Hawie, International Development and Globalization, Minor in Business Management, CECI, Rwanda, Concertation des Collectifs des Associations Féminines de la région des Grands Lacs (COCAFEM/GL)
I, like many others, had plans at the start of 2020. I planned to travel, visit my family in Ethiopia and to experience new cultural contexts. But there’s a saying that when people make plans God laughs in their face – and I’ve never felt that to be truer than in this moment.
After living with this new normal for about a year, I’ve found that new opportunities can spring up in the most unexpected of places. For example, I feared that my chance of participating in an international internship would be locked down just as quick as our formerly open borders. But I was quickly proven wrong after learning that the organizations partnered with my university had switched over to remote volunteering. This seemed like the opportunity I was waiting for: experience working with an International NGO, learning about the skills needed in these work environments and building up my network in this field before graduating. I was paired up with the Centre d’étude et de cooperation internationale (CECI) and placed with their newly established team in Rwanda. In a different time, I would have spent months preparing for my travel, got to know my colleagues face to face and immerse myself in an entirely new environment.
But because this is not that time, the responsibility falls on me to immerse myself and make the best of this new reality. One of the ways I’ve been doing this is by finding novels written by Rwandan authors. The first book I read was “The girl who smiled beads” by Clemantine Wamariya. The novel goes on to share the author’s personal story of having to leave Rwanda in 1994, while simultaneously painting a beautiful picture of the country through the eyes of a child. The imagery and storytelling found in this novel and many others like it, is just one of the ways that I can immerse myself while staying within the confines of my home.
The piece of advice I hope to leave others about to embark on the journey of remote volunteering is this: keep your eyes open for any new opportunities. Try to imagine a scenario where your initial plans don’t happen because even if the ink is dry on a newly signed contract, circumstances can change within seconds. The true test of your skills is how you adapt to your new reality. Do you sit at home and sulk about the unfairness of everything? Or do you say, where are the needs based on this new situation and can I turn this into a learning experience? Moving forward and maintaining a positive attitude are the only things we as individuals can control, because the only constant in this life is change