|Steph inside the youth hall in the Kiziba camp|
I feel both accomplished and unfinished which I think is a good place to be after a trip like this. We went to Rwanda and did above and beyond what I was expecting in the number of people we touched and connected with. I regret nothing about the trip but it is still unfinished because like any mission trip there are three stages. The first is preparation, we spent months learning about the culture and discussing what emotions the trip would bring. Next is the trip itself, but third and most important is what we do when we return.
There are a few images in my mind that I will never forget. One is the first morning in Rwanda, it was a Sunday morning and we woke up to a gorgeous scene of the city outside our window. When standing on the balcony we could hear, faintly at first, music and we soon realized it was the early morning church service starting. I felt like it was a great "big-picture" of Rwandan culture. The other image I will always distinctly remember is a little boy that came up to my waist in height that I met on the water walk. He took my hand and when I looked down at him he gave me a huge smile. He was missing his two front teeth and he was dirty, like every child was, but he didn't need words to show how happy simply holding my hand made him.
The issue that touched my heart the most was the education issue, especially in the refugee camp. The children had education provided for them through primary school but an education beyond that, to secondary school for three years and then to a university, was too costly for the family to pay for. It was like learning the basics in life and it was just enough to keep them in the refugee camp without any hope of being able to succeed elsewhere in the world. When talking to kids our age, and even the adults, we found out that most of them wanted nothing more than to continue their education.
These people would do anything to continue and most high schoolers in the United States, when asked, would say that s/he can't wait to be done with school. I've decided to do two things about this. First I will value my own education more and not take it for granted because it really is a privilege. I also want to sponsor a refugee to finish out the next three years of secondary school. We learned in the refugee camp that it would cost about $20 a month for three years to do this but the effects would last a lifetime. Giving someone those three years of education would be like giving them an opportunity, not a common thing for refugees, to go somewhere in life and to break out of the refugee-rut that their parents are in.
As we travel home I both remember the trip, the experiences and emotions, and I think about how my life has changed and will continue to change because of the people I met in Rwanda.