Reconciliation Commission (NURC), an agency that promotes healing and prosperity in post-genocide Rwanda, specifically through the sponsoring of research on genocide. Both NGOs and government agencies were invited to attend, expected to discuss their present and future research pursuits. Though the event was in the national language of Kinyarwandan, my co-workers translated the talks for me in English so that I may understand its main goal: establishing an efficient way in which organizations and agencies can communicate their pursuits and findings, improving the effectiveness of national policy.
As the only American in attendance, it was a special privilege to see how Rwanda’s research community collaborates and plans for a brighter national future, as well as become aware of Aegis’ coveted role in the process. I can’t wait to see what I learn next week!