From Dream to Reality: My Heartfelt Journey as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer

Written by CorpsAfrica/Rwanda Volunteer Ms. Jeannette Uwiringiyimana

Application process

I became interested in becoming a CorpsAfrica Volunteer after learning about CorpsAfrica’s mission and their approach. This mission greatly motivated me, and I felt compelled to apply to join as a Volunteer. My desire to give back to society and share the experiences I’ve gained with others, to contribute to sustainable development, was a driving force.

I believe that volunteering with CorpsAfrica will provide me with valuable opportunities to enhance my leadership skills, gain a deeper understanding of rural community life, collaborate with community members to address issues using the available resources, advocate for positive change where feasible, and broaden my experiences, ultimately making me more competitive in various aspects of life. I am eager to make a meaningful impact in the communities I serve through this volunteer experience.

Interview process

I submitted my application immediately when I first saw the call for applications. However, I didn’t receive the email invitation for the interview. My strong desire to become an African volunteer, combined with my curiosity, led me to visit the office for an interview even though I hadn’t received an official email invitation.

Upon my unexpected arrival at the office, the staff was taken aback and questioned how I could come for an interview without an invitation email. I responded with confidence, explaining that I had come to inquire if there might be an opportunity for me to interview, potentially filling in for individuals who were invited but didn’t show up.

The staff informed me that everyone who had been invited had indeed attended their interviews and that I couldn’t proceed without an official invitation email. They advised me to return home and wait to see if I received an invitation email that would grant me the opportunity to interview.

I returned home, but I was left feeling dissatisfied and somewhat disheartened by the information I received. I patiently waited, checking my email regularly in hopes of receiving the elusive invitation. When the invitation email finally arrived, I was overjoyed. I promptly prepared myself and attended the interview with confidence. It felt like a dream come true, especially considering the journey I had undertaken to get to that point in the process.

During pre-service training(PST)

I successfully passed the interview, and my excitement grew as I regularly checked my email. When I received the email inviting me to attend the Pre-Service Training (PST) at Amakuza Resort, commencing on August 13, 2023, I was overjoyed. It was a significant step towards becoming a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, and I understood that completing the PST was a requirement for all Volunteers.

Life during the PST was truly rewarding. I participated in various sessions aimed at equipping trainees with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively engage with rural communities and support their journey towards sustainable development. The training covered topics such as Volunteer competencies, community-led development, CorpsAfrica’s approaches, and more. We also had practical exercises, icebreakers, and even an overnight mail activity.

One of the most memorable experiences during PST was our field trip to the Liberation Trail. This trip was impactful, as it deepened my understanding of the history of my country and the heroic deeds that had shaped it. It further motivated me to continue my path as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, as I realized the potential to make a positive difference in the lives of many people by encouraging and facilitating sustainable development within communities.

During PST, I eagerly anticipated learning about my assigned site. The news finally arrived in the second week of training, and I was filled with excitement. I began imagining the activities I would be involved in, such as creating kitchen gardens, drying dishes, and digging, all to contribute to the development of my community. I also began researching the norms and culture of the community I would be serving.

My journey culminated on September 22, 2023, with the swearing-in ceremony. This was the day I had eagerly awaited, marking the official beginning of my role as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer. From that moment, I was ready and committed to making a positive impact in my assigned community.

Deployment to site

On the morning of September 24, 2023, we boarded a bus heading to our assigned site. I arrived at my site at around 4:00 PM, filled with curiosity and anticipation about the place, my host family, and the local leaders in the community. To my delight, my host mother and the local leaders were waiting for my arrival. I had already spoken to my host mother before boarding the bus, and the local leaders had been informed about the arrival of an African volunteer in their village.

Upon reaching my site, both my host family and the local leaders greeted me warmly with hugs and genuine happiness. Their enthusiastic welcome filled me with joy. I took the opportunity to introduce myself, sharing information about the mission and approaches that CorpsAfrica employs. In return, the local leaders introduced themselves and provided valuable insights about the village I was going to serve.

I began the process of familiarizing myself with the landmarks, social dynamics, and economic activities in my village. This involved learning about agriculture, and the local road infrastructure, and collaborating with my host family and the local leaders. My site was notably beautiful, characterized by a flat landscape without the challenging hills present in some areas.

Throughout my integration process, I actively engaged in various activities, including assisting my host family with household chores, such as cooking and cleaning, and helping gather grass for feeding the cows. I also attended community assemblies at both the village and cell (administrative division) levels and participated in community meetings with local “Isibo” groups.

Furthermore, I played a role in teaching 70 people in my village how to create compost using Effective Microorganism (EM) technology. This initiative was aimed at addressing the issue of a lack of manure, which had been affecting crop yields. The community members were enthusiastic about this technology, and we successfully produced around 2 tons of manure within four households. We are expecting a 50% increase in harvest as a result. Additionally, I taught them how to create manure at the Isibo group level, and I continue to guide them in this area.

I also mobilized the community to adopt various practices, including smart waste disposal, rope-making, enrolling in health insurance (mutuelle de santé), drying dishes, cultivating kitchen gardens, and planting diverse crops alongside existing crops without compromising harvests. These efforts contribute to sustainable development and environmental conservation. The community members even engaged in community mapping by creating a map of our village, further strengthening our collaborative efforts.

While this is just the commencement of my journey as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, I eagerly anticipate the unfolding chapters of my journey and, above all, the potential for me to become an effective catalyst for enduring community-led development. One thing is certain: this experience will forever remain the most cherished moment of my life.”

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