On our drive to Rwanda:
My name is Leissan and I am studying abroad in Gulu, Uganda this semester with the School of International Training (SIT) focusing on post-conflict transformation. We have spent time in Gulu, Kitgum (rural north, near South Sudan), Kampala and now we are in Kigali, Rwanda.
While in Gulu we went to the king’s palace in Gulu. It was very interesting meeting with the rwot (king) and talking to him about some of the roles that the king plays in the community. It is very traditional. The king is hereditary and a lot of trust is placed in him. One example he was giving us deals with immunization initiatives. The people would look to the rwot to decide whether or not they should have their children be immunized. Some other roles that the king has involve cultural preservation and development. We also had a chance to walk around the compound and see some artifacts. At the end, we enjoyed a ceremony of dancing and singing at the palace. The dancers also invited us to dance with them, and while we were making our way up to the “stage” you could hear people saying “munu dance, munu dance.” Definitely was a good time!
We also spent time at the Gulu Women Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) site. It was very humbling to hear about their work. They are involved in women’s rights issues including health, peace building and peace conflict resolution, and economic empowerment, to name a few. Unfortunately, it rained too much for us to actually go out to a site and see some of the work that they do first-hand, but hopefully we can come back another time. These are just a couple of the sites we visited.
While in Kitgum, we stayed with local families in traditional grass huts. Unfortunately, my rural home-stay was cut short because I fell sick my first night. I spent two days and one night at the hospital. Not only was this my first time in the hospital, it was in rural Uganda. The facility was very nice and I was able to recover within a week.
Before leaving for Kigali, Rwanda, we had a chance to visit Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID) in Kampala, Uganda. We had a chance to talk with some of the refugees and hear their stories. The way that the refugees were able to come together and organize themselves to help each other out is no less than amazing. They are completely independent of the government, and are supported by outside donations and also by portions of some of the income the members are able to generate. The women’s group, that partners up with YARID, makes different types of bags and such, they then sell it which allows them to generate income for the group. Seeing the organization and talking with the refugees was absolutely incredible and very humbling. It really provides perspective and makes you think twice about the problems that you are facing. Your problems become so small compared to some of the issues that they are facing.
Following our interaction with urban refugees, we visited the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. We also had a chance to talk with the refugee population. It’s also very humbling to hear about their stories and how they have come together. One of the groups that we talked to was able to generate funding to build an adult school. The school would employ the refugee population allowing them to make money in a trade other than farming.
While in Rwanda, we will be visiting a lot of memorials. I am taking time to prepare for the week ahead, as I am anticipating it to be very emotional.