Reflections on Our 2018 Rwanda Journey
by Janet Reineck
During two weeks in July of 2018, 21 World Dancers and Supporters traveled to Rwanda to visit the 25 communities we are working with there. Each day we traveled into the countryside, climbed out of our little bus, and into the ecstatic, tearful embrace of these people whose lives we have changed, and whose courage, love, and self-sacrifice are changing ours. Each community we visited was a unique, compelling experience unto itself, and we have so many stories to tell about the time we shared together.
We took more than 18,000 photos, and filmed the entire experience. Enjoy!
Reflections from our Travelers:
ARLENE SATTERLEE: The depths of our experience on the trip reaches beyond Rwanda’s beautiful rain forest canyons and gently rolling ‘Thousand Hills.’ The experience enlivened our souls, expanded our hearts, and showed us the dignity and courage of these who are climbing great heights to reach a better life. Everything about the country says peace, love, and kindness. I feel so fortunate to have witnessed the miraculous transformation of a population – from hate, despair, and unimaginable inhumanity – to an inspired hope for prosperity through working together. Take notice, world of strife: this is the model for thriving and the true pursuit of happiness. For me, each broad smile and hand wave, each testimony of thanks to Janet and to WD4H, the warmth of the children’s smiles and the joy of dancing with their parents, made the love compartment in my heart expand to amazing proportions.
CONNOR MEADOR: “The trip to Rwanda was an outstanding experience! The co-op members are amazing people who are making great progress. It was clear to us each day how much they appreciate the presence of WD4H in their lives, and how much work they are doing to make their own lives better. It was so great getting to know these courageous people. The memories and lessons learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
DANNA ENGLISH: The Rwanda trip with World Dance far exceeded my greatest expectations. The connections I made with the Rwandan people were profound beyond words. I am forever changed by what I saw at the co-ops and the interactions with individuals. I enjoyed seeing first-hand how our dancing and fundraising affects the people of Rwanda in such a positive way. I was astounded at how appreciative they were and how much they love us. I am also so very grateful for the camaraderie I experienced with my fellow WD Rwandan travelers. Our companionship and conversation was interesting and delightful, and I missed them as soon as I got home. I am forever changed by this humanitarian experience.
GRACE LOVIO: It’s difficult to describe everything I saw and felt during my first trip to Rwanda. In some ways, the whole trip felt like a dream, and in other ways, being in Rwanda felt as natural as if I had been there a hundred times before. I’m left feeling grateful. I’m grateful for the music, the dancing, the warm welcomes, the generosity of affection, the stunning landscapes. Most of all, I am grateful for the people I met. As someone who is working through the sudden loss of a loved one, it meant a lot to me to see how the cooperative members—people who know more about grief and trauma than anyone—have been able to forgive, rebuild, and find ways to celebrate life despite its challenges. I will think about them often and send a mental Murakoze (thank you) each time. I’d like to thank Janet, Genevieve, Justin, Judy, Dany, Chantal, and all the other travelers for making the trip so fun, easy, and meaningful. I hope to see you all again very soon.
JAYNE JOHANN: “I thought I had a good understanding of the work we’re doing in Rwanda, but being there, I learned what life was like before we began our partnership with the people there, and the incredible transformation taking place – from depression and hopelessness to determination and excitement about the future. I was so impressed by the deep impact we’re able to have on the lives of so many through our modest donations. I am so grateful for the opportunity to witness the incredible work that is bringing these people a better life!”
JESSICA WHITE: “Gandhi said, ‘You find yourself when you lose yourself in the service of others.’ This was 100% realized for me, being in Rwanda with WD4H! I am so grateful for this life-changing experience and will hold the memories close to my heart for the rest of my life.”
JILL PEZZINO: “Thank you so much for letting me join you on your trip this year. It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had. I returned home so grateful to be able to turn on a faucet and have clean water, hit a switch and have light, and open a refrigerator and have food. The trip opened my eyes to the needs of these beautiful people. Meeting my student and her mother was the highlight of my trip!”
JOJO BARKER: “This was my second trip to Rwanda, so I thought I knew what to expect. I did not expect to see such an amazing transformation in just 5 years. The people looked healthier, happier, more confident, and the farms were more productive. The new businesses are up and running. The people are still loving, exuberant and welcoming, and it’s clear that WD4H has had a profound impact on their lives. Can you image how exhilarating it is to be with such open, loving, grateful and positive people? Our Santa Barbara community truly does extend to the Rwandan people. I’m so grateful to be a part of it all. Thank you – Janet, Genevieve, Justin, Dany, Chantal and Judy – for all that you do for all of us!”
LEESBETH LAGENDYK: “Rwanda: Can innocence and wisdom be as pure. Can smiles be that warm and sincere. Could hope and endurance be so intertwined. Could elegance and poverty be so related. Could I be more surprised by the love I feel for this paradise in process and these beautiful people.”
MARCIA HELLER: “I think what touched me the most was meeting and hearing from the high school and college students. The young children and babies are adorable. With their shy grins, innocent eyes and warm hugs, they pull at your heartstrings. But seeing the smiles and tears of gratitude expressed by the teens and their parents and hearing about how their lives have changed was priceless. I loved our day at Nyamirama school, sitting in a classroom with the students, watching them beam as they tossed around beach ball globes and tried on World Dance t-shirts. Their warm camaraderie, casually draping their arms on each other’s shoulders, was a joy to see.”
MIKE WALKER: “Rwanda was never high on my list of travel destinations, but the opportunity to go on this trip with World Dance for Humanity was too good to pass up. We didn’t go as tourists, but as guests and as friends. We got to know the people, learn more about their way of life, and experience Rwanda. I know of no better way to truly see the country.”
PAMELA ALBERT: “I’ve never seen such joy, forgiveness, love, and profound caring as we saw during the Rwanda trip. The people we visited honored us with smiles, hugs, food, comfort, and love. We came bearing gifts, but they gave us something of far greater value. We cried tears of sadness and joy together. I brought home many gifts for family and friends, but I hope that I’ve also brought home patience, kindness, forgiveness, and love.”