Developing World Connections - Volunteering in Rwanda
81% Rating
(7 Reviews)

Developing World Connections - Volunteering in Rwanda

Volunteer with DWC in Rwanda to make a difference in the lives of rural villagers. Just visiting Rwanda with the intention to volunteer and help is an important sign of faith and solidarity for Rwandans after years of civil war. Volunteers work with Grace Rwanda, an organization that promotes literacy, education and rebuilding efforts in Rwanda.

The current project involves building a training centre in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. No special skills are required. This project is expected to take years to complete, but each phase is important in creating the final building.

After you're done volunteering, we recommend you visit the Genocide Museum in Kigali or take an excursion in the Parc National des Volcans, the last sanctuary of the endangered mountain gorilla

Locations
Africa » Rwanda » Kigali
Africa » Rwanda
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
Language
English
Housing
Guesthouse
Hotel
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD
Price Details
The cost of a two week international volunteer trip to Rwanda is about <b> 2,200 CDN.</b>

Cost includes:
• Three meals a day and water
• In-country transportation
• Two- to three-star level accommodation
• A dedicated trip co-ordinator and travel agent
• Pre-trip resources and orientation
• A substantial donation to the project

<b>This does not include airfare,</b> however the entire cost of an international volunteer trip paid through Developing World Connections, including airfare, is 100% tax deductible in Canada. You can fundraise and DWC will issue charitable receipts to your donors.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    80%
  • Support
    80%
  • Fun
    84%
  • Value
    80%
  • Safety
    86%

Program Reviews (7)

Allen
Male
61 years old

DWC Rwanda Dec 2016

1/10

It would be hard pressed to see DWC's footprint on this trip. DWC hadn't truly partnered with the host organization and hadn't trained them to host teams. DWC's drive to cut team costs and take funds from the supported organization make's it hard for me to believe their business model will survive. The information flow from DWC was too little too late and many things were left up to the team leader to tap dance and make the experience better. I was glad we had a very experienced team leader who could make rational decisions, keep Grace Rwanda on track and effectively communicate to all parties. DWC should count their blessings they have such a wonderful volunteer leader. This DWC experience was built for backpackers, not an experienced international volunteer team like ours. Overall, Rwanda was a wonderful experience, but it was because of the team leader and the team, not DWC or Grace Rwanda.

Response from Developing World Connections

We thank Allen for taking the time to submit his comments on his Rwanda trip. Grace Rwanda is a new partner with DWC and there have been some growing pains along the way. We are working with Grace Rwanda to resolve those issues.
Concerning the comments about undercutting, DWC does not try to slash team costs. The funds allocated for meals and hotel were standards used for other trips in Rwanda and other countries.
DWC chooses team leaders who have experience in the countries where they will be leading. In this case, we knew we had a highly organized team leader who had been to Rwanda and who has a track record of leading not just with us, but with other organizations as well.
DWC is in the process of upgrading its pre-trip preparation for volunteers and team leaders. We review feedback from volunteers like Allen and team leaders to keep improving the experiences we offer. While the vast majority of our trips run smoothly and reviews are hugely positive, there is the occasional case where that doesn’t happen. We are committed to making every trip as enjoyable and memorable as possible for each volunteer. We regret that Allen did not feel DWC held up its end of the bargain.
- The team at DWC

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Nilum
Female
24 years old
Vancouver BC
University of British Columbia

A nice dose of hope

10/10

It seems like a growing fad nowadays, to volunteer abroad and help the underprivileged. To give them a school or a house, and change the world. But this troubled me, and continues to do so. The idea that “first world” individuals who have “immense resources, astounding knowledge and a great gauge of the world” can go in to less developed parts of the world with a sense of entitlement and responsibility to help the poor troubles me. This troubles me because it isn’t true. It strips those in “poor third world countries” of their voice, of their individuality and their stories. It creates this asymmetrical relationship between the volunteers and the locals, where the volunteers feel a sense of power, whether conscious or not, over the locals as if they have the “responsibility” to help them because they cannot help themselves.

