Rwanda Visit

A group of students and teachers from Wellington College Peace and Conflict Institute joined Sandhurst School in an exciting joint-venture visit to Rwanda over half term.  The combined group comprised 25 students and 6 teachers from the two schools, as well as parents, church representatives and other interested adults from the Sandhurst/Crowthorne area – 40 people in total.

The visit was led by Sandhurst School’s Deputy Head, Sam Hunt (who became a trustee and then chairwoman of SURF Survivors’ Fund charity after a chance encounter with its founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt), and was deputised by WCPCI’s Denise Brown.  It was the fourth visit for Sandhurst School and the first for Wellington College’s group.  A key activity was visiting memorials of the 1994 Genocide, the national memorial at Gizosi, Kigali, Nyamata Memorial Church and the Ntarama Village memorial.  The group also visited the former Ecole Technique Officielle (ETO) in Kigali, scene of a massacre that featured in the 2005 film ‘Shooting Dogs’, and met and talked to survivors to learn about Rwanda’s practical ongoing efforts at peace-building since the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people died in under three months.

With a median age of just 18, Rwanda sets great store on education for its population.  As well as raising the money for their own participation on the trip, the two schools raised more than £12,000 to fund sponsorship of children through secondary school, young adults through vocational training, rebuilding and renovation of dilapidated housing stock and supplying livestock to local farmers.  Through the auspices of SURF, the group met 23 named individuals who will benefit directly from their fund-raising efforts; SURF also organised a day for the group to personally renovate three houses in Ntarama Village.  The school parties were joined on the trip by the Revd Catherine Vaughan and other representatives of St George’s, Owlsmoor, whose congregation raised money to supply a water pump to Groupe Scolaire Kampanga Kinigi in Rwanda’s rural Muzanze district, one of two schools visited where Wellington and Sandhurst pupils delivered lessons in sport, science, art and music to the Rwandan primary school children, and left behind supplies of equipment and stationery brought from the UK.

The group distributed clothes, toiletries and toys Gisimba Children’s Centre in Niyamirambo and Rwanda Orphans’ project in Rwamagana – all items had been collected by their schools.  They then spent time playing with the children – face painting and balloon animals were a special hit!

The week was rounded off by a visit on the final day to the ‘Gorilla Guardians’ Cultural Village’, a sustainable tourism project run by Rwandan company Rwanda Ecotours to supply impoverished rural communities with employment as tour guides in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.  In previous years WCPCI has visited Belfast and Bosnia to study conflict, its aftermath and resolution, and it looks forward to working collaboratively with Sandhurst and other schools in the local area on future projects.

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