Rwanda | Community Service

Public Health & Reconciliation

Immerse yourself in African village life as you join extraordinarily welcoming local people to volunteer on community-initiated projects with a focus on public health. Rwanda is a small, lush, and mountainous East African nation with a tragic history and progressive approaches to development. Collaborate with NGOs and meet with medical professionals to survey a diversity of health services. Assist community members in construction projects and explore how our work impacts the global community and our own lives in this complex and beautiful country.

June 27, 2018  –  July 23, 2018
At A Glance:
  • Service
    Focus on community-based projects in collaboration with a partner village
  • Wildlife
    Exploration of flora and fauna in natural habitats, national parks, or wildlife reserves
Completing grades 9 – 12
US Gateway City:
New York
Community Service
27 days
Typical Group:
14 - 17, 2 leaders
$ 5,690 + airfare



  • Aid in the operation of a home for disabled children
  • Hike with guides to see golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park
  • Build a wall to expand the campus of a medical facility
  • Visit the Kigali Memorial Centre and Genocide Museum


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow students and one or more of your leaders in New York, and fly together to Kigali, Rwanda, by way of Amsterdam. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Kigali • 2 days • Begin in the capital city of Kigali and spend two days in an in-depth orientation to get to know your leaders and fellow group members. Get an introduction to the history of Rwanda, the 1994 genocide, the process of reconciliation, and the country’s public healthcare programs before traveling to your host village.

Nyamata • 16 days • Travel south to Nyamata, a village with a history of chronic drought and food shortages, and work closely with a home for young people with disabilities. Each day, divide into small teams to work one-on-one with the residents of the center, work on a construction project to expand the facility, and paint existing space. After the work day, join students from the local high school in a soccer game, explore Nyamata, and practice Kinyarwanda with villagers.

Musanze • 2 days • Next, head to Musanze, a larger town in the Northern region of Ruhengeri. Explore Rwandan life from a different perspective as you take Kinyarwanda language lessons, listen to local storytellers, or visit nearby Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s Great Lakes.

Red Rocks and Volcanoes National Park • 2 days • Reflect as a group on your immersion experiences in Nyamata and Musanze at a cooperative farm and intercultural exchange center in the lush and peaceful Nkotsi valley, at the southern edge of Volcanoes National Park. The mountains form a stunning backdrop for your group retreat, and between discussions, explore the extraordinary environment with the help of Rwandan friends. Golden monkeys inhabit the bamboo forests, as does one of the world’s few remaining populations of mountain gorillas (the subject of Diane Fossey’s research as chronicled in the movie Gorillas in the Mist). Climb through lush rainforest with local guides to the rims of ancient volcanoes and observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

Kigali • 3 days • Return to the vibrant capital of Kigali for the final days of our program. Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, meet with NGOs working to advance healthcare and education in Rwanda, and discuss what you have seen and learned over the course of your program.  

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Kigali, Rwanda, to New York via Amsterdam with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

A Day in the Life: HOST VILLAGE

Due to the traveling nature of this program, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Nyamata.

8 AM Breakfast with your group
9 AM Assist healthcare providers at a home for disabled children
12 PM Head into town with your group for a simple lunch
1 PM Lay mud brick at the home’s campus
3 PM Play games with the home’s residents and discuss challenges with the staff
6 PM Prepare a typical Rwandan meal of plantains and ugali with the help of locals
8 PM Join locals at a fireside lulunga performance
9 PM Group meeting to discuss the day and upcoming schedule

What to Expect

Community Service • The focus of this program is learning about another culture by forming meaningful relationships with local people and undertaking a shared service experience together. You should come to the summer with an open mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life. During your time in Rwanda, you can expect to work on several different volunteer projects — construction projects where you may learn to mix cement and lay blocks or paint a community building, environmental projects such as planting seedlings or landscaping, working with children with disabilities, and educational projects such as teaching English to local children and adults. This program has a particular focus on different models of health care delivery, and will include meetings with various health care providers, and very possibly a visit to a Partners in Health clinic founded by Dr. Paul Farmer.  Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Students can expect to complete 30 – 50 hours of community service work during the program. To learn more about our Community Service programs, click here.

Language Practice • Proficiency in French is not required, however students who study French in school will have opportunities to practice while communicating with local people. Students will have the opportunity to learn some basic Kinyarwanda language skills.

Independent Project • Pursue an independent project and explore an aspect of local culture of particular interest to you — make a short documentary investigating tropical disease eradication, create a recipe book with traditional dishes learned from local villagers, or prepare a summary of how the Rwandan national health insurance system works, or of the many effects of the genocide on life today.

Physical Activity • This is a physically active program. Hiking, walking, digging, and light construction are all activities in which you might participate during this program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • Accommodations in Rwanda are simple but comfortable. Group residences range from guest quarters at the regional hospital to guesthouses run by welcoming Rwandans who Putney has known for years. Rooms are a mix of doubles, triples, and dormitory-style arrangements and leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.

Meals • We begin each day with a simple Rwandan breakfast at our residence. For lunches and dinners, we prepare traditional meals together, either with the help of local villagers or shopping on our own in local markets.  Occasionally meals are taken in restaurants as well.

Ask Us

Call at 802.387.5000 or email