9 weeks in the the Land of a Thousand Hills…
As a Political Science and Sustainable Development major, Rwanda had always been of interest to me. I spent some time studying the 1994 genocide while at Rollins and was struck by the nation’s drive to not only rebuild, but to progress at a staggering rate. Last spring when I learned the Rollins’ SESi Department was providing scholarships to attend the ThinkImpact Institute in rural Africa, I decided to apply on a whim.
Much to my surprise I was accepted and before I knew it I was boarding a flight to this tiny Central African nation. I spent a total of 9 weeks living in the rural Rwandan village of Bwana as a scholar with the ThinkImpact Institute. The ThinkImpact Institute is an immersion experience for university students and young professionals interested in social entrepreneurship. We lived with families in the village, fully engaging ourselves in the local culture and way of life. Rising with the sun each day, our mission was to aid community members in developing self-sustaining small business that would thrive in the communities for years to come.
I worked with a Georgetown student and ten village members to launch a social enterprise fighting the community’s high rate of malnutrition. The team decided the best way to do this was to introduce a new nutrient rich food, oyster mushrooms! (Oyster mushrooms are loaded with vital vitamins and possess high levels of protein.) We taught our team of ten how to cultivate these oyster mushrooms, created a marketing plan, and introduced nutrition education in the village. By the end of our stay, Twitse Imbere was off the ground and receiving high reviews from the local government.
It wasn’t until we were leaving that I realized the true value of our work in Rwanda. One of the quiet members of our team, Valentine, was absolutely balling as we said goodbye. I asked her what was wrong, shocked to see such a strong emotional response from a shy woman. She told me that as a genocide widow, this summer was the first time she felt validated in her community. I looked at her and realized the people of Bwana had taught me far more about life, community, faith, and presence then I could have ever taught them about business.
Tori Linder c/o 2014 is Political Science & Sustainability Development major. She is a Student Coordinator for the SESi office and Chair of the Rollins Net Impact chapter. Tori has studied abroad in four countries.