by Kate Twaddle
When my brother, Ryan, went to Rwanda, one of his life changing moments was figuring out that he wanted to be a dentist. As for me, I knew that I wanted to look into environmental health before the trip, so I did not know whether my life would change or not. If it did, I did not know what could change.
Throughout my time in Rwanda, I was inspired and had my eyes opened. Seeing a country that was cleaner than our own even though it was torn apart by a genocide only 20 years ago was one of the many beautiful things that struck me about Rwanda. The cleanliness is thanks to Rwanda’s president. He makes it a top priority and he uses it as a way of reuniting the community.
One task I participated in that affirmed my passion for helping people through helping the environment was the water walk. As many of you know, I am a competitive basketball player that recently had hip surgery; therefore I am not quite back in shape. As a result, I trudged and sweat my way up and down a large hill only to successfully get five liters of water that would make most people sick if they drank it. I used my excuse of “but I just had hip surgery” because it was embarrassing to see kids half my age carrying twice as much water as me, running up and down the hill, laughing while I stopped to take a breather for the 7th time even though I wasn't even half-way up the hill.
More importantly, it was heart breaking to see children doing such difficult tasks only to find out they do this three or four times a day and that's just enough water for their cow. Even if the water was for themselves to drink they would get sick. Earlier during our trip I asked Serge what was wrong with the water and why we could not drink it. He told me that the pipes that carried the water to where the kids filled their jugs were old and rusty so parts of the pipes flaked off into the water which makes anyone who drinks it sick. This struck a cord with me because I know this is something that can be fixed. These children should not get sick from the only water source they have and they should not have to take multiple pain staking trips just to get water for the dishes and animals. Someday I hope to be a part of the solution to the water problem in Rwanda because it is one of the biggest and also one of the easier ones to fix.
Lastly, I never truly understood what it meant to be happy and at peace with your life until I came to Rwanda. I have never wanted to have children because I used to feel that the world was slowing going down hill. I did not want to have children just to force them to live through the next great depression. But going to Rwanda has shown me that it does not matter what you have in life, it matters what you do with your life: The relationships you make and the impact you have on other peoples' lives. Materials will become out-dated, old-fashioned, and covered up by the next big thing, but one person's life can make a lasting impact that will forever be part of other peoples lives.
The people here, especially the children, can have nothing but rocks to play with yet they are the happiest people I have even seen. They do not need iPhones or internet to find joy or purpose in life because they have each other and they have amazing face-to-face communication skills, which is something America is losing because of technology. Now that I think about it maybe life would be better with less material things that keep us from sharing stories and creating relationships the same way the Rwandans do. I am going to stop here because I do not want to share all of my memories with you through a computer screen since I would rather share them with you face to face. See you soon!