Micro-loans, Nutrition programs, and Genocide Memorials | Rwanda 2018

Each year, our Academy team heads off to a foreign country to learn from communities and organizations around the globe. This year they headed to Rwanda again to spend time with our friend Tom Allen. Sidney shares a re-cap of the trip below. It took longer than I expected to adjust to our time zone this past week. I have traveled abroad before but I guess the change in my brain echoed the changes in my soul this time. On Tuesday, February 20th we arrived back in Memphis from our visit to Rwanda. The SOS Academy vision trip serves to teach interns about community transformation in a different culture or community. Past trips have been to China, Peru, and etc. In two non consecutive years previously the SOS Academy has traveled to Rwanda to learn from the country’s fight for reconciliation and community growth following the genocide in 1995. This year’s trip allowed us to continue learning from existing ministries and partners in Rwanda and grow relationships with individuals doing much of the same work as we are doing in Binghampton, the Heights, and Orange Mound but in a country across the globe.

Highlights of trip included Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Nyamata Genocide Memorial, The Campaign Against Genocide Museum, Belgian peacekeepers Memorial, Urwego Bank Trust Loan Group, One Egg chicken houses, Sunzu Library and preschool, Sonrise school, and Umbano Cards. The Urwego bank helps small groups of people earn small short term loans by setting up a Trust group to pay back loans as a group. The group meets every week with a consultant to learn about financial literacy and to update their loan status. These groups also allow members to personally save as they contribute to the current member’s loan. The One Egg project was started by outside investors as a way to get protein into the diets of young children during key stages of development. We got to see the sunzu village preschool crack open their morning snack and filled with joy as they went to finish their day of preschool full and nourished. Sunzu Library is more than just a library it is the community hub of the village providing a much needed third space for learning, community meetings, and hobbies. We had the pleasure of teaching some students the game connect four, a game that crosses age lines to bring anyone to the table as long as you can count to four. On Sunday we attended a sunday service at Sonrise school, originally started as a school for orphans following the genocide, which has grown into a K-12 boarding school leading students in spiritual development and English language. On our last day we visited Umbano cards, a company started by Gabriel, an artist with a heart for the marginalized. He employs women to make beautiful hand cut cards out of the hand made and dyed paper they produce.

More than the places we visited, it was the people that we metwho changed us. There was our driver Ronald, who became more of friend than a guide. He offered much appreciated cultural insight to everything that we were seeing and learning. We were free to ask candid questions and we received such eloquent answers that led us to understanding more than any museum or book could have. Then there was Zebayo, the do-it-all man. He works for our host, Tom, but helps with the preschool, paints chalkboards in the school, delivers packages to neighbors. Zebayo was the man to call if you needed to get something done. And lots of what he did was not asked of him. We thought at first he was a worker at the preschool by the way he played with the children but learned that he just enjoys helping when he can. He has such a love for Sunzu village and we could see that love overflowing. Lastly was KaKa a longtime friend of Tom, grandmother to Samuel. This blind grandmother had the biggest smile you have ever seen as Tom led us into her home. We brought her a snack to enjoy and she continually tried to give it to us all to share. She cares so deeply for her grandson and has such a heart for others it was impossible not to fall in love with her.

While travel can usually be exhausting, the trip was rejuvenating. To see a country with such growth as Rwanda has had from a dark period of genocide to ministries set on bringing Jesus’ shalom is encouraging and uplifting. We learned so much from the beautiful country and people and can continue to study their ways. Jesus called for us to create a new kingdom here on earth. Rwanda is in the midst of that work and I hope that we all can be working to bring shalom to our own communities.

Nations, SOS Academyemily