Washington to Butare

A new summer, a new GROW team.  Murakaza neza! Welcome, and enjoy as we try to convey the next 9 weeks to our friends, families, and fellow GlobeMed members.

Much love,

Abhi, Hannah, Madeline, Molly, and Natasha.

After a 6am wake up call on Thursday morning, physically together for the very first time (due to Hannah, Molly, and Abhi’s study abroad semesters), the GROW team set off on what was to be a 28 hour journey to our new home in Butare, Rwanda.

As the plane took off Thursday morning, I felt a clash between anxiety and peace in the uncertainty and unknown that lay ahead of us.  But as we landed in Kigali, the tension between my emotions subsided and was replaced by a complete comfort with the young women surrounding me.  Stepping off the plane a sense of unity spread over our team.  In that moment, our minds were in the same place.  We could all understand each other in the looks and smiles exchanged.  And we recognized our combined commitment to whatever challenges, adventures and endeavors were to come.

airport

A tour of Kigali and a three-hour bus ride later, we found ourselves standing before our home for the next 9 weeks.  Peace and Pascal, our rotation officers from the Rwanda Village Concept Project (RVCP), gave us an hour to get ourselves together, and then we had the most epic dance party ever with at least 20 RVCP members.  Engaging in conversations from favorite music to HIV prevention, from Kinyarwanda lessons in exchange for rugby lessons to gender empowerment, an immediate and extremely welcoming connection was formed between the five GlobeMed representatives and RVCP.

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The first few days have blurred together as we have been going nonstop, with new friends constantly coming in and out of our house, conversations filled with vision and passion among our team and with RVCP members, and so many ideas and questions and figuring things out.

So far we have been a part of two RVCP programs.  The first was the HIV/AIDS Candlelight Ceremony.  In collaboration with the HIV club at secondary schools from nearby villages, the event was a reminder of the importance of education on transmission and prevention of HIV.  It gave us a taste of RVCP’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Program, a program that we will have more involvement in throughout our stay here.  The second program we participated in was the first of our 10 Maternal Health Education Program (MHEP) sessions: The Place and Value of Women in Society—Beliefs, Traditions, and Taboos.  This being our main initiative while we are here, we were really looking forward not only to being part of the session, but to facilitating conversation, learning from the women in the program, and exchanging ideas, questions, and experiences.  After the 2-hour session, the women thanked us with song and dance (we obviously jumped right in).  I think we all (GROW team, women, children, and RVCP members) are looking forward to our remaining sessions to go deeper into the issues and questions that were brought up in our first meeting.

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While our first few days here have been incredible, there have inevitably been some challenges and questions about everything new and different.  But these challenges are accompanied by a discovery of our own individual strengths as well as the commonalities and openness across humanity.  I cannot think of a better example of this than the shared energy between all of us attending the MHEP session—coordinators and participants together.  We shared a dance and a song that allowed our souls to speak, connecting us in a mutual appreciation for each other’s whole being.

To finish my thoughts of the past few days I want to share a story that Pascal shared with me on the walk home from the clinic on Sunday (paraphrased):

“There were two goats, both very hungry.  Their food was on opposite ends of the road.  However, the goats were tied together with a strong cable in the middle of the road.  The goats began to pull and tug at each other, each trying to reach his own bowl of food.  As they each pulled in opposite directions, tension in the cable connecting them increased.  The conflict between them rose greater and greater.  At some point, the opposing pulls and rising tensions reached a maximum, and both goats fell right where they were in the center of the road.  Realizing what was happening, they negotiated to help each other out, walking alongside each other to one end of the road so one goat could eat, and then to the other end of the road so the second goat could eat.  In the face of conflict and opposition, and in the face of great need, it is important to realize that there are always those around us to help us out, even if it means embracing differences.  There is positive conflict and negative conflict.  If we see conflict as a means to let our differences solve the problems, we will see that differences are not opposites.  Rather, they are tools to help us see different perspectives, to learn and to help out.  Let us treat all conflict as positive conflict, so that even when we think our views are opposite, we are still able to depend on each other, no matter how different we are.  We are all tied together.  We all depend on each other.  We need each other to reach our goals.  And it is up to us to realize that instead of pulling against each other, we must walk alongside each other and accept our interdependence.”

Madeline

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