Rwanda is a picturesque country, a lush, green landscape of rolling mountains and hills as far as the eye can see. It is a mesmerizing portrait of patch-work quilt crops climbing to the farthest reaches of every hill, defying gravity as it reaches toward the sun at angles you can’t believe anything could grow.
It is difficult to imagine this land of quiet beauty once flowed with the blood of neighbours, friends, family and children. A slaughter that lasted 100 days and killed 1 million people. The 25-year anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide occurred in July of this year. It is a day of remembrance, reverence and a strong push to be the “One Rwanda” that the government and its people have worked toward the past quarter century. A critical part of that goal is to develop the education system in Rwanda to meet international standards.
Hope Global has been working in Rwanda for many years, primarily in the education space. In cooperation and coordination with the Education Department of Rwanda, Hope Global education teams have been canvassing the nation educating teachers in best practices, creating classroom resources, child advocacy and critical thinking.
These “teams” are volunteers who give up their summer holiday to travel across the globe and sit with hundreds of men and women who are educating the leaders of tomorrow for days at a time. It is an amazing thing to watch a teacher ask a question and then talk it through until the answer literally lights up their eyes as they begin to understand how they can implement what they are learning in their own classroom.
The session on creating classroom resources is about to begin, the room a flurry of white rice sacks and markers being passed out as the team leader talks over the excitement to explain the importance of creating a classroom that engages students in learning activities. One example – an outline of the human body with the shapes of organs drawn in. The team has sewn all of the organs in colored fabric, stuffed them and attached a line of Velcro so they stick to the rice-sack poster where they belong. A 3-D, interactive lesson in biology, each part labeled accordingly, the kidney’s, the lungs, spleen and so on. Imagine a game of bingo using body parts for pieces and a flat rice sack for a board. Call out an organ part and place it where it belongs – bingo, an anatomy lesson game show style.
This country is still healing – a process that takes an enormous amount of grace, determination and what most of us would perceive to be an endless ocean of forgiveness – a commitment to absolve, look to the future and unify under one banner, one people, “One Rwanda.”
Hope Global is committed to being a part of this building for the future, lifting up its teachers, students and leaders in prayer, in partnership and relationship. Partnership enables action through collaboration. The relationship between the team and the teachers that attend is reciprocal in so many ways. Hope Global team leaders are learning in real time as teachers convey their reality of working in a country that is still developing and has limited resources. This explains the rice sacks. Poster board is expensive and not available in many villages, but rice sacks are in abundantly supply. During a session on teaching different kinds of learners – a child who is a tactile learner for example – a young teacher who happens to be legally blind raises his hand to interject. He is explaining how the team can improve their lesson to include the visually impaired. An invaluable exchange of information that can only happen face-to-face.
We all need to show up, take a seat at the table and be ready to listen and learn. Powerful partnerships are shaped and grow only when we take the time needed to foster trust so ideas can be exchanged, tested and implemented.
Following this Hope Global team around for two weeks was a profound lesson in love and faith that transcends world politics and the human condition. This team has been coming to Rwanda for years, taking in stragglers along the way from various parts of the world, but at its core a group who are committed to the power of possibility when faith is driven by humility and grace and the willingness to listen.