Published: August 19th 2007July 6th 2007
I am in Kigali, Rwanda now (have been for about three weeks), and I am having an absolutely wonderful experience! I've learned so much about Operationg Crossroads, which is the program I'm working through. It turns out they are having their 50th anniversary next year and they are the program that actually started the Peace Corps. It's basically run by one guy (Willis Logan), who knows everyone's name somehow when you get to the conference in New York. While in New York, we met our group and learned about what other groups were doing. There are groups going to Kenya, Ghana, Gambia, Uganda, Senegal, and Rwanda this year, and they're all doing really different projects. Some are doing women's studies programs, others are assessing microfinancing, there are health programs, building libraries, the works. It's really exciting. After 38 hours of flying and layovers, we finally made it to Kigali where we met the staff at RWN. They's all really great people and I've enjoyed getting to know all of them.
My work at RWN has proven to be kind of tough, but I think it will be really rewarding. We are documenting stories of women and children at RWN in relation to the genocide, their health problems, the help they are recieving, etc. I've met some women with some incredible stories - I can't imagine having gone through what they have. Many of the women at RWN were gang raped during genocide by men with HIV/AIDS and contracted the disease. What is particularly interesting about the network is that the head of the program did not discriminate when it came to giving help. So along with women who lost their entire families in the genocide, we will be interviewing women who are part of the same community that have husbands in prison for being part of the genocide. I've already had a difficult time keeping composure during one of the interviews. It's a huge learning experience, but it's also really rewarding and eye-opening.
We have visited the genocide memorial in Kigali, which was incredibly well done, and difficult to visit. Kigali is absolutely gorgeous. It's a mixture of those left behind, and that which has been rebuilt. The city is literally 13 years old, because almost everything was rebuilt or renovated after the genocide. It's easy to forget where you are sometimes, and then other times it stares you in the face as you walk to the market, or when we work in the Village of Hope. I really love living here so far, though. I'm trying my best to learn Kinyarwanda - the official language here - and am trying to improve at French, which is somewhat difficult. It's a challenge, but some of the women I've become close to are helping me.
There should be lots to write about within the next few weeks. We're going to finish up our documentation and visit some of the work that RWN does outside Kigali so that we can create document for them with everything in it. So I'm really pumped! Hope all is well in the states, and I will write again *relatively* soon. Sorry there are no pics, I'll try next time.