My fellowship ends so soon and right now I am feeling so many things. Firstly I am still discovering new places in my community. For example, I just learned that the Imigongo Art Center in Kibungo has a cafe! And this is like a 15 minute drive away from me! Again, you can take the girl out of Nashville but you can’t take Nashville out of the girl. AKA I sure do love my coffee... especially when it’s Rwandan.
This upcoming month I will visit Muhoma Refugee Camp with Pastor Edward, take a craft demonstration class at Urugo Women’s Center (and maybe an imigongo class at the Imigongo Center), visit Handspun Hope this weekend, and volunteer for Mobile Arts for Peace at the end of the month. Even with all of this, I feel like there is still so much more to learn and to research while I am here.
At the school, I finished tutoring my three students this week. Firstly, for Kevin Mucho, my P1 student, I have been a resource and a friend. I began tutoring him, because he is new to the school as of this year. While I have been helping him in English, I have also been checking to see how he has been doing with academics and his social life. Kevin has a good-natured disposition that seeks to learn, and I am very proud of his progress this semester.
In addition, I tutored Margaret who is a little bit of a trouble maker, the refusing to wear her socks and stick to her dress code kind of trouble maker. She would often try to have a conversation with me instead of focusing on practicing reading, but sometimes I rolled with it and challenged her with some new vocabulary and with critically applying what we have read through speaking. Despite being a bit of a trouble maker, I know that we were able to form a wonderful connection based off of trust, respect and intentionality, and that if I imparted anything to her, it was the importance of knowing English and practicing acquired skills.
Now, for Jeanette – my prized student.
With Jeanette, we practiced building confidence. This applied to confidence in speaking English, presenting in class, discussing our ideas in conversations, and believing ourselves and our abilities. Jeanette is on full scholarship, so often before tutoring I would ask her how her mother and siblings were doing. Her mother is sick and is expected to pass away sometime soon. I know that in a way I was able to provide her refuge and comfort if only for a few minutes by being someone she could talk to and being someone who actively heard her. She told me about how her grandfather recently passed away, and how he promised to take her to Uganda one day. The day she told me this, we ended early because her grieving caused her to become overcome with emotion.
The thing with Jeanette is that she has this incredible zeal to learn English and a desire to gain an education to help her family gain a better life one day. She wants to do this by starting her own business. When I asked her what kind of business she wants to start, she told me she wanted to sell clothes at the market. I can understand why she would say this given her socio-economic upbringing, but I encouraged her to pursue higher education and to enter into entrepreneurship after gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.
On our last tutoring session, I had her draw her hand and write some words around the hand on what she has learned during tutoring and how it has made her feel. She really didn’t understand why we were doing this so she didn’t want to participate, so I drew my hand and did my own reflection as an example. Eventually she wrote a bit on the hand, and I filled in the rest on how I have seen her improve and why I am proud of her. I thought it honestly didn’t go too well, but I chalked it up to the fact that she has exams and is dealing with family illness.
But yesterday, a school volunteer gave me a note from Jeanette, and y’all, it was the absolute sweetest note. She apologized for being “so sad” on many of our tutoring days, and she explained it has been because she was stressed about her family. She also apologized for not wanting to do our warm up most days because she lied and told me she was sick. Our warm ups consisted of stretching, and then she would show me a new Rwandan dance step and we would put words to the movements. After doing this for a month, I really saw her confidence level exponentially improve as well as the volume of her voice when speaking in conversations. But eventually it faded out because she would tell me she had cramps almost every time. In the case that she did have cramps, I absolutely didn’t want to push her to do the exercise. Especially, as I have been in her position many times.
Even more, this note shows me how much of a good heart Jeanette has, seeking forgiveness and setting her wrongs right.
She is determined to learn and gain an education.
She has dreams and goals.
She is seeking to be brave and ethical,
And I am so proud of her.
In our sessions, I would often talk about how she can translate the confidence she has while dancing to speaking and presenting (which is why I combined the two in our warm-up). Jeanette really touched my heart this semester, and I absolutely will seek to encourage her in any way I can in the future.
This note reminded me that what I have become someone my students can trust and relate to. I have sought to encourage these students to be the best version of theirselves, to trust in themselves and to pursue greatness for their life. It’s a daily journey with students (and all people, of course) and there are many ups and downs, and I am just grateful I had the opportunity to be apart of their journey.
Lastly, classes end tomorrow, and today we have a poetry slam. Tomorrow there is also a talent show, of which I have been helping students with mashing up songs and teaching them simply about breath, posture and vocal warmups. Then next week we have final presentations at school, and S3 and S6 begin to study for their graduating exams. There is lots to do before going home, and I am trying to take in all my last moments at the school before going home for Christmas.
PS: Please notice the subtle pun in my blog’s title. I am definitely “wrapping up” and preparing for Christmas over here 😉