SCUSD students honored for humanitarian work in Rwanda
Teens spent 28 days in East African nation this summer

e-Connections Post C.K. McClatchy
Click on image to see full slideshow

SCUSD’s Board of Education on Thursday honored eight C.K. McClatchy High School students who spent 28 days this summer in the East African nation of Rwanda.

The students participated in the AfriPeace Youth Peace and Cultural Education Program, which provides young adults with opportunities to learn about African culture, history and society while performing humanitarian work.

This is the fifth year CKM has worked with AfriPeace to build a bridge to better global understanding for students.

“I really enjoy these trips because I get to see the students react to and then embrace Africa,” said teacher-guide Jeremy Predko, SCUSD’s Coordinator of Instructional Technology, who has led four of the five past trips to Africa.

“I enjoy hearing them talk about how friendly, giving and generous the people they meet are,” Predko said. “They are shocked to meet people who have so little but can give so much. I know the trip has been successful when, as the trip nears its end, the students want to stay for another month. Although they miss their family and friends, they want to continue their cultural immersion.”

In prior AfriPeace trips, students visited Nigeria and Ghana. This year’s trip to Rwanda presented a chance for students to experience a country reconciling itself to the aftermath of 1994’s horrific genocide, which claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000.

Talking to genocide widows had a profound effect on students, said CKM senior Celia Ringstrom. “I was changed in my understanding of forgiveness and what it means,” Ringstrom said. “(The widows) weren’t saying to forget but to remember and move on. Forgiveness benefited them as well as others.”

Students visited historical museums, non-governmental organizations, genocide memorials and national parks. They also met the Rwandan President of the Senate and the Minister of Justice. 

Throughout the school year before the trip, the students raised almost $2,000 through car washes and bake sales, and gathered nine suitcases full of supplies which were donated to the people of Mayaga, a small rural village consisting mostly of genocide refugees and their families.

During their week stay in Mayaga, students helped build a workshop for a vocational training school using the money they raised.

“Before the trip, I had no idea what it was like to live so minimally, thinking about how to feed yourself and where to find clean water,” said Zachery Ramos-Taylor, who recently graduated from McClatchy and now attends UC Santa Cruz. “Now I appreciate more of what I have and I try not to judge others.” 

Students also embraced Rwandan culture by trying unusual foods (fish eyes, goat stomachs), participating in traditional dances, bargaining at the markets, hiking through jungles, playing football with village and street children and staying at the homes and parishes of local families and churches.

Ramos-Taylor said he learned to appreciate Rwanda as “a great country. I slowly learned that Rwanda was more than just a memorial site for genocide.”