The most basic answer to this is that I’m doing my dream job. I am working at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, which is a residential community that gives the most vulnerable youth in Rwanda with an opportunity to thrive in safe environment. They are provided with a high school education, an artificial family with whom they live with, and opportunities to explore different hobbies and talents. I have two roles in the Village.
In my professional role, I work as part of the Monitoring and Evaluations team to measure impact and collect data. The information I gather and the reports that I write are used to inform decision-making throughout the organization. It is a lot of data collection, analytics, and reporting. Though it may sound dull on the surface, it is something I ultimately enjoy. There is a surprising creative component to it which I thoroughly appreciate.
My second role is to be a “cousin” to one of the artificial families. Seven of the eight fellows here serve as cousins, and it is a core part of the fellowship experience. On paper, the role of the cousin is to be a mentor, advisor, and serve as a way to “bring the world to the kids.” We expose the students to different ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. In some cases, I am one of the few white people that my girls have ever interacted with. Like most meaningful positions, the role is so much more beyond the job description. I feel completely included in the family dynamic and I make sure to let that shine through.
My daily schedule looks something like this:
6:15 Wake up, consider working out
6:30 either hit snooze or do my workout
7:30 shower, get ready for the day, eat a breakfast of fresh fruit and tea
8:00 Monday: lazy morning day, I normally take my time getting ready
Tuesday/Friday: Market day (my favourite way to start the morning). The local town of Rubona hosts market day these mornings. It is about a 2km walk away from ASYV and this is where we stock up on all of our produce
Wednesday/Thursday: meetings/trainings regarding my cousin role
9:30-1: Work time! My days are beyond flexible but normally I have a few meetings each morning with time to work on various projects in between.
1-2: lunch with the kiddos in the dining hall
2-4: more work time, typically I don’t have many meetings in the afternoon so I take this time to sit outside and continue working on projects or respond to emails
4-5: either more work, or some days each week I meet with the debate team or the Model UN team, which are both clubs I advise on campus
5-6: I try to take this hour for myself each day. The Village is a wonderful place, but it can be overstimulating so some alone time can be needed
6-7: flex hour; I either take this time to finish up some work for the day, respond to emails, keep resting, attend to personal matters, or start cooking if I decide not to eat at the dining hall that night
7-8: dinner in the dining hall or cooking time/dinner with my roommates in staff housing
8-9ish: family time! My favourite part of the day. This is when I join my girls in the family home to just hang out as a family. Sometimes we do activities, other nights we discuss different issues that family members may be coping with, and some nights we have special programming or guests. Each night a different girl in my family leads family time. Family time also only occurs in English in my family so it is also a relaxed time for my girls to practice English without the pressure of a formal classroom. Most importantly, it is a time for bonding filled with lots of love.
Whenever family time ends: My roommates and myself have this ritual where we decompress each night by eating fruit and chocolate and discussing our days. Though we all live and work together, it isn’t uncommon for us not to see each other all day due to the nature of our positions. After sitting with them for awhile I often spend some time talking to various people back home and responding to any last emails. Once I’m throughly exhausted I’ll head to bed, normally around 11 or so.
Time off: Yes, of course I get time off! Every other weekend I have the chance to leave the Village from Friday-Monday. ASYV has a house in Kigali that it lets us stay in. It is very centrally located near bars, food, and shopping. It is a time for us to unwind and also run errands in the city. In coming months I plan to take these weekends to explore other parts of Rwanda as well. Weekends in the Village are pretty mellow. We all get up and do exercise and farm work at 6:30am on Saturday, but then at around 11 or so I have no scheduling for the day. I often do meet and train with the clubs, or do other work. However, it is all on my own schedule. My friends and I also often leave the Village to go to the local bar about a half mile up the road from us on weekend nights.
ASYV is an amazing place- you only need to spend a few minutes with one of our kids to see that. Everyday I feel so grateful to be part of a team of people that are so dedicated to the work that they do. Though I came to the Village with the mentality to give, I find myself receiving so much. I have never been so welcomed into an environment (let alone into a space that is a job). I wish that everyone I know and love has the chance to visit and experience such an incredible place.