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Update from Rwanda: December 2010

Below is a recent email to GFC CEO Whitney Smith from Irene Kagoya, Leadership & Ethics Instructor at
Akilah Institute for Women in Rwanda.

Dear Whitney,

I trust you are well and determined as ever to continue empowering young girls. We are continuously inspired by your works I must say. I am proud to share with you updates of the social change projects at Akilah this year.

 On the 19th of November, 2010, the first group of six students set off to Gahanga Centre Kigali to implement their social change project on malnutrition, and other projects followed. 

Each of the social change projects developed by the students was of value to each community. At the end they were asked by the community leaders to make frequent visits to the community and continue educating them on how they can deal with the different problems they face.

It was incredible to see my students develop these social change projects, meet community leaders to organize for the different meetings, and then see them in action. For some of the community members they had never heard of kitchens gardens, others did not know that there was a female condom, while still others were surprised at the fact that children have a right to rest as the students talked about children’s rights.

As a teacher watching my students plan, organize and effect a community project was inspiring. They owned these projects and, however challenging each group was up to the task. One of the groups that had their project on teaching customer care through media has continuously gone back to Contact FM where they are featured on a 10:00am O’clock show speaking about different issues of customer care every Tuesday. Through the social change projects students were able to practice their public speaking skills, build networks with community leaders, and for the first time the majority of my students realized how strong they are and believed in their ability to bring positive change in their communities.

There were a number of challenges, for instance, each community asked students to go back and yet we had limited resources. It was also difficult to assess the impact of the projects on the community as well as students with only onetime visits. I hope we are able to secure more support for these projects the coming year and make it more meaningful for the students as well as the communities.

At the end of each project students were asked to write about their experience, and it was interesting to hear the students’ voices on how much the projects had impacted on them. Unfortunately I cannot share it all but  below is what Alice Umurerwa had to say and attached are two pictures of the students in action.

My experience at Gahanga

When I was at Gahanga it was amazing because the people I taught were very interested in what I was teaching them so I felt that I am an important person in my society. I knew that everything is possible if you do it with your heart. I was very happy that time when the citizens were very curious to know about malnutrition that made me feel encouraged and plan to return again in order to help them develop their life in a good way.

Before I was fearing to speak in public and we planned to go in the community then I asked myself how can I teach at Gahanga, I found that inside me I have power to influence others in a good way so what am supposed to do is to use that power in order to make change in my community. Alice Umurerwa


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