Today, we went to the Parliament museum about the Genocide Against the Tutsi and then we drove 3 hours to Mutobo. In Mutobo there is a center that re-integrates ex-combatants and perpetrators of the Genocide back into Rwanda. It was a long day and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the center. But, even with my anticipations, it turned out to be a beautiful experience. Our group of 25 students, professors, and facilitators walked into a large hall, where 700 men were waiting, dancing, singing, and greeting us with smiles. The people at the center welcomed us wholeheartedly and shared how they are trying to heal and forgive themselves for the evil they committed and how they wish to join the prospering Rwanda they hear of today. Most of them were refugees in the Congo until now and were scared to come back to Rwanda for fear they would be killed for their crimes. It’s hard to meet people who have done something so horrible, to see their hands and imagine their past, but it puts things into perspective; that hateful ideology is the root of the problem, not the individuals themselves. They shared how they wanted to reconnect with their “family,” the Rwandan people, and how they want to build a nation that can trust one another. As the 700 men continued to sing and dance, we sat in front of them and clapped along. After our warm welcome, we began to ask questions on a microphone, our voices booming into the hall, ad theirs booming back. Our translators helped us to get our ideas across, and we shared moments of dialogue with the men. I asked what they were most looking forward to after leaving the center and re-integrating back into society, and many of them said they were excited to reconnect with the country, their family, and to see the progress they have heard Rwanda has made. They asked us questions back at the end and they mostly wanted to know how we could take these experiences and stories back with us and help spread a positive image about Rwanda. At the end we all sang and danced together, one large mass moving, clapping, and belting out notes. I am doing my best to learn some Kinyarwanda and when we were walking out I shook some of their hands and said "njbiz cucu buona," which means it’s so nice to meet you. And it really was.
Date and time: 2019-05-28 10:44:06
Name: Rhyan Rigby
On May 25, around 7:00 we left our hotel to participate in Umuganda. Occurring on the last Saturday of every month, Umuganda is a home grown solution that encourages community work on a national scale. From 8 to 11 AM, people are encouraged to not participate in their daily activities and participate in bettering their communities, based on what is needed. As we were driving to Rusororo, where we participated, along the way I saw so many people either cleaning roads or together in their gardens. I was shocked at first because I did not think that people could come together in such a large way. However, as we entered Rusororo, we were greeted through singing and dancing and immediately I felt joy. Everyone was so happy to come together and work for their community but also see foreigners engaged in the activities that help their country grow. The work that we focussed on, was building houses for people that could not for themselves. Standing in assembly lines, we passed bricks from person to person making sure that everyone was involved one way or another. As we were working, there was a group at each station singing and dancing to encourage the people working and ensure that they were having a good time. It was clear to me that singing was a way to unite everyone working and keep them motivated. During this whole experience, I felt so warm inside because it really showed me what team work could accomplish. I felt as though I really belonged here even though I am not Rwandese. As I learned more about what this Umuganda was focussed on, I was amazed. Most of the participants were students that had finished their secondary education and were there for a month building these houses. It was really influential to me to hear the stories of these students and how they were so excited to spend this time giving back to this community. Furthermore, the fact that there were so many youth participating really stressed the direction that this country is moving towards. I could not help but think how important it is that other countries learn from solutions like Umuganda to create peace and encourage unity. As I look back on this day, I always ask myself: what does it take to create Umuganda elsewhere in the world?