In just under one week, I’m headed to Kigali, Rwanda for the summer! I’m planning to use this blog to share the highlights of my first trip to Africa. It’s been a lifelong goal of mine go to Africa, and more specifically to Kenya. Growing up, my grandma and grandpa told stories of their mission in Kenya where they built a school, church, and medical clinic in one of the Western provinces. My uncle would remind us that a little pocket change can go a long way, so whenever my family found money on the ground- in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, at school, and elsewhere- it automatically became “Grandpa’s found money” for the Kenyan population. I realize in retrospect that my early, innocent attempt to help the “poor children” abroad probably fostered in me a stereotypical understanding that empowered Americans must reach out to the helpless Africans overseas. Idealistically, however, it implanted in me a calling to work for social justice and to attempt to understand the story of the other, to live in solidarity with people unlike myself. Truthfully, I constantly fail at attending to those immediately around me who are in need every day. So I hope this trip will disrupt the little bubble in which I live my days in Boston, and will place me in the situation of being the other so that I may refocus my priorities on the marginalized.
What exactly I am doing for two months on the other side of the world? Short answer: teaching. More elaborate answer: I have no clue. I signed up for the trip on a whim; a few months ago, an advisor at Boston College sent out an email to those finishing their first year in the Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry, offering a potential trip for the second year practicum. Usually the practicum entails working in a Catholic school or parish in the Greater Boston area. Last year when I was studying at Colby College, I finished my student teaching at a high school in Maine. It was spectacular, but I was hoping for a novel teaching assignment that was very different from my first, and evidently God answered my prayers in a way I could not have imagined. In Rwanda I will be teaching at a neighborhood school called Our Lady of Angels. The principal of the school, Sr. Anna, graduated from the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) a few years ago, and has since been instrumental in starting the school in Kigali. Over the past few months, my BC friends and I skyped with her to discuss the assignment. We are still unsure of the subjects and ages we will be teaching, but my understanding is that we will focus on English, technology, theology, and (hopefully!) science.
I’m so excited to leave, but feel simultaneously unprepared! Over the past few months I’ve read many books and articles about the 1994 genocide, and the causes and effects of such a disaster. It’s incomprehensible to a young American, and I can only hope to be immersed in their society with a respectful understanding of what they have undergone. Additionally I’ve tried to learn a bit of Kinyarwanda, which is their native language. French and English are spoken as well, but if they are going to ask us to teach English, we will have to learn their first language in return. So far my vocabulary includes “Muraho,” which means “Hello,” and a few other potentially useful phrases. Just in case you were curious about the title of this post, it means “Let’s go to Kigali.” And yes, I did have to look it up. At least I know another phrase now!
Please pray for us as we embark on this teaching adventure! I have no clue what I’ve gotten myself into- going to have to trust God on this one!