Rwanda: One month and counting

Two years ago, I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work to advance my career path toward more service-based work. While eager to move into a field I felt more passionate about, I applied to graduate school with a lingering hope – that I could become part of Tulane University’s Global Social Work Certificate Program and spend my final semester completing an internship overseas.

Last November, Tulane’s staff members officially welcomed me into the GSW program and, two months ago, I received my abroad placement. I will spend the fall semester in Kigali, Rwanda helping in the development of a social services program at an organization called the Rwandan Orphans Project (ROP). The orphanage serves nearly 100 vulnerable boys from around Rwanda and provides housing, clothing, food and healthcare to these children. My role will aid in the development of a program that helps to better reintegrate these orphans with families.

Rwanda is a rebuilding country. The 1994 genocide left nearly one million locals – 20 percent of the country’s population – dead. I have read about the genocide, researched its lingering effects and have sat in on presentations given by local Rwandans. Still, I know little compared to what I hope to learn in my three months living in Kigali.

I do not know how this long-awaited experience will change my life. I do know, however, that I have wanted to visit Africa for nearly 10 years. I have longed to work overseas since obtaining my undergraduate degree six years ago. I am ecstatic about the opportunity, despite my doubts about finding the time and money to live abroad one last time during my “younger years.” I cannot wait to learn about the culture of Kigali firsthand, meet the people of Rwanda, practice the French I have only just begun learning and pinch a few orphan cheeks while I’m at it.

So far, I have a place to work, but nowhere to live. I am one vaccination away from legally entering the small African country. I have been distracted by end-of-semester projects, but eagerly await the now half-planned stops a friend and I will make through Iceland, Denmark and Turkey after leaving the States (she ventures to India at the same time).

Though I feel more settled in New Orleans than ever, I cannot pass up this three-month opportunity. I look forward to learning how this experience will open my eyes, widen my vision and help me grow into a more conscious social worker, seasoned traveler and well-rounded woman.

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