Four Suffield faculty members—Lauren Booth ’12, Bryan Brissette, Josh Hillman ’14, and Kaitlyn Nigro ’16—traveled to Rwanda in August at the invitation of SOLA in Kigali. SOLA is an Afghan-led boarding school for Afghan girls; two of their students enrolled at Suffield last August. SOLA hosted faculty members from several schools including St. Paul’s, Kent, and Berkshire. The faculty taught summer enrichment programs for students ranging from pre-6th through 9th grade. Lauren taught art, Bryan did a course on the danger of a single story, Josh focused on outdoor leadership, and Kaitlyn's course was on research methods. Faculty members from other schools taught courses in a range of disciplines to help prepare the girls for the possibility of enrolling at schools in America. On the weekends, faculty members split into groups to experience the country of Rwanda, hiking in Akagera and Nyungwe National Parks, gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park, and visiting the incredibly moving Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Of his time in Rwanda, Josh said, “I have been to six countries and Rwanda was the most fascinating educational tourism experience of my life. I will forever cherish the relationships I created with those I met during my travels and my coworkers.”
Lauren shared, “Essentially, I think my time at SOLA boils down to our class motto ‘All Art is Good Art,’ which was also the theme of the student show. I was able to teach every student at SOLA from pre-6th through 9th grade and it was a joy to encounter so many amazing artists and girls, while also testing my name memorization ability. These students dove into their artwork with the same voracity for learning ‘traditional subjects’ and produced a gorgeous art show at the end of the three weeks I was there.”
Bryan said, “Having the opportunity to work with the girls of SOLA and see their positivity and courage was truly inspirational for me. These young girls have been through a lot, yet remain hopeful for their own future and the future of Afghanistan. Immersing myself in the culture and history of Rwanda and all the country has been through in the recent past was also a moving experience. Considering the nationwide trauma of the genocide just twenty-eight years ago, it is unbelievable to see where the country is presently. Lastly, the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of going on the gorilla trek was amazing. To see these magnificent creatures up close in their natural habitat was incredible. When you look at them and they stare right back at you it is easy to understand that we share 98% of our DNA!”
Kaitlyn stated, “Rwanda is an incredible country filled with beautiful people and landscapes. We visited a tea plantation located at 2,000 meters and the local tea pickers taught us how to harvest tea. Their kindness and humor was a great experience to share with our students.”