Rwanda: Global Youth Connect
Global Youth Connect, Africa
My first trip to Africa began by sending my application for participation in the 2007-2008 Global Youth Connect delegation to Rwanda. Genocide, if you know what it is, can grip you; perplex you while trying to fathom the shear volume of life lost. For some reason, maybe the morbid curiosity we all possess, I wanted to go to Rwanda to see it, study it, and feel its powerful effects. Rwanda had been an interest of study for me since my high-school creative writing class, when I watched Hotel Rwanda. For most students, the effect was profound but short term. But for me, the film stuck like glue, permanently embedded in my psyche. Surprisingly, I was given the chance to go to Rwanda, despite the competition, to represent myself and UH Hilo.
Upon arrival into Kigali the other participants and myself shared introductions, and just generally got to know each other and hang out. The next day drove around parts of Kigali, meeting people and socializing. After that, we received our first reminder of many that we were in a post-genocidal country as we visited the Gisozi genocide memorial in Kigali. The following day, we began our human rights conference with 15 other native Rwandans. In fact, the last day was televised on Rwandan National Television, which was cool because we were all in a restaurant/bar near Tanzania when the aired the program.
After the five day conference we met with USAID, and then with the head of the Rwandan National Reconciliation Commission. After those meetings, our group split up to work with different organizations. I worked with Never Again Rwanda, which is one of most influential non- profits in the country. Their job was to find genocide ideology being taught in schools, and stamp it out. After shutting down genocide teaching school, Never Again Rwanda would then set up after school programs and activities to promote reconciliation and inter ethnic youth bonding. For the last few days we traveled, visited hospitals, and went to different memorials throughout the country. We also, viewed the unique genocide trials known as Gaccaca, which in itself was an amazingly thought provoking experience.
My three weeks in Rwanda truly changed my views on East Africa and how I view international issues. Furthermore, I feel it changed my life and was sincerely the best time I have ever had in any particular place. I met people that I truly feel I will be in contact with for the rest of my life. That being said, if you are thinking about participating in a Global Youth Connect program, I highly encourage you to do so. They offer a variety of programs aside from Rwanda.
You should visit their website at Global Youth Connect, to see when new opportunities are available. However, if you see something you like and are thinking of applying I would advise that you take an extensive amount of time on the application and have a competitive GPA, because you will be competing for limited spots against students from UH Hilo to Harvard and Georgetown, and many are graduate level students. Obviously in this brief outline I could not fill in every detail, if you would like to talk to me about GYC, or have any questions about Rwanda or my trip in general do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for reading and happy travels.