My Rwandan Experience – Alexis Burrus

My trip in Rwanda was so amazing; it’s hard to put in to words. This trip exceeded my expectations in many ways and I made some unforgettable experiences with people I will remember for the rest of my lifetime. When I first got to the Indianapolis airport, I’ve got to be honest; I was not all that excited to board the plan. I had other things on my mind and felt as though this trip came at a bad time due to my personal issues at the time. The plane ride was long but after we landed in Rwanda, my spirit instantly changed. It clicked in my mind that I am in the motherland, and I’ve been extremely blessed to make it to this place people only dream to go.
Coming off the airplane we headed the city Kigali. The first person I remember meeting was Abdu the driver. He had such a great attitude and was always smiling. He always had a heart of gold and made the bus rides fun. One of our first adventures was the canopy walk, which was a bridge one hundred feet in the air. It gave me a fright because I absolutely hate heights. But I conquered my fears and went for it. That was an amazing day, and I felt already we were becoming closer as a class. And becoming like one big happy family. The next couple of days we went on a hike and it was to the well-known waterfall. The process getting there was rough, but well worth it in the end. Seeing the beautiful raw nature Rwanda had to offer was breathtaking and definitely picture perfect. When we had free time, we had the opportunity to walk amongst the village and see the beautiful people. The look of on those kids’ faces were full of curiosity. Once you speak to them, they are so nice and joyful. The village had an amazing view of the mountains leading up to the volcanoes, and beautiful plants.


After the first two weeks flew by, next stop was the city Musanze where we would meet the teachers/translators we will be working with at Kbwende primary school. The second person I remember meeting was Simon Pierre. Simon was an amazing man to work with and was a professor at Apicure college in Musanze. Simon Pierre had a great passion for his students and had a sincere and fun personality to match. I later met Onesphore who was the teacher that was working Allie Wallace and I for our subject, Practical English. He was very helpful throughout the process of camp. All the other teachers/translators such as Julianne, Jolesse and Rasheed were very resourceful and always offered a helping hand when it was needed.
We first provided each and every student with a book from the Books and Beyond organization. The students couldn’t wait to get their hands on the book, instantly reading soon as they received it. It was a great feeling to give out books and to know that we added to their book collection at home. Also knowing that they will gain more knowledge on how to read, write and comprehend in the English language. The first day of camp I was a bit nervous because I wanted to do well and keep the students intrigued. It ended up surpassing my expectations, and was an excellent first day. The children at Kbwende were really ambitious and valued their education. My students came in everyday, well behaved, ready to learn. I mainly focused on word pronunciation in my class with letters that were difficult to say. Repetition was a key part of success in my classroom, as my students constantly went over all the material. . Being a teacher, I definitely saw all the work that has to be put into it. You want your students to be successful and want to do the best to your abilities. We took on tasks such as lesson planning every day, working with our partners, and also dealing with language barriers. Through it all it was worth it and we all were very proud of our hard work and achievements.


I can honestly say I really grew to love my students. They always had smiling faces, and even though I taught them, they taught me also. They taught me to value and be grateful for the little things that we in America so often forget. To not take for granted the gift of education, but to take full advantage of it and always try your best. People say education is the key to success, and many have proved that to be true. Simon Pierre is an incredible example of that. My students and their progress throughout camp are on their way to success. And I believe that every one of them can achieve their goals in the future.
The friendships I’ve made will never be broken. We will remain in contact even though this journey has ended. I appreciate Rwanda for taking us in and always treating us with dignity and respect. Rwanda was my first overseas experience and I’m so grateful that it was. I will have memories I will cherish forever from the land of a thousand hills.


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Roundtable on Service and Non-Profits in Sub-Saharan Africa


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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 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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