Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I arrived in NY for our first training session on November 30th. There I met the other 9 international volunteers and we spent 3 long days going over the ins and outs of village life, expectations, our roles in the village, logistics, logistics, logistics. Of course we realized we would have no idea what life at Agahozo Shalom would be like until we got there. Its day 7 in the village and life is constantly changing. I'm quite positive I won't find a true rhythm until school starts when all the kids arrive on campus January 4th. The Rwandan staff has arrived and for the past 3 days we have endured seminars from 8am-6 pm. Suffice it to say, my butt is soorrrrreeeee! Don't get me wrong, the content is not only interesting but incredibly valuable. We are learning about pre-colonial Rwandan history, religion, and education systems and how the education model is integrated into Agahozo Shalom. We do health and wellness training and discuss sex education, HIV, and teaching our youths to respect their bodies. We had a session about physical and emotional indicators of Trauma... Thorough!
So, let me explain the structure of this incredibly unique village. We have the village administration, senior staff, health professionals, kitchen staff, maintenance staff, house mothers, counselors, and volunteers (me). The house mothers live with the kids, each mother has 16 children for whom she is in charge. We all play unique roles in the village, but if there's one thing no one will leave the training without absorbing, it is that we are all here for the kids and as a family we are all equally responsible for their well being. The counselors play the role of big brothers and sisters, they also help lead after-school enrichment programs. I live with 4 Rwandan counselors, one of whom is my partner in coordinating the art enrichment program. As "volunteers" our role is to fit in wherever needed and transfer some of the skills and outside knowledge we came with. So far, it hasn't been butter smooth. Just a few minor challenges to face... Everyone speaks Kinyarwanda, challenge #1 learn the language. Challenge #2 remember the names of 40+ staff and 250 kids, and create strong relationships with everyone. Challenge #3- don't get frustrated and constantly be reminded you have a whole year to complete these goals. I'm warming up... I just wish our curriculum included glute exercises!