On Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting Christine Carabello from the Public Health Institute in Butare. Christine was staying in Kigali for the week for various meetings and to meet with GW and Lawrence’s GROW teams to get a better idea of what the internship consists of. Over lunch with Emmanuel, Epa, and Super Peter (the former director of initiatives), we spoke to Christine about what RVCP’s activities and initiatives aim to accomplish and about the facets of the RVCP-GlobeMed at GWU partnership. Throughout our discussion, she was very attentive and genuinely interested in what we had to say about our partnership.
We continued our discussion after lunch at the RVCP house, where she asked us insightful questions about our prospective futures in public health, the long term goals of the partnership, and what we have learned from our experiences in Rwanda. In many ways, this was one of the best imaginable ways to begin the end of our trip, as we were able to reflect on what we have accomplished in two months, what we hope to accomplish in the coming years, and what both of these things mean for our professional futures as well as the future of RVCP.
Afterwards, we were able to spend some time with Christine at Nzozi Nziza, our favorite ice cream store in town, and got to speak candidly with Christine about her previous travels, her time in Rwanda, and her work back home. It was a treat to be able to show someone else around town for the first time, as we’ve spent the past two months being escorted around Butare. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with Christine and hope that our discussions provided a comprehensive glimpse into our GROW trip.
This week, from Monday until Wednesday, Melissa and I travelled to Gisenyi, a town in the Western province of Rwanda which borders Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Everything about Gisenyi, including the bus ride there, was breathtaking. While stunning landscapes and rollings hills are standard fare for Rwanda, Gisenyi distinguishes itself with Lake Kivu. Its cool breeze and calming presence make it a destination for both domestic and international tourists. Luckily for us, one of our friends, Abdou, lives in Gisenyi, and was incredibly generous and introducing us to his family, bringing us to lunch, and showing us the lake and the hot springs. All in all, our trip to Gisenyi was refreshing and relaxing, and highlights the incredible diversity in landscape offered by Le Pays des Milles Collines.
This past weekend, Alex and I were invited to participate in the baby naming ceremony for Vincent and Joselyn’s three week old son. In Rwandan culture, the baby naming ceremony is a traditional gathering that usually occurs eight days after a child is born. In Vincent’s case, the ceremony took place a little later because of his busy schedule as a sixth year medical student finishing his clinical rotations before graduation. At a baby naming ceremony, friends and family gather at the home of the growing family, sharing food, company, and gifts. Then, the newborn and his or her parents sit before the crowd while its members suggest names for the infant. The parents privately discuss the options presented and any other names they like before presenting their child and their child’s name to everyone at the ceremony.
Vincent and Joselyn held their baby naming ceremony at their home in Tumba, which Alex and I are proud to say that we are now able to find on our own. After meeting the friends and family assembled, including both Vincent’s and Joselyn’s parents, and helping to set up a few rows of chairs outside, we were able to drink in this unique event in Rwandan culture. As usual, Joselyn’s food was absolutely delicious (we still have no idea how she cooks her cassava so incredibly moist and chewy) and it was truly a treat to be included in such an intimate setting. The language barrier between us and the guests who spoke only Kinyarwanda proved to be more of an entertaining gimmick at the party rather than a hindrance. Vincent’s mother and father and Joselyn’s mother seemed to particularly enjoy our company as we gestured and mimed our way through the evening.
We are truly blessed to have found such incredible friends in Vincent and Joselyn and in those they have introduced us to. We could not have asked for a pair of more gracious hosts and we only wish we could somehow return the generosity that they have shown us over the last six weeks. We wish a warm and joyous congratulations to Vincent, Joselyn, and the rest of their friends and family as we celebrate the birth and naming of their son, Ndebwashuli Ntwari Arnaud.
This morning, we went to visit the MHEP cooperative once again. The potatoes have been planted, and have been growing very well since our last visit. Today, the women were weeding and aerating the land. Luckily with potatoes, in comparison to something like beans, constant attention is unnecessary. So, the women are able to meet regularly to water the potatoes and tend to the land without having to meet more than once a week. Much like the last visit, the cultivation process is well-organized and carried out in a methodical way.
