Lists, bills, packing and excitement!

Victoria Travel Blog

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Hello beloved blog readers!

First and foremost, a HUGE thank you to all of you that supported me in this trip whether it was generously donating, or attending one of the several events I held, THANK YOU! I could not have asked for a fraction of the encouragement I received, it continues to be incredibly overwhelming.  Without you, this trip would not be possible, and I am and will be eternally grateful to all who supported me, financially and emotionally! From the bottom of my heart, thank you!! To date, I have collected $3508.67 in donations of my total $4350 (for volunteering), and that is pretty incredible!

I am currently at home in Victoria getting more and more organized for my trip.  I am surrounded by lists, paperwork and a growing pile of things to pack! The reality of this trip is finally starting to set in, especially now that I have bought things like my backpack and sleeping mat! I finished up all of my travel immunizations a couple weeks ago, and luckily I didn't have to get too many, but still managed to spend a whopping $400 or so, not including any of my malaria medication or other prescriptions.  I am very fortunate enough because I have a great landlord and I managed to rent out my room for the next three months to my wonderful friend Kendall, who will be finishing up her business degree and graduating in August! I still have yet to experience living in Victoria for the summer but Africa calls!

Here is a quick summary of how this trip came to be, for those who are unaware:

In September of 2009 I wandered through Clubs Days on campus at UVic, looking through each of the booths to see which clubs on campus interested me; I signed up to an abundance of mailing lists (probably 10+ clubs) and quickly realized that I needed to narrow down my interests.  I chose to join Voluntary Simplicity (a group of students that meets once a week at someone's house to discuss ways to become more aware of our environment and our impact on it, and how consciously choosing to live more simply brings happiness) and Developing World Connections, a charity based out of Kamloops BC that leads adult and student volunteering trips around the globe working with host partners to run and complete sustainable development projects within the host country that involve the people and community stakeholders.  DWC is a BC registered society, Canadian Charitable Organization and a volunteer grassroots movement; it is non sectarian and have no religious, political or professional affiliations.  Over the last 5 years, DWC has sent groups to all corners of the world that have been devastated by everything from natural disaster to poverty to genocide. 

When I walked by the DWC booth at UVic, a young couple welcomed me and gave me some information on their upcoming student trip to Rwanda in May 2010.  I was immediately intrigued at the possibility, and signed up to attend an info meeting where I officially met Dan and Jenn (our trip leaders) and where my trip began to grow in my heart.  And then I went home to look at a map to find Rwanda.  For others like me who do not know where Rwanda is, it is in Central Africa, landlocked between Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Repulic of Congo and Tanzania.  It is a small country, roughly about the size of the state of Maryland.  After paying a $500 deposit to hold my spot, our group (of 27!) met for the first time and began discussing the trip, what to expect, pack and fundraising. From there the excitement and reality of the situation actually began to set in..  And then I told my parents I was going to volunteer in Rwanda for over a month. Initially, they were quite upset, concerned and skeptical (which was totally understandable and to be expected) so I answered all their questions to the best of my ability and tried to convey my passion for this special project.  Over the months, they have grown to understand my need to experience this, and have become the incredibly proud, supportive, wonderful parents that they have always been.  A big thank you to M&D for your endless love and for putting up with my (sometimes spur-of-the-moment) decisions, for all your work and help in planning (and funding!) this trip, I cannot say thank-you enough! I promise to write home as often as I can :)

SO what exactly will we be doing in Rwanda? We are going to be south of the capital city, Kigali, in a small community called Gashora, where we will be working with the host partner, Building Bridges With Rwanda run by Llama Mugabo, and COVAGA (Cooperative of Weavers of Gashora) to build a community center to help fight poverty in the community, while alleviating the environmental problem that is wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes Region of East Africa.  The water hyacinth is an aquatic herb present in many freshwater bodies in Africa, and it is drying up entire lakes, strangling out other agricultural water crops, obstructing electricity generation, irrigation, navigation, and fishing by completely overrunning important bodies of water.  The women of COVAGA harvest the plant and weave baskets from its leaves which they then sell for a profit.  The water hyacinth is becoming a renewable resources that provides economic development along with environmental protection; we will be building a community center where the women of COVAGA will be able to weave these baskets together, in a safe place.  We will mostly be working with the locals on the building and spending time with the community's children.  On the weekends we will be doing a safari through Akagera National Park, spending time in the capital of Kigali and some of us will visit the gorillas in the Virunga Volcano National Park, where Dian Fossey spent a huge portion of her life working to protect the gorillas.  We will also be visiting some of the genocide museums in Kigali where those who were murdered in the 1994 genocide that took the lives of a million Rwandans, are honored and remembered, an experience that I expect will be extremely difficult and humbling. 

As a visitor to this country that has experienced so much hate, destruction and murder at the hands of its own citizens, I feel that it is my responsibility to educate myself, to the best of my abilities before (and while) I visit, on the events that occured so I can try to understand some of the immense loss that the survivors have dealt with and continue to deal with on a daily basis.  It is also interesting So far, I have read A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali, God Sleeps in Rwanda, The Book of Negroes, Left to Tell: Discovering God Admist the Rwandan Holocaust, and I have seen Hotel Rwanda, Gorillas in the Mist, Dimache a la Piscine en Kigali, Out of Africa and I Dreamed of Africa.  I still hope to be able to read Shake Hands With The Devil, An Imperfect Offering, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families before I go. I will be reading Eat, Pray, Love for the first time while I am there, which I am very excited about!

After my volunteering for 4 weeks, myself and another girl from UVic will be flying to Nairobi for a couple nights where we will start a 3 week safari tour with TopDeck Safari/ATP Group/Africa Travel Co. where we will be camping the whole time and travelling with 20 other 18-30 year olds in the Serengeti, visiting (and hopefully scuba diving!) the beautiful island of Zanzibar, Lake Malawi, and continuing south to end in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  We fly out of Lusaka, Zambia on July 13th through Ethiopia and London and I will arrive home in Vancouver on July 14th for my Dad's birthday!

43 days and counting till I leave! We fly out of Vancouver on Saturday, May 15.  I'll keep you posted more as it gets closer to the day. Thanks for reading!


For more information on DWC:

orlarose says:
So excited to hear more about the trip as it happens, Shan!

I hope that your first few days are going wonderfully- I can't even imagine what an adventure you are in the midst of :)

Love you,
Posted on: May 17, 2010
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