5 Amazing Things I Learned in Rwanda

A few weeks ago I was able to visit Rwanda with a team of Food for the Hungry staff. Rwanda is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited, and the people were impressive. It is unlike many of the other countries I’ve been to. Here are five amazing things I learned in Rwanda.

1. The Kids Loved Our Visit

My most enjoyable times visiting other countries is spending time in community with the children. In some countries, there is a trepidation when we visit. The kids aren’t sure what to make of us and are a little shy. After a time of introduction and playing some games, the kids warm up to us. In the Rwandan community we visited, there was no need for warm-up time. The kids immediately took to us and loved following us around practicing their English (“What is your name?” was the first question all of them asked.)

2. The People Are Incredibly Smart

On the first day in Kigali, Doug Penick (FH Creative Director) and I had a few hours to see the city and visited the Genocide Memorial. It was a moving experience that is hard to express in words. The horrors Rwanda went through in the 20th century are hard to understand. The lack of action by countries outside of Africa gave me pause.

While there, we met several Rwanda staff of the memorial, and we saw them interact with people from different countries. Many of the people we met were multi-lingual. I saw staff speak Kinyarwanda (native language), English, French, and in one instance, Chinese. This was everywhere we went. Almost everyone we met spoke fluent English. I met one of our staff in the community, and he said he entered college speaking only French and Kinyarwanda. His first class had an Indian professor speaking English, so he had to learn English on the fly to make it through the class.

3. People in Rwanda Genuinely Care About American Politics

I saw two things on the TVs in Rwanda: football (soccer) and American politics. In one hotel lobby, they had two TVs on. President Trump was on both TVs. Many Rwandans asked me about our election. Many had a much deeper understanding of our political system than I expected. Rwandans understand that what happens in America impacts other nations. This reminded me that we cannot be so inwardly focused that we don’t see how the things we do affect other nations.

4. Rwanda is Exceptionally Clean

Walking along the street the first day I was there I noticed something. In fact, it was what I didn’t notice that was peculiar: there was no trash on the side of the road. No cans, no bottles, no wrappers, no empty chip bags. Nothing. No trash in the drainage ditches. Venturing out of Kigali into the communities surrounding the capital on the hillsides, I saw the same thing: no trash. This is the cleanest country I’ve visited. Once a month, the country shuts down for a few hours for a community service day. During this time, community members clean the area. They dig new ditches. The fix what is broken. And they love it!

One night at dinner, I spoke to our Logistics Manager, a Rwandan, about this cleanup day. He looks forward to it each month as the community joins together to beautify their little town. The community leadership decides what projects to work on and all of the people pitch in.

5. Our Work is Making a Big Impact

Rwanda childIn the community I visited, Busekera, Food for the Hungry helped the community build a new school. FH brought in clean water. We helped the community create a sewing industry to train men and women in skills to start their own business. We helped people in the community acquire cows, goats and pigs. In fact, we helped families get 16 cows, and those cows birthed 10 babies. The families gave those 10 babies to other struggling families in the community. We helped the community get 60 goats and those goats birthed 10 babies. The families gave those 10 babies to other families. We helped families acquire 572 pigs. And those 572 pigs birthed 72 babies that the owners gave to other families. Not only did we help lift families out of poverty, but those families helped lift their neighbors out of poverty!

Sponsoring a child in Rwanda makes a big impact to lift families — especially the children — out of extreme poverty. The community of Busekera is on their way to being self-sufficient because of the help of people like you.