"When a mountain is in your path, do not sit at its foot and cry. Get up and climb it." This African proverb was inscribed on a set of cards from my host organization in Rwanda. I cannot wait to explore 'the mountain between' my life and theirs.
I am a Notre Dame student headed to Muhanga, Rwanda in May. I'll be interning for YWCA and Church World Services this summer and could not be more excited! I will blog throughout my trip and I hope that you enjoy watching my adventure unfold!
Children of Muhanga celebrating at a YWCA function
Friday, July 20, 2012
Not my usual birthday gift...
So tomorrow is my 20th birthday. Throughout this process, I have been so overwhelmed with the support I have gotten from my community at home. My friends and family have been remarkable, not only allowing me to do this, but fully encouraging me and wanting to be involved. So many more people, whom I am not that close with, have reached out to me and helped me to stay positive when things got frustrating. I have gotten countless messages that started out, "I know you don't know me very well, but I follow your blog and love what you are doing!" If you are one of these people- THANK YOU! It makes me feel like I am a part of something greater than just this personal experience. This is not normal; I know other students who didn't have the same level of support from their community at home, and I could not feel more lucky and inspired. Sometimes, it is difficult to justify the excess that we live in on a daily basis in America- the cars, the clothes, entertainment, lake houses, coffee... As opposed to the passive attitude that I somewhat expected, I have been overwhelmingly surprised with how much everyone has wanted to get involved and help in the small ways they can. I have learned about the incredible power of human beings not just from my family here, but from my family at home as well. Thank you.
The most important thing I will take away from this experience is not to give away all of my clothes, stop buying my daily latte, or resist getting a pedicure from time to time. I will remember that everyday there are literally millions of people who live in unbelievable poverty, ignorance, abuse, and hopelessness. It is the reminder that each time I get to buy a pair of jeans, someone, somewhere goes without. My experience has made this common knowledge personal. We know the statistics- "think of the starving kids in Africa". I've seen their eyes, held them, played with them, reprimanded them. They aren't a statistic or an overarching problem- they are real individual people with stories, personalities, hopes and dreams just as real as mine and yours.
For my birthday, I couldn't ask for a more humbling gift than your support of the program that has changed my life and will continue to change many. Please click on the link below to help support us and explore the website that Caroline and I have been busy developing. Keep in mind that a livable income for a family of 6 in Rwanda is less that $4,000 USD. A little goes such a long way, and I can't adequately express my gratitude for your support. We will keep the donations open until we return home, one week from tomorrow.
Let me also add that I am terrified to turn 20. I know that everyone over 20 is rolling their eyes- but thats like adult status. I remember when I was younger thinking that if you were 20, you were practically old. I had decided yesterday that all I wanted was to have a cute dress, shaved legs, and dinner with my adoptive family here. Being that the first one is a 'no-can-do', I moved on to the shaved legs part. I haven't really talked about showering here, but let me tell you it is an experience. So after I worked out, I hopped in for what I hoped would be a warm, relaxing shower. Well, no water. So Caroline and I boiled some tank water for me, and then I set off to take a bucket shower. Finally, after like 30 minutes of a struggle splashing water on my body, I had shaved legs, and newly scolded skin. Also, please note that you have to be incredibly comfortable with your body to attempt to get all parts of you wet. There are some seriously compromising angles involved- sorry for the detail.
This evening we will head down to Kigali to hopefully get some clothes :) and then go have dinner with my adoptive family. I think we will go out either tonight or tomorrow with our new friends as well. I can not believe that this is my last weekend here. It FLEW by. I will post probably 2 more times- once before I leave and once I return home.
Thanks so much for going on this little journey with me.