Carnegie Mellon University has hundreds of ways to get involved on campus. Some opportunities even allow you to have a greater global impact. Another way to reach out to people across the world is with Project Rwanda. It is a new student run initiative that will allow students to embark on a trip to Africa. The project encourages academic development and strong relationships between CMU students and primary school students in Rwanda.
In the summer of 2009, Ariel Solomon, Amy Badiani, and Sruthi Reddy were e-mailed by a CMU graduate, Sasha Urquidi, to proceed with a project in Rwanda. They decided that the best way to combine their strengths as leaders and establishing lasting relations with Rwanda was to work with Rwandan youth. In the fall of 2009 Joshua Debner, Urna Biswas, Vishal Argawal, and Melvin Rayappa joined the team to plan Project Rwanda. The project is expanding and has just added four new members this semester to carry on the project. It is a great example of a few passionate students establishing a plan to inspire others and make a lasting impact.
Since Project Rwanda is a new and unrecognized organization the process has been difficult. Ariel Solomon said, “it took us months of fundraising before we could with certainty say that we were traveling to Rwanda.” Luckily the organization will definitely be traveling to Rwanda in the summer and visited previously in May of 2009. Over the past three years the organization has been working in teams and developing lesson plans in preparation for this summer.
The inspiration behind Project Rwanda has three parts. One- to show children that they are entitled to a great education and that people beyond their borders care for their well-being. Two- to spark an interest with CMU students to begin their own initiatives. Three- to foster a connection between CMU Pittsburgh, CMU Qatar, and Rwanda, which has just established a CMU campus in Fall of 2011.
The goals of the project are to develop a summit that is composed of lessons and workshops that focus on information and communication technology. Empowering Rwandan students is the overall goal that will be achieved by a summit to teach programming, music, and acting using the One Laptop per Child technology. The partnership with the company makes it possible to teach lessons to each Rwandan student.
When asked why go to Rwanda, Ariel said, “Why not? Rwanda is the shining star of Africa with its social and technological advances.” As result of the genocide 32% of schools were destroyed but Rwanda has strived to make progressive change toward an economy based on knowledge. This project will enable students in Rwanda to learn the skills and tools that will help them progress further in their education. Ariel explained, “We wanted to be a part of this aftermath, to experience their strength, and to begin fostering connections.” Many of Project Rwanda’s team members’ only knowledge of Rwanda is “its history of genocide, its recovery, its technological advancements, as well as its social reforms,” said Ariel.
The project will take place for 1-2 weeks at the end of May or at the end of August. A summer trip will allow students to spend more time in Rwanda making an impact. Project Rwanda is looking for a team of dedicated students to design and develop the plan during the year and go on the trip to implement it. Ariel said, “It helps if these students are extremely passionate about international development, service, learning, teaching, and growth.” If you want to make an impact in another part of the world look for Project Rwanda, they are always looking for more people to help in this amazing project!