Rwanda: First Day Feelings (Post by Eileen and Diane)

Post by: Eileen

The first thing I noticed driving from Kigali airport to our guest house was how familiar Rwanda felt.  I couldn’t figure out exactly how or why since it’s my first time traveling to this beautifully haunted and lovely red-soil country.  I’ve been to nearby Kenya and have done my fair share of traveling, so maybe it was the crazy scary motorcycle drivers, the promise of a real sugar cane coca-cola, the people spilling out onto the desolate streets, the women carrying giant baskets on the head of their beautifully and brightly clothed bodies, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was…

Eileen, Suzy and Diane at the Dream Center

Eileen, Suzy and Diane at the Dream Center

As I lay under my mosquito net last night whispering quietly to the lizard that has taken residence in the top corner of my room to please eat all the spiders, it dawned on me that it wasn’t the familiarity of the country, it was the familiarity within myself.  Being here, volunteering, sharing stories with strangers, giving hugs, donating time and love… this me, is the best version of me.  To be able to communicate your love and empathy through a handshake or a hug is one of the most rewarding things in life.  And the Lead with Love team is here in Rwanda for the next 11 days to do just that.
This beautiful country and its’ people will teach my team and I more about kindness, humility and compassion in our short time here then can be learned in ten years at home.  I know this trip will change me.  I know that I will return home with a bigger purpose, a fuller heart and an open mind.  Right now though, my heart is wonderfully happy in Rwanda and I hope the next week and a half go by very, very slow…



Post by Diane:

First day in Rwanda.

First and foremost, I would like to thank the many people that contributed to our efforts here in Rwanda.  Thank you for the pens, pencils, white boards, soccer balls, pumps, paper, erasers, markers, bags, frisbees and all of the other materials and monetary donations.  You are amazing and generous family, friends coworkers and neighbors.

Austin, Oliver and I, along with Eileen, joined Suzy and Darren in Rwanda last night after what felt like a billion hours of flying.  It was dark when we landed and my first impressions were that the weather was delightful and it smells oddly of smoke, like a mesquite type of smoke but subtle.  None of the Rwandans comment on the smoke but it sits on the land making the dry, hot weather look like it is carrying a lot of humidity (something that everyone on the East Coast understands), but it is not.

We have already met quite a few people that work for Africa New Life and are dedicated to helping Rwandan children become educated, loved, and well fed adults.  Everyone is very friendly and helpful and also passionate about their jobs.  Jonas, our guide and translator, is a product of the system he now works for.  We are adding to his education by teaching him to say things like “How YOU doin'” in a North Jersey accent.  Tomorrow we will add “Not for nothin'”.  In turn, he is teaching us helpful phrases in Kinyarwandan (I wonder if he is adding an accent).

Darren, Oliver, and Austin with the rolling hills behind them.

Darren, Oliver, and Austin with the rolling hills behind them.

We are a source of hilarity for the Rwandan children when we walk anywhere.  They like to say hi and shake hands with us.  We participate in the exchange and then can hear them howling with laughter as we walk away.  It is very funny.

Today we were able to tour the Rwandan Genocide Memorial Museum.  The atrocities that occurred here during the 100 days of the Genocide in 1994 are heart wrenching and devastating.  However, what I came out of the museum with was a great admiration for the Rwandan people because of the strength it took to move forward and the overwhelming message of forgiveness that is conveyed.

Tomorrow we have a party for The Dream Boys at the Dream Center.  We spent the afternoon getting organized for that – sorting our supplies (Thank you!) and getting the schedule of events in order.   Hopefully, it all goes smoothly tomorrow.

In my next post I am thinking about addressing mosquito netting, body odor and interior decorating – we will have to see how that plays out.  Right now they are the things making me chuckle.




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