Exploring Rwanda – Abigail Hamilton

The Books & Beyond trip to Rwanda has been one of the most exhilarating, thought-provoking, experiences for me. From the moment I stepped into the Indianapolis airport, every moment seemed to be a new experience. I rode my first airplane (and then another….and another). I visited another country for the first time. I saw my first volcano. I taught my English class. Every day in Rwanda challenged my previous ideas and taught me more about the world and myself.

We spent the first week of our trip touring throughout Rwanda. During this week, we remained mostly observers of Rwandan life, watching the thousands of green hills, tea and coffee plantations, women carrying bags of grain on their heads and babies on their back, men riding bikes loaded with bunches of bananas from the windows of our coaster bus. We drove up and down the small country of Rwanda, seeing more of the country than most Rwandans every would. One of my favorite stops was our two hikes in Nygunwe National Forest in the south of Rwanda. During the first hike, we crossed a canopy bridge that was 100 meters in the air! And after the second exhausting hike, we were rewarded by the sight of a beautiful waterfall!


Canopy Walk in Nygunwe Forest

After the first week, we traveled to Musanze, in the northern province of Rwanda, to begin our Books & Beyond Kabwende Holiday camp. At the Kabwende Holiday Camp, 300 students from Kabwende Primary School, spend two weeks learning and practicing their English from the IU students. At first, I was very nervous about teaching. I worried that I would be a poor teacher and the students would gain no knowledge from me during their time at camp. I did not want to waste the students’ time and the Rwandan teachers’ time. However, I soon found that by keeping a hardworking attitude and a willingness to change plans, teaching went well and the students enjoyed class. By the end of camp, I wished that I had more days to spend with the classes.


Becoming a rabbit for Reader’s Theater

On the first day of camp, we passed out the Books & Beyond book, The World is Our Home, to all 2,000 students at Kabwende Primary School. For many students, this was the first book they had ever owned. As we passed out the books, we had to carefully watch to make sure some sneakier students were not trying to snag two books. Although I had learned about the shortage of books in Rwanda through my involvement with Books & Beyond throughout college, I had not fully grasped just how little access to books most Rwandans had. Throughout camp, the students cherished their books, protecting them with hand-made book covers and writing notes to practice their English. When I was a child, books were something I took for granted. I loved to read and my favorite part of the school year was when the book fair visited, but I never doubted my access to books. In Rwanda, a student who loves to read, struggles to find an adequate book.

When we asked the students why they went to school, they responded with “because I want to learn.” Most students could not afford funding past primary school and only a small percentage of Rwandans are able to attend university. For me, it made me realize what an opportunity attending IU has actually been. Sometimes I complain about starting school or having to do so much homework outside of class when I know that attending university is a privilege many people in the world, and even in the United States, cannot afford.

Throughout our trip, we had so many Rwandans helping us travel throughout the country. Now, as I am in back in the United States, I definitely miss everybody we met. Traveling to Rwanda showed me that it is really, really easy to become friends with someone who may not speak English well and grew up in completely different circumstances. These friendships helped me to adjust quickly to the new country and gave me a glimpse of what life in Rwanda consists of. Abdu and Simon-Pierre gave me a long list of their favorite singers to listen to and it was always interesting to have conversations about bacteria with Rashid.


Subyinyo, the volcano near Kabwende

            Rwanda is a beautiful country, so much different than the United States. During my short month there, I saw and experienced the beautiful mountains and forests, a typical Rwandan home and the city of Musanze, among other things. I miss the beautiful mountains near Kabwende, the Rwandans I met, and the students yelling “I AM GOING TO EAT YOU” as the crocodile in our Reader’s Theater Story.

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Books & Beyond Fundraising Dinner featuring Michael Uslan!

Books & Beyond Fundraising Dinner featuring Michael Uslan!

For over five years, the Books & Beyond Service-Learning Project has provided thousands of student-authored books for Kabwende Primary School students in order to address the book famine in Rwanda, Africa.

This month, as we continue to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, we want to also celebrate the work that our volunteers have done in this project.

The Batman films producer Michael Uslan (and friend of the B&B Project), will give a keynote address at the event. You won’t want to miss it!

