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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World


Matt and Hillary again!

Matt: We had a very productive day in the village today – spending a whole lot of time with the kids as well as doing many, many hours of service. All in all, a great day. We started it all off by working inside the village with some of the Rwandan day workers on various projects.

Because the football field was not available today, we were split between the construction of the new science labs (Matt: I’ve gotten a brief glimpse at the curriculum proposed, and it’s really really amazing!), the amphitheater, and building new houses for next year’s students. It was nice to get the chance to work with our hands. Hillary and I worked primarily in the amphitheater. We all had some great conversation carrying stones (Amabuye) and cement (sima) from one place to the other. We got the stairs done in record time, and it is our understanding that the actual stage is up next. Needless to say, the amphitheater is drop dead gorgeous. The head of the health and wellness center at the village even paid us a visit at the site, and we had the chance to ask her all sorts of questions. It was definitely a valuable experience.

After our volunteer experience, we had lunch (always fun) with the students of the village, and headed off to do Tikkun Olam (repairing the world in Hebrew) projects! I was paired with a group of Rwandans who were building a garden for the local clinic in Rabona. Getting the chance to really learn different aspects of construction (especially when you can’t use electric power) was really valuable. Also seeing the fruit of our labors was really interesting.

An aside: as I was leaving for home before Rwanda, my boss gave me a bunch of shoes that his kids never wore for one reason or another. These baby shoes, while being absolutely adorable, could not be used by the kids here as their feet are way too big. Instead, I brought them with me when we went to the clinic. At the clinic, I had the chance to give these shoes to some Rwandan children. I feel like I gained in two ways. The first is the more obvious: seeing the children’s smiling faces while putting on the shoes that had come all the way from Massachusetts was really rewarding. I received at least one hug and many smiles. The other way in which I gained was that I saw how far different the village is from what I had done – the village is designed to be a sustainable service project. Handing out shoes is a band-aid. What the kids at this school get is a real chance to improve their lives and those around them.

With this revelation on my mind, I turned around and headed back to the village. Once back, I had the chance to go to the Learning center and tutor a couple kids. Though my geometry skills are sub-par, the students and I were able to work through a bunch of problems. Great fun :-D. After a change (because my clothes are SO filthy – the red dust really gets on everything), I headed to dinner, family time, and a quick meeting with the group. Then… off to bed! Hillary’s turn now:

Hillary: So today I had the distinct privilege of accompanying my friend to the nearby school in Rabona during Tikkun Olam. He had been telling me how proud he was of the work he was doing at the school. He had a lesson plan all set and was looking forward to teaching his group of 30 ten-year-olds English. When we arrived at the school, he was greeted with squeals from swarms of little kids each trying to grab his hand. For one hour these children sat at full attention, hanging on his every word as he introduced the concept of superlatives and comparatives. He transformed from a teenager to an adult and took full command of the class. If you ask any of the kids if they like Tikkun Olam, their unvarying response is a raised eyebrow shrug “of course.” These kids have taken full ownership of their projects, allowing them to both share the gifts they have been given by the village and, in turn, receive the self confidence to know that they can make a change in their world.

See you all soon!
-Matt and Hillary

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