Sara Lev, a rising senior, travelled to Rwanda in June with The Komera Project. She spent a week working with the Komera Scholars and learning about Rwanda.
Going to Rwanda with Margaret and other supporters of the Komera Project was unbelievable. Meeting other supporters, the scholars, learning about Rwandan culture and history as well as seeing the gorgeous rolling hills of Rwanda (Yes, its nickname “Land of 1,000 Hills” is more than correct) left me awe-struck, inspired and definitely changed.
The whole experience has been difficult to express in words. When people ask me, “What was your favorite part?” I find it difficult to give one concrete answer—I am so tempted to say all of it, however, I note that that leaves the person who asked with no sense of what I felt, experienced and saw. There are so many different pieces that made the whole experience so fantastic. One piece that was particularly my favorite was definitely meeting Rwandan people—scholars, their families, and other natives alike. These people are the strongest people I’ve ever met. They’ve survived so much horror, death and tragedy—so many things no human should ever see. Yet they are strong, brave and are able to move on. They do not look for pity and live in their past; rather, they embrace life with such vitality.
While we were in Rwanda, we travelled with three drivers: Innocent, Magezi and Bosco. They pointed out important landmarks (along with ensuring we got a proper view of a giraffe), gave us background on Rwandan history and culture as well as shared their invaluable stories with us. As they told us, they were all part of the genocide—they were kids at the time. They saw so much death, especially within their own families. But the most unbelievable thing is, is that they have all moved on. Their attitude is indicative of the whole of Rwanda. Moving on is an integral piece of their culture—as Magezi pointed out, most of the songs on the radio are about unification, togetherness, love and peace. It aids the process of moving away from the horrible tragedy that was the genocide.
The Rwandan people as a whole are so resilient and absolutely incredible. I also met some other inspiring women: the Komera Scholars. In particular, the scholars Console, Clenie and Janviere’s stories are remarkable in and of themselves—they came from tragedy and difficulty but ultimately turned into vibrant leaders. I also met so many other scholars who had astounding tales, ones of loss, bravery and strength. They all have, in some sense, experienced something tragic stemming from the genocide, yet you’d never know meeting them, as the Rwandan people are constantly friendly and upbeat people. When you meet the scholars, they run up to you and give you a huge hug and welcome you as if you are family. They hold your hand and want to know everything about your life and your family. They love to talk and share stories about their culture, interests and their families as well. In addition, they are so incredibly kind, caring and compassionate. A scholar, Olive, told me “The best gift you could give me is coming back”.
These scholars genuinely value the connection you make with them. I made so many connections with these scholars—I’m in the process of writing letters to them. They all asked for photos of my family, myself, my pets. They sincerely want to know you and connect with you. They are also extremely hard working, both in school and in taking care of their families. These people have changed my outlook on life and have inspired me greatly. This trip was over all an unbelievable experience, but the people I met made it deeper and more enriching in a way that I could have never imagined possible.