By Arnelle Lozada
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
– Mark Twain
This first week in Kigali, Rwanda has been hard for me for a number of reasons – extremely spotty wifi, my left eye being bitten and blowing up to the size of about half of a large green grape twice, and being forced to inhale some of the thickest, blackest toxic fumes spewing out of truck exhaust pipes that I’ve ever seen – to name a few. That said, never have I ever been less inclined to actually complain about any of it. Sure, all of these things can be very frustrating, but once you’ve seen the things we’ve seen in our short time here, you realize just how “first world” all of your petty, trivial problems really are. Silly Americans.
That’s because the hardest thing about our first week here has definitely been the initial feeling of helplessness in the face of extreme poverty. When you’re a human being with a heart (which I’m hoping is at least 95% of our population), it’s the rudest awakening when you’re forced to realize that all the things you take for granted daily – running water, a gas stove, a floor that isn’t dirt, shoes on your feet – all the things you consider “basic” human needs or necessities, are luxuries for people somewhere else in the world.
I’ve been hit with quite the crash course on this country’s recent history and its extreme divide, and the notion of cause and effect is so prevalent here. This country epitomizes the idea of decisions and their repercussions; a woman’s decision to get pregnant due to lack of education or simply “not knowing any better” leads to her birthing 4 more girls destined for the same ill fate if no intervention occurs, a foreigner’s decision to build his mansion on a plot of land drives the locals out of their homes when they have nowhere else to go, a government’s decision to charge school fees that less than half of the population can afford perpetuates the cycle of uninformed inhabitants who simply don’t have access to the tools or resources they need to improve their quality of life.
As I sit in these Kigali coffee shops at the end of our work days, I have never been filled with such a sense of privilege along with such a sense of purpose and drive to take action by helping this community in need … and that’s exactly what we’re here for. Thanks to Maria and Anthony of The Cultureist and Humanity Unified, my eyes have been opened wide to the reality of these situations and the severe need to raise awareness about them. It’s one thing to hear about these stories in the news or read about them in books, it’s quite another thing to encounter them face to face. Our work here is focused on telling the story of these women and children with massive hearts and unlimited potential to do incredible things with their lives but simply lack the means to do so, so that we may help them acquire those means. We hope to help grant them the opportunity to live the types of lives every human being deserves to live.
Don’t want to blabber too much so I’ll leave this here for now. So much more on this project to come, here on the blog and on HumanityUnified.org. In the meantime, here are a few photos of the nicer cafes here in Kigali (Shokola and Inzora), as well as a few of the photos I’ve taken of the women and children (they’ve just updated the site with a few of the photos I’ve taken so please check it out)! I’ve always wanted to do humanitarian/social work, to give back to communities in need, and spread love to my fellow human beings, and I could not be happier with the organization/team I chose (we actually chose each other) to work with on accomplishing that dream. A huge, huge thank you to Blurb Books for helping make this trip happen. That company is powered by an incredible group of empathetic, wonderful, and thoughtful people who really care about partaking in meaningful causes and using their platform/products to empower those causes.
This post was originally featured on This BeautifuLife by Arnelle Lozada.
Shokola atop the Kigali Public Library.
Inzora Cafe. If you’re ever here, get the Cappuccino with Nut Milk (cashew and macadamia nut milk) … it’s the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.