Alex and I had an incredible weekend, visiting friends and participating in one of RVCP’s biggest events of the year – the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. On Saturday, the night before the Candlelight Memorial, Vincent Ndebwanimana invited us to his house for an evening of companionship and home cooked food. Vincent is a sixth year medical student at the National University of Rwanda currently completing an internship in surgery with the aim of one day becoming a pediatrician, and an alumnus of RVCP. He is known as a rockstar amongst members GlobeMed at GW as he was a former coordinator of RVCP and has become a beloved friend of nearly everyone in our chapter. Vincent was also invited to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in March about his work as the coordinator of RVCP and in RVCP’s partnership with GlobeMed at GW.
Vincent welcomed us into his home with open arms, accompanied by Emmanuel (the RVCP coordinator), Hyacinthe (the vice-coordinator), Jean Paul (the fundraising officer), and Karake (the treasurer and Vincent’s cousin). We were very happy to see Vincent’s home and have the opportunity to meet his wife Joselyn, who is nine months pregnant with the couple’s first child, his fellow surgical interns, and a few of his neighbors. Alex and I have spent a lot of time with Vincent in his two visits to Washington D.C. over the last few years, but it was very interesting to have the roles of host and visitor reversed. Joselyn prepared a delicious meal, but Alex and I fell absolutely in love with her cassava and her chips. While both dishes are Rwanda staples, the chips were sumptuous without being too oily and the cassava was more rich and moist than any other cassava we have had so far. It was so nice to be able to get the chance to experience the dynamics of a Rwandan household, especially that of one of our dearest friends.
On Sunday, we participated in the 2012 International Candlelight Memorial with all of RVCP and nearly 500 members of the Huye District. The event consisted of a march through Butare followed by speeches and presentations by local officials and youth clubs. The presenters included myself, the mayor of the Huye District, a woman living with HIV, the assistant head of police, and other leaders in the community. Each of the presentations demonstrated a true commitment to promoting awareness and hosting a commemoration for those affected by HIV/AIDS. The event concluded with refreshments for all participants. For me, one of the most memorable parts of the event was taking pictures with all of the RVCP members after official presentations ended. I think that spending this time together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company, really helped us to get to know individual RVCP members a lot better and to start seeing them as friends in addition to colleagues.