After the work was finished, the director of RVCP initiatives spoke to the women about their current financial situation, specifically the cooperative lending system they’ve formed. The women each donate a nominal amount of money each week, and can call upon the other women to receive a loan from the fund if something happens to their house or their family, for instance. The women were discussing putting the money in a bank account, for transparency and accessibility, an idea which was well-received.
We plan to visit some of the women in their homes in the coming week, which should prove to be useful for assessing the current and future needs of MHEP. Stay tuned for more updates about the home visits!
Anyone who is in GlobeMed at GW can tell you about the trouble we’ve
had over the past year with wiring money from our account at GW to
RVCP. I am overjoyed to report that as of this week, we have
successfully transferred the necessary funds to RVCP for the
organization’s operations for this summer and for the Fall months. We
are incredibly grateful to our donors and supporters who have helped
us to be able to work with RVCP’s initiatives and Maternal Health
This week also marks the final period of final examinations for
students at the National University of Rwanda and already we have had
more opportunities to work with RVCP members now that they have
finished their academic year. I would like to personally thank those
RVCP members who were kind and thoughtful enough to continue to
volunteer with us at MHEP, Let Little Children Come to Me (LLCCM), and
at the Football Tournament for the HIV/AIDS awareness initiative
during the past week despite being in the midst of taking their final
exams. Alex and I find this so remarkable as we would have incredible
difficulty getting university students in the U.S. to volunteer their
time during such a stressful period. We look forward to what promises
to be the most productive part of our trip thus far as we can focus
solely on RVCP operations with its members during their summer
This weekend was very eventful for Melissa and I and included many RVCP initiatives and activities. On Friday evening, we were able to attend the annual football tournament for HIV awareness, sponsored by the RVCP’s HIV awareness initiative. Both of the teams played well and were competing for the grand prize of 15,000 RWF (about $25). The afternoon included HIV awareness and prevention education along with discussion among the spectators of the match.
On Saturday, Melissa and I were able to visit the Let the Little Children Come to Me (LLCCM) orphanage for the afternoon. We were welcomed warmly once again and were able to play with the children and watch the skits and songs they had prepared. Finally, on Sunday, we held the fourth MHEP session. Despite the passing rainstorm, the session was very highly attended. The women learned of different contraceptive and family planning methods and ways to implement such methods. They engaged in a small-group discussion and settled many misconceptions regarding contraceptive methods.
Overall, the weekend was very productive and gave us a diverse view of the many initiatives run by RVCP. We hope that the remaining MHEP sessions will be equally successful and instructive!
Yesterday, we traveled to Musave, about half an hour outside of Kigali, to visit Gardens for Health International (GHI) and the GROW team from GlobeMed at Middlebury. When we arrived at Gardens for Health, the Middlebury GROW team introduced us to the staff at GHI, a dedicated team consisting of a mix of local Rwandan community leaders and ex-pats. We toured the gardens at GHI, getting a chance to learn more about all of GHI’s projects in their efforts to fight malnutrition and maximize the efficiency of the land use and livestock. GHI does so by both providing the necessary resources to the local families who work with the organization as well as holding education sessions for them.
While we really appreciated the opportunity to learn about the daily operations and goals of GHI, the best part of our visit was getting to eat lunch, cooked by the local mothers who work with GHI, with the Middlebury GROW team. In true GlobeMed fashion, our common goals and perspectives on global health helped us to connect instantly. We talked for hours about what we each thought of our time in Rwanda, about our projects, about our chapters back home, and enthusiastically agreed about how much we’ve been enjoying our GROW experiences, all while sitting on a plank in the middle of their beautiful farm, overlooking the scenic hills. Our only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time together because Middlebury’s GROW team is soon to return home to the U.S. However, we look forward to spending time with Hannah and Anna, two members of GlobeMed at Middlebury who are working on a GIS project with the local families in the GHI community.
It was so rewarding to spend an afternoon with fellow GlobeMedders as it gave us the perfect chance to reflect on our project, our trip, and our time in Rwanda as students wanting to make a difference in global health.