Rwandan internship was a life-changing experience

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rwanda hosts a nation of people still capable of embracing the laughter, sorrow, and song that comes with living. This is probably the most surprising realization we have both come to after spending three months as interns in a country struggling to recover from years of war and culminating in the genocide of 1994. We were two out of 138 students chosen across Canada to be part of the Students for Development Program, managed by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. This program, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, was established to provide students experience in strengthening governance in developing countries, with a clear focus on issues related to gender.

Both of us were assigned to work at the governance level of the National University of Rwanda in the realm of capacity building. As interns, we became involved in development work at the bureaucratic level of a developing country. Despite the slow start in acclimatizing to the local customs and school culture, we were able to become involved in strategic planning for the University, policy creation, grant writing for donor funding, and research on gender equity. We also became involved in a student initiated project that worked with educating and providing training and alternative means of employment to former prostitutes, most of whom are HIV positive.

However, this experience was about more than "doing development work". Each day we worked alongside people who had witnessed and survived the atrocities of the 1994 genocide. We were constantly humbled not only by the poverty in which people live, how much they have suffered, but mostly by how much they are filled with hope and anticipation for a brighter tomorrow.

Joining in the welcome dance from the Association of Women Who Agree to Change (Photo: Carissa MacLennan and Claudine Bonner)

Joining in the welcome dance from the Association of Women Who Agree to Change (Photo: Carissa MacLennan and Claudine Bonner)

Interns with administration of the National University: the Vice-Rector of Academics, the Vice-Rector of Administration and Finance and the Rector(Photo: Carissa MacLennan and Claudine Bonner)

Interns with administration of the National University: the Vice-Rector of Academics, the Vice-Rector of Administration and Finance and the Rector (Photo: Carissa MacLennan and Claudine Bonner)