Tag Archives: Rwanda

Education Advocacy: From Rwanda to Indiana

I used to think that I didn’t like government or, at least, I thought that it would be difficult for me to become involved in government. As a science major in college, I didn’t really have anything beyond your standard 6th grade knowledge on how government works. My week as an advocate for the Global Campaign for Education completely turned around my ideas about the power of government. It is powerful and citizens can use the government to advocate for change to the world.

When I first signed up to participate in the June 2015 Youth Advocacy Training, I was nervous about meeting with the representative in Congress from my home district. What would I say to a Congresswoman? However, GCE and their partners, such as the Global Partners for Education, USAID, UNICEF, and Contextos, prepared me with numbers, facts, and stories about the importance of education.

And I believe that global basic education is something we should be advocating for.

Throughout the world, 127 million children and adolescents are out of school. Without an education, these kids miss out on a better chance for good health and quality jobs, as well just an increased standard of living. Without the power to read, a child cannot even adequately read a medicine bottle or a job application. In order to fill the global education gap, $39 billion dollars is needed to fully finance 12 years of quality education for all children.

Since 2008, Books & Beyond has strived to help improve the quality of education at Kabwende Primary School in Kinigi, Rwanda. When B&B first started, our B&B predecessors visited Rwanda for one week, dropped off the volumes of The World is Our Home, toured some local attractions, and flew back home- which is good and definitely gave the students a book to read and learn vocabulary. But, we realized we were providing books, but no aid to the students or teachers on how to use the book to teach English (which had become the national language in 2008 with very little warning). So, in 2012, we instituted the Kabwende Holiday camp, a two week English and literacy camp for 200-300 students at the school each summer. By participating in this camp last summer and teaching Reader’s Theater, I realized how powerful a tool education truly is. While I did not cause any student to suddenly become fluent in English, I hope that I taught that learning and reading can be fun and maybe inspired a few students to continue to pursue knowledge.

That’s how Books & Beyond is helping to make a change across the globe, but how can we jumpstart these changes right here in the United States?

Susan W. Brooks

Abigail Hamilton (second from left) and fellow GCE advocates from across the country with Representative Susan W. Brooks

On Capitol Hill, I met with Representative Susan W. Brooks from my district in Indiana. We both shared a passion for education and a belief that education is the gateway for so many other things. Education should be a right and not a privilege given to a few. After discussing the need and our desire for global basic education, we asked Representative Brooks to consider joining the Global Basic Education Caucus in Congress. With this caucus, we hope that our government officials will also advocate for the need for universal education. With this caucus, GCE and all education advocates move a little closer to helping 127 more million children enter school.

Through GCE, I learned that government is not something unattainable, only reserved for those who strive for political office. We can all make our voices heard by knowing our facts, meeting with our representatives, writing letters, and starting advocacy campaigns. The government should truly work for its people and we can help make that happen. So, call up your representative or write a letter and let them know what matters to you and your community. You don’t have to traverse the globe to make a change. Get the change started in your community. It’s easier than you think.


Thank you to Global Campaign for Education-US and Books & Beyond for these opportunities!

And thank you to the Malala Fund Blog for previously sharing this post.



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Support the Books & Beyond Project Today!

At our partner school, Rwanda’s Kabwende Primary School, our student-authored books are usually the only books they own. For six years, our project has given 10,000 books to Kabwende Primary School. Help us give 2,000 more to students who need it!

We are raising $2,000 by March 1st. We have raised already $1,167! Help us reach our goal today by donating on our Go Fund Me page! 


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Upcoming Events

Monday, Oct. 14th – Ghosts of Rwanda Film Screening

Where: Foster Harper Formal Lounge 

When: 7 – 9 pm 

Ghosts of Rwanda marks the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide with a documentary chronicling one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In addition to interviews with key government officials and diplomats, this documentary offers eyewitness accounts of the genocide from those who experienced it firsthand. FRONTLINE illustrates the failures that enabled the slaughter of 800,000 people to occur unchallenged by the global community. Courtesy of imdb.com. 

Tuesday, Oct. 15th – Rwanda Kabwende Holiday Camp Information Session 

Where: Foster Harper Formal Lounge 

When: 7 – 9 pm 

Learn how you could go on a trip to Rwanda, Africa with the Books & Beyond Project! For the past two years, IU and TEAM School Books & Beyond students travel to Kigali, Rwanda to teach 3rd and 4th graders at Kabwende Primary School English as well as how to write their own children’s stories.

Wednesday, Oct. 16th – Carl Wilkens Lecture: “Rwanda’s Gifts for You: Learning Harmony 20 Years After the Genocide”

Where: IMU Oak Room 

When: 5:45 – 7:30

Wilkens was one of the only Americans who stayed in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, will be giving a talk at IU entitled, .

This talk is highly recommended for all Books & Beyond participants, as well as people who would like to learn more about the causes and repercussions of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which resulted in 800,000-1,000,000 killings.

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My Life in Rwanda – Frank Bonner

Before attending this trip I had never been on a plane, let alone another country. So the entire experience starting from the moment I arrived at the airport was all new to me. I have always been a tad bit frightened when it came to the idea of getting on a plane so I was not looking forward to the plane ride on the way there. To my surprise the plane ride was not nearly as bad as I thought. I became more comfortable and relaxed with each plane ride. The three plane rides there, including the layovers, took over 20 hours.


