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Published on June 30th, 2014 | by Taylor Dempsey

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Life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa: Exploring Rwanda

We recently had our second to last school break, and I decided to take a little vacation to neighboring Rwanda with two of my friends. We tore some pages out of our East Africa guidebook and caught the night bus from capital to capital: Kampala, Uganda to Kigali, Rwanda.

We spent our first day at the National Genocide Memorial. It was quite a somber thing to do on a vacation, but also an important one.

The genocide of the Tutsi people by the Hutus took place just 20 years ago. In 2 weeks, over a million people were killed for no reason other than for being who they were. The memorial was extremely graphic and emotional, with a room of torn and bloody clothes that people were massacred in, victims’ skulls cracked with hammers and split by machetes, and an entire exhibit dedicated to the children of the genocide, with vivid descriptions about how they were killed, who tried to save them, and what their last words were.

It is unbelievable to me that the Rwandan Genocide happened so recently, in my own lifetime. We need to remember it, to learn about it and from it, to talk about it. If you don’t know much about the genocide, the film Hotel Rwanda is a great place to start.

It was difficult to walk around Kigali after seeing the memorial, and not think about what each person I encountered must have experienced in 1994, how it must have damaged them and how it must shape their current world. At one point my friend remarked that she would be surprised if there was a single person in the country without PTSD, and sadly I had to agree.

Not all of our trip was as heavy as that first day. We also climbed a volcano, relaxed on a beautiful lake, and slept in a cliff side cabin. But a week later, back home in Uganda, I’m still reflecting on the memorial and the horrible history that Rwanda has to struggle with every day.

Questions and comments welcome at taylordempsey9@gmail.com.


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