Written by CorpsAfrica/Rwanda Volunteer Ms. Funny Maseya (a Malawian Exchange Volunteer serving in Rwanda)
Serving as an Exchange Volunteer was my greatest dream. Once I received the mail that I was one of the shortlisted to serve in Rwanda, I could not contain my excitement. Part of me was convinced that it was going to be a tough journey this scared the hell out of me. I told myself “You can do this, it is not the first time, the difference is that it will be a new country”. With that mindset, I made up my mind to go for it!
When I reached Rwanda, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was excited, the other part was nervous; partly because I did not know how the people were going to receive me. But I remembered the first time I had a conversation with the CorpsAfrica/Rwanda Country Director; she said to me, “We are happy to have you in Rwanda, and we will make sure that your experience in Rwanda is worth your stay when it comes to empowering our communities, we are hard-working people, which I promise you! And you won’t regret your stay”. Then I convinced myself not to worry and I started enjoying much profits from staying in Rwanda.
I was hosted by a very lovely family. Their three kids were so happy to have me around and this just melted my heart.
I started attending a Local language class and met with other exchange volunteers from Senegal and Morocco. The excitement of my fellow exchange volunteers and our teacher made it easier to cope up with everyone. I couldn’t wait to learn the Ikinyarwanda language, the first word that I learnt was Muraho meaning Hello. I couldn’t wait to practice it on my host family’s kids. The kids laughed at me because of how I was pronouncing the words, it was fun.
Later, I joined my fellow volunteers for a month-long training. It was an exciting moment, learning new skills and knowledge. Spending time in my Ikinyarwanda class and practicing the language, I couldn’t wait to be deployed to my community. To be honest, I was still nervous as to how I was going to communicate with my community members. Luckily enough, I was partnered with my fellow volunteer from Rwanda.
On the first day in my community, I was received by my new host family. I couldn’t wait to introduce myself using the local language. When they welcomed us inside the house, my host mother greeted me,
“Muraho, amakuru? (Hello, how are you?)
I replied “Muraho, amakuru ni meza (hello, I’m very fine)”.
The smile of pride that came out from her, melted my heart. I knew the importance of learning people’s local language.
Later I started community integration and I attended meetings just to get to know my community and for them to know me. My community members thought I would not be able to speak Ikinyarwanda, so I said to them, “Mvuga Ikinyarwanda buhorobuhoro (I speak Ikinyarwanda but only basic words”. And in amazement, they said to each other “Azakimenya (she will learn better with time). The smiles on their face were just unexplainable. So here is how I introduced myself “Nitwa Fanney, nturuka muri Malawi, ndi umukorerabushake wa CorpsAfrica, ndi hano gukorana namwe kandi nishimiye Kubabona (I’m Fanney, from Malawi, a volunteer from CorpsAfrica and I’m here to work with them and happy to see you”.
Just like that my community members gladly welcomed me. The fun part is that, despite them knowing I don’t know the language, they are always eager to chat with me. This makes me happy! Indeed, home is not where your house is built, but where lovely people are.