By Kate Hawkins
World Vision Youth Ambassador
Fredericton, New Brunswick
I am not a loud person. I don’t raise my hand in class, I avoid speeches like the plague, and I would prefer to listen to your problems then have to share my own. However, if I had known what I was getting into upon applying to the Youth Ambassadorship program, I would have been excited from the moment I sent in my application. If there was any hesitation in my heart, it was unwarranted. The experience I had was incredibly powerful, and I couldn’t be more thankful that I allowed myself to be pushed into a position of leadership (as I continually allow to happen), to begin my journey in an area that I am extremely passionate about.
The first week of the trip was spent in Toronto. We spent our days at the World Vision head office in meetings with World vision employees, and our nights bonding over an acoustic guitar. This is about when I began to realize just how admirable the work that World Vision is doing truly is. The employees that we met with were so enthusiastic about their work. In meetings we learned a lot about the change that World Vision has made in the last few years, and the progress that they intend to create. I was in awe of the change that can occur when a large and organized group of like-minded people get together. That first week was the perfect way to get to know each other and connect before we began the more intense part of our trip.
The first morning that I woke up in Rwanda, I was in shock. I took some time before breakfast to write about the stunning scenery: “When we arrived last night it was dark, and I couldn’t see all this beauty lying around me in silence, waiting for this glorious morning light and idyllic weather to come alive. I woke up and had my breath taken away by a beauty that seemed to be almost breathing, rising with the heat.” Rwanda’s landscape blew me away, but its people shocked me even more. The World Vision staff welcomed us at the airport with unreserved hugs and kisses. Everyone we met greeted us with the same loving openness. In Rwanda everyone was a brother and a sister.
We visited many hopeful projects that World Vision had a hand in. Their Area Development Programs (ADP’S) were complete, supportive communities. We had learned about the structure of these development programs while we were in Toronto, so it was interesting to see that system in action. We took the time to play with children from each ADP, and their absolute joy was an inspiration. They blew bubbles and played soccer with every ounce of their beings. I often remarked that their parents were inestimably patient with their children, who were usually buzzing with energy. Of course, it can’t be ignored that there were also children who wanted to play, but couldn’t. Out of hunger, or out of sadness, they stood stock still, seeming to be in a constant state of waiting.
We truly got the chance to connect with other young people at the Youth Forum. The forum was composed mostly of teens that grew up in World Vision development programs. They all had incredible stories. Many had been orphaned in the genocide, had lived in extreme poverty or had had to fight for the education they had received. One thing they all had in common was their vision for the future of their communities. They were leaders, and their background had helped to shape the vision they were now supporting. They spoke well, and with clear determination. Of course, they were also normal youth, who didn’t shy away from asking if you had a boyfriend, or if you liked hip hop. I can’t imagine a better combination of attributes. They were the kind of people who created instant friendships.
I will always cherish my time with these people, and this land. They have lit a spark within me, and left me with a burning desire to help their country, as well as all those in need. I want to see them grow and develop for the better. I want to help them achieve their good and feasible goals. I have the highest hopes for this place, and I keep their beautiful faces in my prayers. Rwanda has left me a new person. I am may not be a loud person, but for this, I will speak-up.