Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 4: Tikkun Olam

Today I had the honor of working in the ASYV kitchen for six hours which puts my total time in the kitchen here to ten hours. You may be questioning my decision to fly half way around the world to just work in a kitchen, of which we have plenty in the US. But I will try to get those doubts out of your head. In these six hours I had the opportunity to speak with students at the school and I got a much better sense of just how deep Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) seeps into the students here. I had the pleasure of shucking green beans and sorting peanuts, but I watched one of the sisters in my family here chop carrots with such focus and precision. If she can chop with such determination, imagine what she will do for Rwanda and for the world. My time in the kitchen, though long and indoors, helped solidify all this village stands for. At dinner tonight, I will see much more than rice beans, and veggies—I will see the determination, stamina, and smiles that Rwanda’s future stands on. 

This village blew me away. After coming here for almost a week and gotten better sense of the village and everything, my conversation with students becomes more than simply introducing ourselves. Especially after yesterday’s village time, I got to see different talents of ASYV students. So I took extra notes on this subject and tried to dig more about their interests and how they have developed those. I met this student Frank who was also in the debate team. And through brief discussion, I learned that he represented ASYV debate team and won the national championship last year. Alas! What’s more surprising was that he also decided to work on IDebateRwanda (an NGO dedicated to popularize the grassroot high school debate movement in Rwanda) and start a chapter in his own province. But isn’t that too hasty to skip college? I questioned internally. So I tried to diplomatically ask his tactics. Turned out the founder of IDebateRwanda was the coach and mentor of him and ASYV debate team, and he has already talked to different schools in his district about their interests in expanding and enhancing their school activities. “In this way, I’ll also have time to work on my college application.” A solid gap year plan, I thought to myself.

However, what really blew my mind was my other conversation with Chris, another ASYV student. When I mentioned my conversation with Frank to him, he immediately said, Frank is one of the smartest students in the school. But the story didn’t end here. When Frank first went to secondary school, or middle school, with full mark in national exam in Rwanda. He just lost his mom; his dad was long gone. A situation like this would be really hard for anyone to support him or herself, let along the immense schoolwork. What’s more surprising is that Frank also has three younger siblings that he has to raise.  Life is very difficult. However, knowing his situation alleviates the heartbreaking sorrow but also adds in my awe for him. This is the life of an underdog finding its way to a good education through determination and hard work, and yet he still commits to his passion instead of letting the fear of poverty taking him over. Stories like happen and dazzle me all the time during this trip.

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