Having no idea what Africa was like except for the arguably exploitative commercials guilting viewers into donating, I wanted to see for myself, what “Africa” was all about. And so I wanted to go abroad. But I was held back by my previously mentioned suspicions of such endeavours. I was worried I would be patronized for doing more than I actually did. I didn’t want to be applauded for changing the world when I know I didn’t.

But writing this nearly nine months after I returned from Rwanda, I still have nothing but wonderful feelings from my experience. I am glad that my volunteer experience to Rwanda was anything but my expressed concerns, and I applaud Developing World Connections for making their volunteer experiences anything but that.

And I am so glad I did not let my fear or negative beliefs about this form of volunteerism stop me from embarking on this long and incredibly empowering journey.

On May 3rd 2013 I set off to Rwanda for my first ever-travelling experience. The project took place in a rural village Gashora. Our team was responsible for helping with construction work on the Covaga Innovation Centre. The innovation centre was a cooperative that was started up by Building Bridges with Rwanda and Developing World Connections. Rwandan women who joined would weave baskets and then sell them through the centre. The women kept 90% of what they earned and 10% went go back to the cooperative to continue to help it grow. Our job was to help with the construction of the left wing of the innovation centre.

As we learned early on from the founder of BBR, malnutrition was the biggest problem in Rwanda. It was a combination of many things – many people couldn’t afford to eat nutritious food. For some, they worked such long hours they didn’t have time to eat. An underlying factor that made this malnutrition such a hard problem to fix was the fact that Rwanda does not have a food culture. For example, a country like Germany is famous for it’s bratwurst sausage, a place like South India for it’s dosa and sambaar. Rwanda in turn, does not have a “staple food” and events such as “dinner time” or “eating out” aren’t fads as they are in Canada, or other parts of the world. Therefore, most people eat just to feel full so they can continue to work. They are therefore less concerned about consuming nutritious food.

The left wing was going to be used as a restaurant as well as a place to hold cooking classes where locals could learn which vegetables were nutritious, how to cook food without losing all the nutrients and how to make kitchen gardens.

I realize that the money I spent on this trip could have been donated straight to this project. Skilled labourers could have been hired to do the construction instead of novices such as our group who were plastering for our first time ever on this project. They would have probably been faster and better at the work.

I also realized that the part I was playing in the development and rebuilding of this country was very small, very miniscule.

I decided the biggest contribution I had to give was to dignify this nation, to bring their stories back home with me and keep them alive, to do the most I could with everything I had by making my eight hours a day on the work site count.

So that is what I did. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t fix Africa. I didn’t do anything worthy of recognition. But I opened my eyes and got everything I could from my time in Rwanda. I learned as much as I could – whether it was construction related such as building scaffolding, plastering walls, and mixing cement. Or about things deeper, such as the heartbreaking struggle many of my new Rwandan friends experienced due to the 1994 genocide. I did as much construction as I could. Listened to as many stories as I could and told my own stories whenever I was asked. I shattered this homogenous image of "Africa" for myself that many North Americans continue to hold. And all I can say is I dignified this group for myself and whoever else I speak to about my trip. I brought memories of my friends back with me. I spoke of the work ethic of all the skilled labourers, the innovative ways our project manager made use of the resources, the intricate and complicated past that meshed into the present, the powerful souls of the local Rwandans, and the warm comforting love from all the Covaga ladies.
I was more than impressed with DWC and everything the program offered. I appreciated the transparency from the coordinators; they were very open with a breakdown of our donation and trip. They didn’t patronize us, or make us feel like we had “saved Africa”. They were aware at how important it was for us to learn about this population and hear people’s stories and tried to give us the most opportunities possible to meet and interact with locals.