Get your tickets from B&B Faculty Director Vera Marinova. Email her at vmarinov@indiana.edu for more information.

$10 for students
$20 for non-students

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April 17, 2014 · 12:16 pm

Portraits of Reconciliation – New York Times Article

Yet the practical necessity of reconciliation does not detract from the emotional strength required of these Rwandans to forge it — or to be photographed, for that matter, side by side.



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April 7, 2014 · 12:43 pm

IU Cinema Presents: Sometimes in April






Indiana University Cinema Presents: Remembering Rwanda Film Series
Starting April 1, 2014 @ 7 p.m.
IU Cinema 1213 E. 7th Street

Get your free tickets at the IU Auditorium Box Office or IU Cinema Box Office.

Click here for the Sometimes in April trailer

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IU Film Series: Remembering Rwanda

In April, 20 years ago, a genocide began in Rwanda. In just 100 days, nearly a million people died, and the country was changed forever.

Next month, the Books & Beyond Project is sponsoring a film series in remembrance of the lives and events that took place before, during and after the genocide that shook the world.



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Reflections on Favorite Stories

What is your favorite story and why? What makes a story special and unique?

B&B members Hannah, Taylor, Khaffeon, Inayah, Nidrea and Laura posing for a picture before the IU students leave TEAM Academy on Sunday, January 19, 2014.

B&B members Hannah, Taylor, Khafeeon, Inayah, Nidrea and Laura posing for a picture before the IU students leave TEAM Academy on Sunday, January 19, 2014.

“My favorite story is a story that I co-worked with my old writing partner Dakota. The story was about a princess who lived far away with her mother. The princess had been arranged to marry a prince of her parent’s choice, but the princess didn’t want that for herself. She meets a bird in a nearby tree who symbolizes who she is. Although the bird had wings and could go anywhere, it had never learned to fly so it never traveled. In the end, both the princess and the bird left the kingdom to follow their dreams.

A story is special and unique when it is relatable with a moral that teaches an important lesson.”  – Nidrea, TEAM schools student

“My favorite story is Simba’s Mane. This is my favorite story because it shows how people, or better put, animals have role models. In Simba’s Mane, his dad was his role model. In my life my dad is my role model.

A story is special and unique when it has a theme that people can relate to. I think it is important for your reader to be able to connect to what they are reading about.” – Khafeeon, TEAM schools student

“My favorite story is The Pact by Jodi Picoult. It’s about a boy who is on trial for the death of his girlfriend. He did not kill her, but the only way people will believe him is if he proves his love for her. The characteristics of a good story are a solid plot and an interesting storyline. A story that leaves the reader in suspense are always the most interesting.” - Inayah, TEAM schools student

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Reflections on storytelling and education

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison 

What impact could happen if you shared your own story? 

“If and when people share their story, multiple things can happen. Not only do you gain a better understanding of the person in the story, but you also learn things about yourself as an individual. Simple solutions to common problems can also be found while reading someone else’s story.” – Taylor, IU student

“I think it all depends on who you share your story with. For example, if you share it with your friends, it’ll probably have a big effect. Also, if you’re sharing with your friends, depending on what type of person you were in the story, then the affect can be positive or negative. When you share your own stories, people who can relate to problems may finally have the encourage to stick up and say something rather than just continue to endure in things whether negative or positive.”           – Kamil, TEAM Schools student

Kamil and Taylor work together on editing stories in the intensive editing workshop on Saturday, January 18, 2014.

Kamil and Taylor work together on editing stories in the intensive editing workshop on Saturday, January 18, 2014.

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”  – George Washington Carver 

“In the world that we live in today, in order to be in a high-paying job, you have to get an education. You need to go to college to get the education you need in order to be successful in life. Without it, you may be stuck in jobs you wouldn’t want. Education is a step one must take in order to be successful.” – Ny-Asha, TEAM Schools student

“Education transforms the lives of those who choose to fully embrace it and immerse themselves in it. Education really is a golden door. It is something that makes a person go from living one kind of life to another. Without it, your life is drastically limited in what you can do.” – Crystal, IU student

B&B editing partners bond during the intensive editing workshop on Saturday, January 18

B&B editing partners bond during the intensive editing workshop on Saturday, January 18

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