Pres. Kagame Explains What New Peace Corps Volunteers Will Learn in Rwanda

Peace Corps Volunteers know their experiences are life-changing, that they get more from their service than anyone they could ever possibly give back.

Paul Kagame on a 2006 White House Visit

Paul Kagame on a 2006 White House Visit

The Rwandan president Paul Kagame spelled out what is in store for the new group of Volunteers in his country in the Huffington Post yesterday. I don’t usually like to quote long bits from other blogs, but I can’t bring myself to cut anything out:

Peace Corps volunteers are well educated, optimistic, and keen to assist us as we continue to rebuild, but one must also recognize that we have much to offer them as well.

We will, for instance, show them our system of community justice, called Gacaca, where we integrated our need for nationwide reconciliation with our ancient tradition of clemency, and where violators are allowed to reassume their lives by proclaiming their crimes to their neighbors, and asking for forgiveness. We will present to them Rwanda’s unique form of absolution, where the individuals who once exacted such harm on their neighbors and ran across national borders to hide from justice are being invited back to resume their farms and homes to live peacefully with those same families.

We will show your sons and daughters our civic tradition of Umuganda, where one day a month, citizens, including myself, congregate in the fields to weed, clean our streets, and build homes for the needy.

We will teach your children to prepare and enjoy our foods and speak our language. We will invite them to our weddings and funerals, and out into the communities to observe our traditions. We will teach them that in Africa, family is a broad and all-encompassing concept, and that an entire generation treats the next as its own children.

And we will have discussions in the restaurants, and debates in our staff rooms and classrooms where we will learn from one another: What is the nature of prosperity? Is it subsoil assets, location and sunshine, or is it based on human initiative, the productivity of our firms, the foresight of our entrepreneurs? What is a cohesive society, and how can we strengthen it? How can we improve tolerance and build a common vision between people who perceive differences in one another, increase civic engagement, interpersonal trust, and self-esteem? How does a nation recognize and develop the leaders of future generations? What is the relationship between humans and the earth? And how are we to meet our needs while revering the earth as the womb of humankind? These are the questions of our time. While some consider development mostly in terms of infusion of capital, budgets and head counts, we in Rwanda place equal importance to relationships between peoples who have a passion to learn from one another, preparing the next generation of teachers, administrators and CEOs to see the exchange of values and ideas as the way to build the competencies of our people, and to create a prosperous nation.

Read the entire article here.

Are you a Peace Corps Volunteer or returnee? What has your host country offered you?

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3 thoughts on “Pres. Kagame Explains What New Peace Corps Volunteers Will Learn in Rwanda

  1. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in China. Aside from becoming particularly dexterous with chopsticks, my host country taught me the following:
    (1) Conformity is underrated. The focus is always on individuality in the U.S., but my experience in China taught me the power and selflessness of conformity. There’s a time and a place for both, but this was a new discovery for me.
    (2) Sometimes the people with the least give the most. I was always amazed by the generosity afforded me by people who had very little to give. It’s not an overstatement to say that they have inspired me to be a more giving individual.
    (3) Naps are important. Although Spanish countries get a lot of attention for their siestas, China’s tradition of a “xiushi” from 12-2:30pm is alive and well!

  2. I was Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia. Living and working in a small rural town in southern Bolivia impacted (continues too) me greatly.
    1) Giving respect and being respectfull goes a long way to getting things done. It is not a sign of weakness or if you agree with them or support their actions. We are often taught that one has to earn respect. I learned that even though the Mayor of my town was a couple years older then me(Not even thirty) respecting him and his title made it easier to work.
    2) Daily greetings, casual conversations and being friendly with all community members not only help me understand the culture, but if I needed help in anything I usually knew who could give me ideas or refer me to the correct person. This translated later to develop skills to adjusting to a new city or workplace.
    3) Patience- Of course! Letting the community dictate their timeline made the projects I did their own.

  3. Thanks, Kate and Kristina! You are reminding me of so many things I learned.

    I learned about face — and going to great lengths to avoid humiliating someone else on accident. China taught me how to say “no” in a way that saves face for the person I’m turning down. I also learned to be respectful and warm in a conflict situation, in order to save face for the person I’m arguing with, which gives both of us more wiggle room to come to an agreement.

    I learned that China has its own universe of legend and myth — and also that not every saying attributing to “an old Chinese saying” is legit. Although Chinese language does have a huge variety of entertaining sayings.

    Finally, spending so much time in China has taught me to read between the lines of news articles about any foreign country, because the reporting isn’t always accurate, depending on the experience of the reporter in country, their language skills, their ability to listen for a long time before beginning to write.

    Sichuan taught me to appreciate spicy food, too.

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