A healing nation values service among neighbors
The last Saturday of each month, Peace Corps Volunteer Kayla Britt (’09, Communications) joins in a national Rwandan healing ritual that is part work party, part social gathering.
Umuganda is a national day of service bringing neighbors together to socialize and build schools, houses, roads – and a stronger sense of community. It’s one of many ways Rwanda hopes to prevent another atrocity like the 1994 Rwandan Genocide that killed as many as 1 million people.
Recently, Britt joined people in her rural, remote village to build new classrooms at the local school.
“People were very impressed I was carrying stones,” Britt says. “It’s not very ladylike. People were asking, ‘You don’t even want to rest?’”
Britt, from Lacey, lives and works in the village’s health center, where the other women often treat her as their little sister. But strangers sometimes wonder if Britt’s own history is intertwined with the Rwandan Genocide.
Many Rwandan children with a Belgian parent were evacuated to Belgium during the genocide, Britt says. They have since returned as adults and are readjusting to the culture and language of their birth.
“Lots of times people assume I’m one of those returned children,” says Britt, whose parents are African-American and Filipino. “It’s a delicate thing, when I meet people who have different assumptions about me, how I should be acting and which culture I should be embracing.”