Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 3 -> Muchaka Muchaka and Umuganda

We started off our day bright and early for a morning run called Muchaka Muchaka. It starts at 6 a.m. every Saturday morning and is mandatory for the students. The students gather at various places around the Village and run to Rubona, the local village, while chanting songs. The Tufts students enjoyed getting up early for the run because it allowed us to see what the students do every week. They were also incredibly enthusiastic and showed great pride for both ASYV and their country.

After breakfast, we split up into groups of two or three to work on service projects around the Village and the school. For example, our students helped on the farm, in the kitchen, and in the cornfields. We worked with ASYV students as well as with the UPenn students who are also here. The ASYV students worked very hard, as they do every Saturday on these projects with their families. It also coincided with Umuganda – a community service day on the last Saturday of each month for the entire nation.

We then had our very first discussion session as a group. The theme for our discussion was “Do I have a responsibility to take action?” We analyzed short texts that address reasons to serve others and the consequences of not serving. While there were a variety of opinions in the group, the discussion was overall optimistic about what we can do to help as individuals, no matter how small the contribution. We also did an activity where we made our own concentric circles of responsibility that, for many students, included themselves, their family, their friends, their local communities, and the global community.

After lunch, we did a scavenger hunt with the UPenn group. Each group of five or six students competed to win a breakfast-in-bed cooked by Ariela Alpert and Rachel Olstein Kaplan. The hunt included a section with trivia questions about the Village, a section where we had to take a picture or video of various objects or activities, and a section of items to bring back to the judges. The scavenger hunt allowed us to get to know the Penn students better, as well as talk to the Village youth. For example, we asked students to help us with the trivia questions, and one of our questions had us organizing a relay race with them. In the end, “Team Jumbros” had the most points and won.

Some students then had a short break while the majority of our group went to help teach an intensive English class to a group of first-year students. Our task was to list the differences and similarities between Rwanda and the United States. The students were very knowledgeable about both countries, and we enjoyed the conversations we had. It was our first time we were able to interact with the students in an academic setting, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

For Havdallah, many of our students met with some Penn students and had a traditional ceremony. Havdallah, as the ceremony that marks the separation between Shabbat and the beginning of the week, was very meaningful as we felt we were just about to begin all our hard work in the Village.

Dinner time in the Village is always very special because it gives us a chance to talk with individual students. Students often ask insightful questions, and they are always fun to talk to about almost anything.

Our final activity for the day was a bonfire with the UPenn group. Over s’mores, we reflected on our day with our nightly “thorns and roses” discussion. We took a lot away from today and enjoyed hearing Penn’s perspective. As our theme for the day was “intention”, we think our group was successful in finding meaning and purpose in everything we did today and will continue to do so throughout the week.

 - Laina and Laura, 5/28/11

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