The hotels we stayed at during the first week were totally different from your typical U.S five-star hotel. Some were better than others, but what I liked most about the Rwandan hotels was that they created a very welcoming atmosphere. I was able to sit down and chat with a Rwandan professor by the name of Bonfills for hours at the Shalando Hotel. He gave me a Rwandan name of “Ntaali”. I really enjoyed conversing with him and he is the one who gave me my first sambusa. He is a physics professor at the Nation University of Rwanda and we exchanged emails so that we can keep in touch.


While in Kigali we visited the Genocide Museum which was well put together and I recommend anybody who visits Rwanda to take a tour of it. With that being said, the museum is not exactly a place that you would want to visit multiple times. There were some heartfelt and disturbing things that were on display there but it was all very good information that everybody should know. What I like most about the museum was the fact that it recognized as many specific individuals and families as it could. At the very end of the tour there was a “Children’s Room.” Out of all the museums that I have been to in my life, the Genocide Museum is the only one that has ever caused me to shed tears.

We moved to Musanze after spending a week in Kigali.  We started the camp with the students a few days later. Working with those kids is an experience that I will never forget. We taught six classes a day for three weeks.

The three different subjects that we taught were reading, writing, and kinesthetic. The children loved us just as much as we loved them. The main reason why Books & Beyond traveled to Africa was to teach the children, but I learned so much from the children as well. Each day brought on a new challenge and with each new challenge I noticed myself growing as a teacher while they grew as students. What I like most about the teaching and learning process was that half way through the camp I realized the best way for them to learn English is by having them teach you Kinyarwanda. I figured this out when trying to teach colors in English to them.

When I was in front of the class showing them the English to Kinyarwanda translations of all the colors, I started to attempt to pronounce the Kinyarwanda translation for each color and to my surprise the majority of them said that I was pronouncing wrong. The students then started to teach me and showed me how to pronounce each color. After the teaching was over I had some of the students come to me and say “What’s yellow?” and I would reply “Umuhondo.” Many students came to me asking me to say each color in Kinyarwanda. The point of that was for the kids to know if I was saying the right Kinyarwanda word for green, they had to know what green meant in English first.


 One thing that did surprise me about myself was how comfortable I got with the Rwandan culture of how physically close their same sex friendships are. In Rwanda, it is highly uncommon for an intimate couple to walk down the street holding hands, but it is natural to see two men or two women holding hands that are friends. I knew about this cultural difference before I stepped foot in Rwanda and I was not sure how I would react. My friend Steven who was on the trip with me embraced this practice right away. Me on the other hand, I was fairly uneasy. Then one day our bus driver Abdul grabbed my hand in order to show me something then we just walked down the street holding hands and I had no problem with it.

            Rasheid and I became really close, we started to joke around more as time went on and we even started to go play pool together. As time started itching closer for us to head back to the U.S., Rasheid would bring it up and talk about how much he was going to miss me and the rest of the group. On the last couple of days before it was time to go I knew it was not going to feel good saying bye to Abdul and Rasheid but I still did not expect for it to be as hard as it was when we made it to the airport. Arriving at the airport was such a bitter sweet moment for us all and I promised Abdul and Rasheid that I would keep and touch and hopefully come back one day. All in all, my trip to Rwanda was definitely a life changing experience that I will forever remember.

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B&B Alum publish an academic article about the B&B Project

Last August, B&B Alumni Caitlin Ryan, Ross Smith and Eleanor Stevenson along with our School of Education faculty advisor Beth Samuelson, published an academic article through the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, an academic journal based out of IUPUI. In the article, they evaluated the success of our service-learning project. The core of their research was to find what B&B is doing well as an unique service-learning, cross-cultural project as well as what B&B needs to do better. The evaluations and reflections included in the academic journal were conducted and reported in the 2010-2011 school year. Image

In 2010-2011, 100% of IU and TEAM school students “believed that B&B would help them to have impact on their world” (Samuelson, Stevenson, Smith, Ryan).

The authors wrote an overview about each part of the project, the structure of the project, the student evaluations, the findings and the future. They found that even though conducting the youth participatory evaluation helped them receive a wealth of insights about what students get out of the project, there could still be more engagement in the evaluation process with the TEAM students. The authors also cited that they would like to see data collected from the Kabwende Primary School students about their experiences in B&B as participants.

Numbers demonstrate how the project has thrived since beginning in 2008.Image

Twenty-five Global Village students were involved with Books & Beyond in its inaugural year (2008–9). Twelve TEAM students participated in the project and contributed stories to the collection.

In 2009–10, forty-six Global Village residents and twelve TEAM students joined in the project.

In 2010–11, fifty-five Books & Beyond participants represented 33% of the total population, with 18% rejoining the project for a second or third year, and fourteen TEAM students participated

These trends in growth have continued in 2011–12 and 2012–13. Each year, a majority of the Indiana University participants are first-year students; approximately one-third of all Global Village residents have chosen to be involved in Books & Beyond. (Samuelson, Smith, Stevenson, Ryan)  

Click here to read the entire case study article.


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B&B’s First Annual Holiday Camp 2012

A Books & Beyond member made this short documentary about our first Kabwende Holiday Camp in 2012! Stay tuned to read students’ experiences about our second annual camp at Kabwende!

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September 15, 2013 · 3:38 pm

Kabwende Primary Center Holiday Camp Banner

Kabwende Primary Center Holiday Camp Banner

Looks like KPC is just as excited as we are for this year’s annual trip to Rwanda!

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April 10, 2012 · 11:25 am