Saturday, 10 December 2016

Youth Camp: Three days of Cultural Exchange

Last week we took part in a youth camp which is ran by AMU each year and is in its 10th edition. We, the 6 UK volunteers and 7 Rwandese Volunteers from ICS/international service, joined up with 16 Rwandese high school students and 26 Norwegian students, who were stopping in Rwanda as part of their trip across East Africa. The idea behind the youth camp was to bring together 3 different cultures so that we could learn from one another, contrast and compare experiences, as well as exchange stories about our home countries.

Day One

On the first day, we were divided into six teams, mixing Norwegian students, Rwandese students, and ICS volunteers. We would remain in these teams for the duration of the camp and perform activities and tasks within them. The first task we were given was to come up with a team name. The six teams were: Sky Seven, Unity, Forever 21, Sun and stars, Penguins and Forte Inshuti.
Another task we were given was to learn 10 new words in a different language to our own, with our teammates helping us do so. It was a great ice breaker and helped the teams bond and get to know each other better. Then the floor was given to Mama Rose who told us about her experience of the genocide and how she decided to found AMU. The genocide left many children orphaned, with no homes or family to care for them. Mama Rose saw this as a message from God and took it upon herself to help these children get the food, shelter and the care they needed. Twenty years later, AMU is still helping children and Mama Rose received an award for her work from President Kagame himself, which earned a well-deserved round of applause.

Then we had a traditional Rwandan lunch with rice, beans, beef and bananas. This went down very well with the Norwegians, who were clamouring to get seconds. After earing, we organized a few football matches. The first match was between the boys, a back and forth game, won 4 goals to 3. Then followed the match between the girls, which was a tight affair with only the one goal in it.
In the afternoon, it was time for the presentation about Rwanda and their culture. We were first informed about the formation of Rwanda, and the geography of the country as well as the meaning of the Rwandan flag, (the blue represents happiness and peace, the yellow band symbolizes economic development, the green band symbolizes the hope of prosperity and the sun in the corner represents enlightenment). We were then showed how a traditional Rwanda wedding works, including the giving of the dowry, and afterwards we were treated to some traditional Rwandan dance. The women performed the Cow dance, the men performed the Hunters dance. One the presentation had finished we were then giving the chance to learn some moves ourselves. We were taught by the Rwandans in our group, and, although we struggled at first, we eventually managed to perform the moves without tripping over ourselves!

Day Two

The second day began with the Norwegians introducing a fun clapping game, where one person shouted ‘one step’ and everyone else was require to perform a routine. After a few attempts we eventually got the hang of it. After that we were told to discuss challenges and opportunities for young people in the UK, Norwegian and Rwanda. We found that we had a lot in common, in that it was very difficult for young people to find jobs in their fields of choice. We had a few differences as well, particular in terms of education. The Norwegian students were part of a ‘Folk’ School, where they spend a school year but with no exams, instead learning from experiences, and focusing on subjects such as theatre, dancing and sport. These students themselves were part of the ‘safari’ group, who focused on exploring different parts of the world and travelling around. After the discussion, we presented back to the rest of the group on what we had learned from one another during our talk. The next task was to take a walk within our teams and search for items that link the countries together, and items that show how we differ. However, the walk was cut short by heavy rainfall, so we had to head back to AMU and were taught many new fun games by the Norwegians.

On this day, the lunch was western themed. We had an afternoon tea, with sandwiches and a wide choice of fillings; Jam, Nutella, ham, cheese, and an array of salad to choose from. And of course, there was a hot cup of tea for everyone.

After lunch, it was time for the Norwegians to present. Similar to the Rwandans, they started by talking about the geography of the country, pointing out the major cities and how vastly the temperature differs in the north and the south. They re-enacted one of their most famous fairy tales: The Three Billy Goats, and finished with a rendition of a Christian song.
Finally, for the UK presentation, we decided to organize a pub quiz. The questions featured an arrange of topics, from sport to literature and history, as we used it as a way to educate them on our country and culture. However, in typical British fashion it didn’t run as smoothly as we would have liked, with some confusion over the questions and even small arguments! Nonetheless, everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Day Three

As part of the third day, we split into small groups, with at least one ICS volunteer, one Norwegian student and one Rwandese high school student within them. In these groups, we headed back to the home of the high school student and helped the family make lunch. I visited the house of Bernard, a young boy of 15 who often comes to AMU. We were also joined by Pauline, one of the students from Norway. We set off down through Gikondo and through a rural part of the city. We caught the attention of many locals, greeting them with smiles and waves as we passed through. After a scenic walk, we ended up at the home, which had a wonderful view of the city. We met Bernard’s family, his mother, father and younger brother. Pauline and I got straight to work, preparing the food. Once the cooking was done, we made a quick visit to the market for some pineapples and avocados, and when we got back, lunch was ready to be served.

After our lovely meal, it was then time to head back to AMU for the final part of the camp – the goodbyes. Each team gave one last presentation of something new they had learned over the week and we performed the song we had learned earlier that day one last time. Then it was time to say farewell. Many pictures were taken and contact details were exchanged, everyone eager to remember their time here and keep in touch with the new friends they had made. It was a wonderful end to an incredible few days of learning, cultural exchange and most of all, fun.

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