Interning with SEP: Embracing Postive Peace
Before I even arrived in Rwanda, I knew that interning with Shalom Educating for Peace (SEP) would be a transformative experience. What initially attracted me to SEP was that it was a small, grassroots organization with a lot of passion and solidarity with communities in Rwanda. Jean de Dieu Basabose truly care about individuals in the community and working toward positive peace in Rwanda through education; his passion and kind heart are contagious.
During my internship I was not only doing office work like what so often happens during internships. In addition to editing a curriculum, researching, drafting proposals, and creating pamphlets I was also able to give a presentation on community dialogue to community members in Rulindo, learn about the history of Rwanda at the Genocide Memorial, attend a radio taping, and meet children who are a part of SEP’s many educational programs. I also was able to stay with a host family who were very kind and made me feel at home during my time in Rwanda, the land of 1,000 beautiful hills.
One of the most special experiences for me was learning about the concept of Ubupfura and seeing Jean de Dieu’s passion to create communities who live by ethical principles. Ubupfura is a Kinyarwanda word, which is difficult to translate into English, but encompasses all positive values including integrity, honesty, empathy, and dignity. The concept itself is very important to anti-corruption education in Rwanda and learning about this project has truly inspired me. Corruption of any kind undermines peacebuilding practices so in order to foster a more peaceful world Ubupfura values and holistic education is needed.
During a visit to the Rulindo district I was able to meet with some children who had gone through the Ubupfura educational program. They performed a poem they had written about Ubupfura and it was heartening to see their sweet, earnest faces reciting this poem they had created. It was very emotional and touched my heart to see young people choosing to embrace the golden rule in their hearts and treat others as they would want to be treated themselves. Jean de Dieu’s program was truly understood and embraced by the children. One of the girls had resisted stealing fruit with her friends because of the lessons taught by the Ubupfura program.
A phrase that Jean de Dieu repeats often is Gandhi’s phrase, “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we have to begin with children.” After interning with Shalom I now not only know this phrase, but believe peace education is a key to building a more peaceful world. I would like to thank Jean de Dieu, the SEP team, and my host family for this transformational experience. Amahoro (peace) begins within and I am hoping to continue this journey throughout my life.
Michelle is a student from the United States (Michigan) who is currently studying in Japan.