So I have DWC to thank for opening my eyes to great initiatives that believe we have just as much to learn from others, as we have to teach them. That believe that our job is to connect with people from all over the world in a symmetrical and deeper way in order to learn from them as opposed to help them. And that you can’t change the world or save the poor in a short month, but you can do something, something small. And this small gesture of love and vulnerability that you can offer to another is a step in the right direction.

How can this program be improved?

I loved meeting with local people from the community and learning about other cooperatives that were taking place. Even more opportunities like that would make this already great program even better.

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Karen
Female
42 years old
Kamloops, BC
Other

A great experience!

9/10

A great experience filled with many memories. We were a group of 17 volunteers, both from Canada and US. After many hours of flying, we were greeted by our host partner, BBR at the airport. Lama and Steven both made us feel comfortable and welcome with our new surroundings. Most of us had arrived a few days earlier so we could tour around Kigali. We stayed at the Mille Des Collines Hotel AKA Hotel Rwanda. Knowing how that hotel saved so many people during the genocide, we visited the Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali before our "work week" started. It's a must see to any tourist who visits Rwanda.
We convened on Sunday with all of our luggage and donations, ready to board the bus to take us to Gashora, our home for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, another vehicle was required to carry the additional luggage. After experiencing an "African Massage", we finally arrived at La Pallise-Gashora. We checked into our rooms and had a good night sleep before our first day of work. We arrived at the Covaga Innovation Centre by foot..aprox a 15-20 min walk. We were greeted by the women who were working at Covaga along with Peter, our site foreman for the duration of our stay. We quickly met Peter's co-workers before we had our duties laid out to us. Yes, it was hauling rocks into the the second building of the Covaga Innovation Centre to prepare for the concrete floor that was to be completed. We didn't think that we were going to get the floors laid, interior walls parged, exterior parged, and windows and doors installed...in time. There was a lot of work ahead of us. Mixing concrete the "African" way was not only exhausting but time consuming. After the first day of mixing batches of concrete and chain ganging the trays of concrete to the building, we asked Peter to find a few local guys to help us with the concrete mixing. That was a mind and body saver! It was a treat to also have the women who were weaving their baskets, drop what they were doing and jump into the Congo line to help us out..babies strapped to their backs and all. We managed to get a lot of the work done in our first week before leaving for Musanze to see the gorillas. It was a windy road up and down the mountains to Musanze. Watching people on bicycles hanging on to the backs of transport trucks to "catch a ride" was something to be seen. We checked into the Hotel Muhabura(Dian Fossey's second home in Rwanda) before heading to a great pizza place. Up very early to get into our jeeps and head to see the gorillas. It was truly amazing. One of our team members got "punched" by a silverback. That was not only a little scary for him but a laugh for the rest of us. Another "must see" if you get the opportunity. After the gorilla trek, we drove closer to Kigali to another hotel, Paradise Malahide where we were entertained by native dancers upon our arrival. It was a relaxing evening sitting by the fire pit, reminiscing about our gorilla trek experiences. We were able to take a boat ride on Lake Kivu on Sunday morning where we visited one of the only two natural Hotsprings in Rwanda. One of the local boys began to rub my husbands leg with the Hotsprings mineral filled water after he noticed his swollen leg(caused by a bike accident). He soon had 5 little guys massaging his leg. After thanking them for their efforts, we got back onto the boat and headed back to the hotel, ready for our departure to Gashora. We had a great weekend and got some R and R before beginning our second week of work. Back at the jobsite on Monday morning..we quickly got right into work mode with the parging of the interior walls. It's truly an acquired skill to get the cement from the float onto the walls without dropping half of it. The patience of our Gashoran work mates was incredible. We managed to get the parging of the interior and exterior walls done while some of our team members installed all of the doors and windows, the Rwandan way. We were able to meet with Gashora's local mayor, where we presented him with our donations to the community. It was a nice feeling, knowing that the goods were going to people who truly needed and appreciated the items. Thursday, being our last real work day was a great experience as we had accomplished our goals that we didn't think was possible at the beginning. Job well done! For lunch, we all took bicycle taxis to the Gashora Girls Academy of Technology and Sciences. That was a sight to see, 17 of us, all of different shapes and sizes on the back of the bikes travelling through the streets of Gashora. The school was very inspiring, knowing that girls from Rwanda have the opportunity for a better education and future. Our team had split up into groups to do some home visits in the afternoon. Another "must do", that will leave you with appreciation of your life back at home. That evening, we had invited our 20 Rwandan co-workers for a party back at our hotel. We displayed our Canadian construction tools along with other treats on a table. We put the workers name in a hat and allowed them to choose which allotment of goods they wanted. It was great seeing them with their own "new or slightly used" tools. They feasted on the buffet, all of them had gone up for two over flowing helpings. We enjoyed dancing with our co-workers, watching them with their natural rhythm. We were entertained by Vincent the rapper and Big Dog with his dance moves. A night filled with laughter and happiness. Friday, being our last day in Gashora was filled with mixed emotions. It was a great feeling knowing that we made a difference to the people of Gashora but also very sad leaving our Rwandan friends. Saying our good byes while getting on the bus was not easy. Most of us needed tissues to wipe the tears when Big Dog came aboard the bus for his final hugs and good byes. A moment I won't forget, seeing this teenager who wore the same clothes for two weeks straight, crying and wiping his tears on his sleeve trying to be strong. It was a quiet ride to Kigali, while we pondered our time in Gashora. We arrived back at the La Pallise Kigali and got ready for our final team dinner at Heaven. What a treat that was...a true North American dinner. Sunday was a day of leisure for most of us who were waiting to get to the airport for our long journey home. We said our good byes again to Lama, Steve and William..our wonderful hosts and tour guides from BBR. Another DWC trip that will leave wonderful memories forever. Thank you.

How can this program be improved?

No program is perfect...but it's all part of the experience.

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John
Male
57 years old
Toronto, Canada
University of Toronto

Rwanda: Inspiring Recovery from Genocide

9/10

I had wanted to go to Africa when I was in university, but I got a summer job each year and regrettably let the opportunity pass me by. Now I'm near retirement and when a friend described to me his great experience of "voluntourism" in Rwanda, I said "It's now or never" when he asked if I was interested. I was a bit worried about safety in Rwanda given the terrible genocide in 1994, but I'm so glad I made the trip.

Rwanda has recovered very quickly from the bloodiest gernocide in recent history. There are new schools, hospitals and clinics, good main roads, and the lowest HIV/Aids rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Kigali has construction cranes building hotels and banks, middle class neighbourhoods, and town square parks, and it's not congested like other capital cities. One key reason is an end to tribal violence - the schools and media promote the message "We are all Rwandans", and tribal-based political parties are banned. Village Truth and Reconcilation courts dealt with genocide victims and murderers with merciful justice, and no death penalty. There is little evidence of bribery and corruption, and people seem to have a hopeful vision of the future.

Our small group from Developing World Connections worked in the southern village of Gashora doing finishing touches to the first of four Covaga Women's Co-operative trade centre buildings. Fifty women harvest an invasive weed clogging the local lake, then dry and weave the reeds into colourful baskets and handbags. Five African young men got summer jobs between college terms working with us. The work wasn't heavy - painting, puttying windows, pointing bricks and stonework with mortar - and the weather in July was ideal: dry, blue sky days of 30 degrees. The water bottle breaks tasted great, and the beer and companionship at day's end was wonderful. The hotel La Palisse was a 15-minute walk or 5 min. bicycle ride away, and had excellent buffet meals, though the hot water was a trickle if you didn't get first shower (we had budget rooms at about $15 USD a night, 3 meals included).

The most fun we had was a pick-up ball hockey game in the local basketball court with red and black sticks left behind from a previous DWC group. The college guys were better than us Canadians and the little kids were fearless goalies. The cheering was wild and the goats on the sidelines were bleating madly. Next time we'll have to do it daily!

What good can a few middle-aged Canadians do on a five-day construction blitz? To be honest our main contribution was an extra suitcase each of donated materials. The Mississauga Soccer Club donated 25 pairs of recycled soccer shoes (Gashoran kids mostly play barefoot) and enough uniform sets to fill a 50 lb. suitcase. We also contacted Notjusttourists.com and received a full suitacse of surplus hospital supplies and parmaceutical drugs worth over $5,000 geared to African needs. We also brought school supplies. We visited the local school and hospital clinic, and were warmly received; we were swarmed by excited children.

The most sombre and most gratifying day was the last. We visited the local Genocide museum, witnessing rows and rows of skulls and skeltons (over 500), wrote a message in the guest book, said a silent prayer and gave a donation for upkeep. An hour later, we were greeted by 50 Covaga women, both Hutu and Tutsi, giving us our pre-ordered baskets. They thanked us profusely, we sang Canadian songs on our guitar, and they followed with African singing and dancing in a great celebration. We toured Kigali the next day and went on a one-day safari before going to Uganda, but the poeple of Gashora stay in my memories.

It's expensive to travel to Africa (over $2,000 in airfare, but the flights are charitable tax deductions), and the medical shots were almost $500 (most drugs were covered by my medical plan), but it was the most memorable trip of my much-traveled life. The accommodation and meal expenses are minimal, so the longer you stay, it's more affordable than a Carribean or European holiday.

Would I go again? You bet, and I'd like to invite you to join us at Developing World Connections for a trip in July or August 2012.

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Shannon
Female
27 years old
Vancouver, BC Canada
Vancouver Island University

life changing experience in Rwanda with DWC

10/10

I had an amazing time with Jenn and Dan as our DWC leaders for 5 weeks in Rwanda during the summer of 2010. We spent our time in a small village called Gashora where we were building a community center for a women's group called COVAGA. The COVAGA women are a co-operative of basket weavers who harvest an agressive plant called the water hyacinth, then they weave baskets out of it and sell it to help their family and the co-op. Not only do they make money, they have a sustainable business that saves their crops from the water hyacinth and the profits help support the families of the co-op. The women and children worked with us on the site EVERY DAY working so hard (much harder, and effectively than any of the volunteers could work). Even though the language barrier was difficult at times, we always could communicate with a smile, a hug or laughter.

Every day was a challenge in its own way but volunteering with DWC was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. On the weekends, we visited the capital city of Kigali, learned about the genocide in Rwanda and visited the gorillas in the north.

Volunteering with DWC is something I will always cherish and remember for the rest of my life. I would not hesitate to do it again in a second!

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Jennifer
Female
24 years old
Victoria, British Columbia
University of Victoria

A Rwandan Adventure

10/10

I had been in Rwanda for almost two weeks when i had what i refer to as "a true Rwandan adventure." It was one of those moments you will forever be drawn back to as a world traveller. A moment where you loose all inhibition and give into the true raw nature of being completely and totally consumed by your surroundings.

By this time I had settled quite comfortably into the lifestyle of Gashora, a small village one hour from Kigali where we spent our volunteer time while in Rwanda. I woke up every morning by 7am, washed my face, plastered myself with SPF 50 sunscreen, dressed in yesterday's red-dust covered work clothes and started the walk down to breakfast. After a cup of sweet and creamy African tea, a few hard-boiled eggs and a well appreciated slice of pineapple myself and the rest of my group started our fifteen minute walk up the road to our work site.

By the time we reached the project site the entire village was there to great us. We shook every person's hand, a Rwandan ritual that creates a sense of community and an appreciation for everyone around you. We would then work the rest of the day side-by-side with anyone willing to pick up a shovel, or join in a playful game of simon says. (Which usually turned into a follow the leader routine or chase the Canadian volunteer around the grounds.)

After a long day on the worksite our group would usually enjoy a refreshing coca-cola at the local bar. However today was a most important day as we were asked to join in a football game with the local school teachers. Hundreds of kids showed up to watch the Canadian volunteers loose horribly to their Rwandan teachers. Surrounded by cheering fans the game went on into the night.

By the time we tried to find our bike-taxis it was so dark you were not able to see your hand waving in front of your face. ( A bike taxi is simply a seat on the back of a bicycle over the back wheel- it provides fabulous transportation with unlimited adventure but comes at the cost of a very sore bottom!) After finding a suitable driver we drove at a million miles an hour home.

On this warm Rwandan evening, with bugs flying at my face, I finally felt myself completely overtaken by Rwanda. I could not see one inch in front of my face and I knew my driver could not either. As we speeded down the dirt, and very bumpy, road i loosed my grip from the metal bottom of my seat, focused my eyes on the moving tree tops as we flew by and tried to forget the fast approaching sand patch in the middle of the path. No matter how much traveller anxiety i had i was at the complete mercy of my driver. So i gave into this moment, decided to take this chance to practice my Kinyarwandan language and was completely overtaken by Rwanda. And yes we did indeed make it, and after a long and well deserved night's sleep I awoke to spend another day with the beautiful people of Rwanda.

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Dan
Male
24 years old
Victoria, British Columbia
University of Victoria

Not your TV Africa

8/10

Upon arriving in Kigali, our group navigated by foot the congested downtown core to find the public van that would take us one hour away to Gashora, the town in which we would live for the next 4 weeks. Working with a Rwandan development organization –Building Bridges with Rwanda– we helped to design and begin construction on an innovative building that would soon be home to a women's vocational training center, to Covaga's talented basket weavers, to a showroom for the women's beautiful handmade baskets, a quaint restaurant, and a community center.

After breakfast every morning we would make our way by foot to the worksite and be briefed on what the plan was for that particular day. Alongside the women of Covaga, the locally hired helpers and many folks from the laid-back community, we surveyed the land, cleared and flattened it, dug irrigation channels, fetched water from the local well, make thousands of mud bricks one by one and do all of the stonework – the local way!

The weeks we spent in Gashora were amazing. Everybody loved the camaraderie of having locals work with us, learning our language and in return teaching us theirs. The community embraced us so warmly and sent us off extravagantly on our last day. We were also invited to compete in large soccer (or football, as it is locally known) that were attended by no less than 600 cheering spectators.

The most difficult part of the experience was the logistical part of trying to get 50+ (often different people day to day) people to work together and pull in the same direction with the construction of the building. With few skilled tradesmen and minimal formal written plans, a lot of time was spent fixing unforeseen problems that we created, most notably a swimming pool sized hole that was dug over 3 weeks to help guide water away from the building which was later decided against, thus needing to be filled in. The language barrier coupled with the fact that we had tons of eager helpers keen to work but only 2 guiding voices to orchestrate the immense project caused quite a bit of confusion and frustration.

All in all, the project was an absolute blast to be part of. Despite sometimes feeling as though we were taking two steps forward and then one step back, we saw a great deal of progress. We saw a huge plot of land go from hilly and overgrown with weeds to level and cleared. We erected many precisely made columns around which the building would be framed. We connected the building to the town's main water source and completed many other important tasks to get this wonderful community a brand new community center. During all of the hard work, we also made connections that will last forever. Of the 30 participants that came to Gashora in our group, some have already returned and several have plans to go back in 2011 and 2012.

I would recommend that anyone go see Rwanda at some point in their lives. 1994 was a dark year in Rwanda's history but the country is now a miraculous story of recovery, forgiveness and healing. It is not a place to miss and Gashora is a great place to start.

About The Provider

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Developing World Connections (DWC) matches teams of volunteers and resources with people and organizations in developing nations to alleviate poverty and inspire hope. DWC ensures volunteers work on meaningful projects that have impact for the community.

DWC is a registered non-profit Canadian charity that has

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