Photos by myself and Michael Kim
I can easily say that the eight weeks I spent in Rwanda were the best weeks of my life. No joke. We packed what felt like a years worth of adventure, laughs, and work into a few short weeks.
We all had a second family in Rwanda. With second moms like Catherine who would pull us into her restaurant whenever we walked by and would hand us heaping plates of food. Or Abraham’s mom who invited us all over to dinner to share stories and laughs and of course a huge meal consisting of cups of steaming African tea, cassava, and sweet potatoes loaded with chilli peppers that almost burnt my mouth off. We made friends like Abraham, Aristo, and David that I know I will keep in touch with and definitely see again, whether it is me traveling back to Rwanda, or them coming to America to pursue their dreams.
I left Rwanda a changed person. Inspired by those I met, empowered by those I worked alongside, and one that is full of compassion due to the wonderful community of Rwamawha and the amazing team from Duke I am so lucky I got to work with.
We packed a lot into the last two weeks, including working dawn til dusk for four days straight in order to complete the bridge in time for inauguration, painting the towers of the bridge like the Rwandan flag, celebrating the completion of the bridge with hundreds of people from Rwamawha, and packing up and saying our goodbyes. Seeing the excitement of the kids and the rest of the community about the completion of the bridge was humbling and really made a difference. I got to watch an old blind man cross the bridge first, and know that he will be able to cross safely for the rest of his life. Having to pack up and say our goodbyes to all of our friends just a few days after completion of the bridge was hard for all of us. Seeing the faces of the children as we told them we were leaving brought tears to our eyes. We have many of their contacts and have been able to stay in touch through e-mail, Facebook, and WhatsApp.
The team worked extremely hard, and I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished.