Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wishing a Happy Holiday... and much more


Things have happened since my last post! My friend Elena (who is currently at Les Enfants De Dieu) set up an Amazon wish list for the boys at the center. There was all sorts of things on the list, but most of it was underwear because that's what they have been needing and asking for. There were also some board games and other fun things for the boys. The great news is that every single item on the list was bought anonymously. We are so grateful for all of those who purchased items. They were all shipped to Elena's home in Vermont, and I am planning to bring as much of it as I can when I go (which is only in 18 days by the way)!
Merry Christmas from Rwanda!

Also, they boys recently elected for new Ministers. As I have mentioned about the orphanage, it is completely run by the boys who are a part of the community. They even have the power to fire their staff if there is reason to do so. Each Ministry received a new Minister, Director General, and Technician. The Ministries cover home affairs, social affairs, health, agriculture, environment, sport, education, and administration.
Judgement for each of the Ministers.

Elena, along with 40 of the boys from the center, spent their Christmas day together playing games, coloring, and talking with each other. Just the way Christmas day should be, spending time with those you love. You can check out more about her day, and the Ministry elections here: Elena's blog.

Also, my fall semester at Johnson has come to a close. I finished all of my classes very strong, making a GPA of 3.794. I also got approval for an independent study for the upcoming semester called Genocide. I will be reading books about different Genocides around the world and writing about each of them. It will be a good amount of work to do in Rwanda outside of my work at the center. The independent study fee was also fully covered by the president's fund, which is amazing for me!

Since school has been out I've been putting together my packing list, getting a few ski days in here and there, and my head is constantly thinking about my trip and the things I will do and places I will see, which is definitely keeping me up at night.

Thank you to everyone who as donated to my trip. It's been overwhelmingly amazing the amount of support I have found in my local community, and especially the Johnson community and my family. I look forward to being able to share with all of you over the next four months.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Good News!

Important things have happened for me this past week! I received a mini-grant from the Student Government Association at Johnson State to cover a small portion of my expenses while in Rwanda. I have also been receiving amazing donations from faculty members at JSC, which I am very grateful for.

I also just met with a sociology professor at JSC to set up a 3 credit independent study for an upper level interdisciplinary course called Genocide. I will be completing a majority of the work for this course while in Rwanda. The President of JSC, Barbara Murphy, has agreed to waive the tuition costs for this course through the President Fund. I am extremely grateful for this offer!

Thanksgiving is this coming week, and all I can think of is how thankful I am for everyone who has supported me so far. I can't wait to share stories with you all very soon!

And I can't wait to see these shining faces again!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Right place, right time.

This past Halloween was extremely uneventful as far as Halloween activities including pumpkin carving, dressing up, and eating candy goes. At the same time, it was a day that involved taking the first major step of my journey to Rwanda! I purchased my airline tickets through an organization called Fly For Good and I will officially be leaving for Rwanda on Thursday, January 12th, 2012. Fly For Good is an organization that provides discounted airline tickets for people who's mission includes volunteering for nonprofit organizations. By going through this organization, I saved about $900 on my roundtrip airline tickets!

Now, this sounds like incredible news, right? Well, a representative from the organization called me last night at around 5:30 right when my parents and I were about to leave for Burlington to grab dinner and see Brandi Carlile. So I get this call from an unknown number, and it's Jill, the representative I had been working with to purchase my tickets. She was calling because they were about to cancel my booking because I hadn't submitted a letter from Les Enfants De Dieu verifying my volunteer work. Normally in the states, all you would have to do is call up the orphanage and get them to send in the letter and you'd be good to go. No. There was no calling up Rafiki (the project manager of the orphanage) to have him send this in. Suddenly I thought I would not have this amazing flight deal. I asked Jill if there was anything I could do to keep my booking, and she said to fill out a form that she would e-mail to me that I should fax in as soon as possible. Another problem... I don't have a fax machine! Problem solved, we have a scanner! So I filled out the form, scanned it in, sent it off, and just like that my booking remains in tact.

That phone call couldn't have come at a better time. I don't have a printer, scanner, or fax machine at my apartment in Johnson, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to do that if we were en route to Burlington! If that call came at any other time of day, I wouldn't have had access to any of the technologies that were required to save my flight booking. Talk about being at the right place at the right time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Recently I was interviewed for Johnson State's newspaper called The Basement Medicine. The article was entitled "Rwanda Bound" and it elaborated on my fundraising efforts as well as my cleat drive. It also gave a great description of the orphanage and what they're about. I'm excited to get the word out around campus so people know what I'm up to and where I'm going!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


In 2009 we spent time at several different genocide memorial sites. This was an extremely important part of the trip because it literally showed us how raw the genocide was in contrast to how Rwanda is in the midst of rejuvenating. The hope the Rwandans hold on to every day is the first reason I wanted to return. The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is a site where over 250,000 bodies are buried. The memorial also holds historical information, stories from the genocide, and pictures, clothing, and belongings of the victims. I found this story posted on a plaque outside the memorial:

"In my search for a hideout, I found Jérôme, his legs cut off. I could not leave him in this state. I tried to lift up Jérôme so that we could leave together, but the car of the commune stopped near me. It was full of machetes and other instruments of death. I lay Jérôme down on the ground and ran because a man got out of the burgomaster's car to kill me.

He finished Jérôme off.

I saw this when I looked back to see if anyone had followed me. I will never forget the way Jérôme's face was filled with desperation.

Whenever I think about it, I cry all day long."

Eric, age 13

A view of the mass graves and the gardens surrounding at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting the Ball Rolling

Hey folks!
 I have just set up this blog to start getting people in the loop on what is going on with my trip and what I'm up to in preparation. As of now I have roughly $2000 saved for my travels. That's almost enough money for my round-trip plane ticket. The total amount of money I will need for this trip is roughly $4500. I'm working with my dad to set up a link that will be posted on here for people to donate money directly to my travels and living expenses while in Rwanda.

Apart from the whole money situation, I have been running a cleat drive to collect cleats for the boys in the orphanage I will be volunteering at. The orphanage is called Les Enfants De Dieu, locates just outside the country's capitol of Kigali. It's an all boys orphanage that is run entirely by the student body. You can read more about the orphanage here: I reached out to a high school student from Peoples Academy in Morrisville, Vermont to help me with the cleat drive I and to raise money to have the cleats shipped over. More information on the progress of this project to come!

My friend Elena, who traveled with me in 2009, is spending the entire academic year with the orphanage. We will both be teaching English, and working with the students on their studies. I am also planning to spend time at a pre-school we like to call "Teddy's." Also located in the capitol, this is a school that 390 students attend, and there are only 7 classrooms. The building has no electricity or running water, a tin roof containing multiple holes, clay walls which crumble easily, and a floor made of dirt that creates a lot of dust on hot days and mud when it rains. I will be working with these students on their English skills as well.

Thanks for checking out the new blog, and I'll keep in touch with any new steps I have taken in this whole process!