A few years ago I spent six months volunteering at the Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda.
This serialised post is based on letters and emails sent home to friends during my time there, and from notes in my personal journal.
Names of people have been changed, employer’s confidentiality preserved, but all of the facts are true as I recall them. Each blog post is aimed to be a five minute read and a self-contained piece of narrative. A table of contents is provided below.
My writing from Rwanda was intended from the outset only to be a private correspondence to friends, a disentanglement of thoughts from a huge thought-knot, string by string.
I gained a privileged insight in to a recovering nation and writing made the experience easier to process – it was as if by hitting the keys on this laptop, the unresolved, restless mind in flux, finds something to earth itself on. Or something like that.
In hindsight, this is also the story of my sojourn, an average guy from London who found himself working as a volunteer for a charity in the heart of Africa.
Those intense 6 months are filled with memories: of inspirational friends, resilient and hopeful, many of whom were orphaned in the genocide but rose phoenix-like in to wonderful young people to work for the common good; of a beautiful land of rolling hills and shimmering lakes; of the adventure of climbing smouldering volcanoes and trekking across verdant jungles where rare mountain gorillas just knuckle-walked past us; of how we set up and recorded the centre’s first audio guide system and helped co-ordinate a series of workshops for sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Rwanda has moved forward in many ways since I was there. Skyscrapers, shopping malls, fast broadband and ATMs have appeared in Kigali, but somethings fortunately haven’t changed: her hopeful countenance, her collective memory, her resilience, her healing wounds, her stunning beauty and peace still endure.