Immerse yourself in African village life as you join extraordinarily welcoming local people to volunteer on community-initiated projects on this summer community service program in Rwanda for high school students. Visit memorials of the 1994 genocide, and talk with survivors about Rwanda’s progressive approach to reconciliation. Explore the lush northern volcanoes region of Rwanda, and visit Lake Kivu before your return home.
- July 5, 2013 - August 2, 2013
- Students completing grades 9-12
- Community Service
- Typical Group:
- 16 Students, 2 Leaders
- 4 week(s)
In 1994, almost one million Rwandans were killed by their former friends and neighbors in a span of one hundred days. Yet this small, mountainous East African nation has managed in recent years to make extraordinary progress in reconciliation, economic development, political stability, and education. Rwanda leads the world in some aspects of social and political innovation, with the world’s first majority of female members of Parliament, and many young policy makers educated abroad who have returned to improve the lives of the Rwandan people. The volunteer project on this community service program is based outside of Nyamata, a town just south of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. It is a region that suffers from chronic drought and food shortages, and therefore has one of the nation’s highest levels of poverty. Our volunteer projects here center on much needed maintenance at the local public school, and work with severely disabled children at a small, locally run organization founded by close friends of Putney. This organization is in the midst of building a new home for their project, so we combine work with the residents with mixing cement and helping build their future campus.
In addition to our work at this organization and at the local public school, we volunteer at the Akilah Institute, a professional college for young women founded by an alumna of a Putney Student Travel community service program. The school, which is currently based in Kigali, will be moving to its new campus just outside of Nyamata this fall. We have been invited to help put the final touches on the campus, and also to work one-on-one with the students there, who are eager to practice their English in preparation for their final exams. You will also choose an independent research project. Possible topics include: the many effects of the genocide on life today, the role of music and dance in Rwanda, tourism and the economy, the role of women in government, and Rwanda’s unique judicial model. Late afternoons and evenings are usually devoted to group activities with friends in town: dances, soccer games, hikes, and local speakers. Weekend excursions include visits to a traditional Twa tribal group and hikes into the surrounding hills. Upon successful completion of the volunteer program, you can expect to receive a certificate for 80-100 hours of community service.
“Living in Rwanda for a month was life changing for Dan. He learned to do things with what was available, worked hard to help build a home/school for disabled children, and realized just how much he takes for granted. He came face to face with the history of the Rwandan genocide—talking to survivors, and making friends with people from all backgrounds in Rwanda. We are so proud of how much he learned from this experience.”
– Doreen and Dale Petrovitch, Wallingford, PA
Housing is simple in the community center, with separate sleeping areas for boys and girls. While space is limited, the housing is clean and comfortable. There is electricity and running water for bucket showers. A wonderful local woman helps nurture our group for the month, shopping for us and cooking our dinners. You rotate periodically through cooking and cleaning crews responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the group, and assisting with dinner.
On weekends, explore northern Rwanda’s lush green landscape, hike through coffee and tea plantations and up volcanoes in search of golden monkeys, visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, a museum dedicated to Rwanda’s tragedy, explore the green hills of Kigali, and shop for crafts in its colorful markets. Spend a night in hotels on beautiful Lake Kivu and in Ruhengeri, the gateway to Volcanoes National Park.
- Volunteer one-on-one with students eager to practice their English.
- Assist children in a rural home for the disabled.
- Play an afternoon game of soccer with children from the village.
- Hike with guides to see golden monkeys high in Volcanoes National Park.
What to Expect
Since we live in our community service village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple, with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences, and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2012 Community Service Rwanda Blog.
This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Departure • Join your group to travel to Rwanda. The group flight departs from JFK Airport, New York, where you meet one of your leaders and depart as a group to Kigali.
Nyamata• Travel directly to Nyamata, a town 45 minutes south of Kigali, which is your home for most of the month. Stay in a community center, and volunteer on various important service projects in and around Nyamata.
Ruhengeri • At the end of the month, make an excursion to the northwest of Rwanda to spend a few days at Lake Kivu and in Ruhengeri. Venture into Volcanoes National Park to see golden monkeys living in the wild. Join local guides on a climb through lush rainforest to see the monkeys up-close on the rims of extinct volcanoes. Visit coffee and tea plantations. Paddle in dugout canoes on the waters of Lake Kivu.
“I have learned so much about Rwanda’s history, culture, and people, and also about myself. Even though I will go home and return to my old self, I am different. I have changed and will never be the same. Rwanda will always be a part of me- the courage, respect, and perspective I have gained, the horrors I have learned about, and the desire to question, connect, and care- that is now a part of who I am. This experience will inform every decision I make, today and for the rest of my life.”
– Charlotte Cuddy, Needham HS, Needham, MA
Kigali • Finish up in the bustling capital of Kigali, where you check into a simple downtown hotel for a few days. Visit the Kilgali Genocide memorial, and meet with NGOs working to advance health care and education in Rwanda.
Return • Fly with your group and a leader from Rwanda to New York, and continue on to your final destination.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Background • In 1994, almost one million Rwandans were killed by their former friends and neighbors in a span of one hundred days. Yet this small, mountainous East African nation has managed in recent years to make extraordinary progress in reconciliation, economic development, political stability, and provision of health care. There is still tremendous poverty, however, and service projects such as this are met with open arms. The people of Rwanda are eager to put their tragic past behind them, to create unity, to heal, and to build their economy. Our program in Rwanda is based in the southern town of Nyamata, but will also visit the northern town of Musanze at the gates of Volcanoes National Park and the capital of Kigali.
Population • Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, with over nine million people. Over a million live in greater Kigali. Nyamata has 7,000 inhabitants, and Musanze has 90,000.
Language • There are three official languages in Rwanda: Kinyarwanda, French, and English. There are many local dialects as well. A knowledge of French is useful on the program, but certainly not required. In the last few years the country has begun a shift from French to English as the language of instruction in school.
Climate • Rwanda sits near the equator, and the climate is temperate and dry, without great fluctuation. Typical summer temperatures are in the 70s. Nyamata is the driest area of the country, and gets a bit hotter.
“Ellie really loved the work with disabled students. She discovered that she loves working with special needs children, and especially that she loves Africa! She came home saying that she wants to work with handicapped children this year, and that she hopes to spend a year in Africa at some point before or during college!”
– Laura and Christopher Towle, St. Louis, MO
Cuisine • Food in Rwanda is varied, with curries, grilled meat, and plenty of tropical fruit and vegetables. Western influence is also seen in the availability of pastas and cereals.
Currency • Rwanda uses the Rwandan Franc (RWF). We change money in banks in Kigali. ATM machines are also available on visits to Kigali.
Voltage • Students will have access to electricity in Rwanda. Electric current is 230 volts, and the plugs are European-style with two round pins (Type C), so a plug adapter is necessary, and a voltage converter may be required to power some electronic devices.
The Community Service Rwanda program is directed by Karen Phillips. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!
Karen Phillips: St. Lawrence University, B.A., French. Karen caught the travel bug in high school while on a music tour through Europe, and later studied abroad in Switzerland, France, and Senegal. She has led Putney’s Language Learning and Community Service programs in France and Senegal, and coordinates programs in Europe and Africa. Her interests include rock climbing, painting, yoga, and running.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.