This small, landlocked country in east-central Africa is trying to recover from ongoing ethnic tensions following the mid-1990s brutal genocide that saw 800,000 people killed in 100 days.
Today Rwanda is striving to build its economy. Though more than four in five people are still living on less than $3 USD a day, the country’s digital revolution is driving progress forwards.
This year, mobile 4G coverage will reach 95% of the population – a statistic that puts Rwanda three years ahead of the UK.
With the world record for the highest representation of female politicians, the whole nation – led by the President – takes part in a mandatory day of community service each month, building schools and cleaning villages.
Working for a fairer world
Women and young people are often the most adversely impacted by poverty in Rwanda. Education and socioeconomic factors are the cause of most issues in the communities ICS volunteers work in.
As an International Service ICS volunteer, you could be working with the Let Us Transform Life Initiative (LUTI) – a project supporting community leaders, school staff and co-operatives to educate women and young people on their right to health, gender equality and a quality education.
You could be leading action research, awareness raising sessions on social equity, social justice and human rights as well as delivering training and peer education alongside LUTI staff in small communities.
Helping people to support themselves and their families
1994 genocide killed 20% of Rwanda’s population, and has left the country with a disproportionately high number of young people. Two in three people are aged under 25.
But this presents big challenges. The average Rwandan has just 3.7 years of education and as a consequence three in five people work as farmers.
International Service ICS volunteers work with Kopakama Coffee Cooperative – a group providing 850 farmers with the means to wash and process their coffee. It allows them to demand a higher price for their crop.
Volunteers deliver skills training to help farmers secure a better quality of living to their families, as well as improving their business literacy through finance and production training.
Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers support Rwandan SMEs working to create a positive social, economic or environmental impact. Volunteers will work to develop financial literacy as well as support young entrepreneurs to find new ways to improve their business.
At the same time as working on placement, volunteers can also study to gain business consultancy accreditation through Challenges Worldwide’s partnership with the prestigious Chartered Management Institute (CMI).
Living in Rwanda
There are multiple project locations in Rwanda, including Rutsiro, Huye and Kigali. All placements in Rwanda see volunteers living with host families, usually with one other volunteer.
As with other placements, volunteers living with host families will be expected to eat like a local. Unlike some of its neighbours, Rwandan food is neither spicy nor hot. People eat simple meals with locally grown ingredients, including sweet potato, beans, corn, peas and plantain.
And it’s not just what happens on placement that counts. Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers might be exploring the wider socioeconomic impact their businesses are creating – such as visiting producers of suppliers to see how the supply chain is affecting the local community.