Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's a Rwanda?

Rwanda is a landlocked African country the size of Maryland that is bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and the Congo. Most of you will unfortunately recognize the country by the 1994 genocide that claimed almost one million lives in 100 days. Most of us don't remember the genocide when it took place because the international community completely ignored and trivialized the situation...or, like me, you were 8 years old and couldn't believe that a former Buffalo Bills player was on trial for murder. The OJ Simpson trial completely overtook the news at the time, pushing the news of a million deaths to the back pages of newspapers. What is key to remember is: the genocide is NOT still happening. Rwanda is now a safe and forward thinking country. Crime and corruption are extremely low in the country, and Rwanda continues to receive foreign investments to build up the country and lessen its reliance on foreign aid. Bill Clinton continually praises Rwanda for its success in the past 15 years.

Rwanda has become a great place to do business, and their tourism sector continues to grow. Yes, I said tourism. Ever see Gorillas in the Mist? Well those gorillas can be found in Rwanda! Visitors can view these gorillas, not to mention the beautiful landscape and numerous genocide memorial sites that the country has set up to remember the past. So, if anyone wants to visit...I can plan a pretty great trip.

If you want your own taste of Rwanda go to Starbucks to try their coffee or go to Macy's to buy one of their handmade baskets!

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I'll be Doing in Rwanda

Some of you will be surprised, though most of you won't, to know that I am taking three months off of my PR job to volunteer in Kigali, Rwanda. I'm leaving in a mere two weeks for a three month long adventure living and working in the heart of Africa. I'm interning/volunteering with Orphans of Rwanda (ORI), a non-profit dedicated to helping those orphaned by the 1994 genocide.

"ORI’s principal mission is financing university education and related training for young people who, against tremendous odds, have completed secondary school and scored highly on university entrance examinations."

My role is with the Career Development sector of the organization. Therefore, I will be supporting the students in full-time employment searches, cover letters, resumes and helping to coordinate career development workshops. All of the students have overcome extreme circumstances, as they survived the 1994 genocide that claimed over 800,000 lives, including many of the student's friends and family members. Read some of the student profiles to get a better understanding of what these students have lived through.

This blog will include my experiences, thoughts and opinions on my time in the land of a thousand hills, and I hope to update it frequently. I leave January 13th, so get in your goodbyes now!