Senior pupils from Kirkcaldy High experienced the trip of a lifetime when they embarked on an educational journey to Rwanda.
Nine pupils and three staff members travelled to east-central Africa on Friday, September 27 for two weeks, arriving back in the town on October 10.
They were Ben Saunders, Gavin Cook, Bill Murray, Kieron Pryce, Suzie Mahr, Gillian Cunningham, Sophie McIntyre, Zaynan Galbraith, Lauren Daniels, Esha Aslam, Dominika Kaliszuk Valente and Hannah Denholm.
This was the sixth visit for Suzie Mahr, who teaches religious and moral education (RME) at the school – but it was the first time pupils had the opportunity to find out first-hand what life is like for young people in Rwanda.
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The visit was arranged by Kirkcaldy High with Comfort International, a charity set up 20 years ago to help those in the war-torn country who have been affected by poverty, genocide and conflict, to rebuild their lives.
Suzie said the trip was a success: “Being KHS’ first trip out to Rwanda, we were pretty open-minded about expectations, but our Kirkcaldy team, students and staff, embraced the Rwandan people wholeheartedly and have come back to Scotland with their stories to relay to others,” she said.
“The pupils got on really well, although some found the early mornings tough going!
“Their enjoyment came through to us in so many ways.
“For some it was their motivation to keep pushing themselves out of their comfort zones whilst for others it was the relationship-building with the locals that proved to be their most satisfying aspect of the trip.”
She said the workshops run by the pupils on sports, games, crafts and music were well received.
Suzie continued: “We played football, volleyball and rugby with various groups. The group is now a big fan of the Rwandan sport game called “agati”, something they want to try and teach in PE in possible now that they have returned.
“We did various sessions where music and dance were prominent elements.
“We taught “500 Miles” to several communities around Kigali, including our partner school, Groupe Scolaire Bumbogo.
“Lauren was a star with pulling her Highland dancing skills out when needed and luckily we had Dr Murray with his fiddle and Hannah with her ukulele for live musical input.
“The Rwandans were fascinated with the fiddle – they could not get their head around a ‘guitar’ being played in this way!”
Gavin and Kieron got on really well when they taught the young Rwandans how to play rugby.
They also donated rugby balls to the street kids rescue project at Gasanze which is run by Comfort International.
Suzie said the Comfort Babies Project was delighted with the knitted blankets they took over: “We cannot thank the knitting group at Kelty Community Centre enough for these donations.
“The Comfort Babies project was only setup a few years ago by CI and these donations are invaluable as baby items in Rwanda are generally very expensive.”
The group only managed half a day at the project but Suzie said the positive difference in women at the project has been extraordinary through training courses and small businesses being set up.
The pupils had also hoped to teach Scots Language to the young Rwandans but it turned out to be the seniors learning their language!
Suzie explained: “It ended up being our pupils who were taught way more Kinyarwandan than the other way around!
“We now have two pupils on the team who can easily beat my Kinyarwandan linguistic skills hands down! Super proud of them for throwing themselves into this as it shows how invested they were in Rwandan culture by the end of the trip.”
She said one of the quietest moments of the trip was a visit to the genocide memorial sites: “There were many discussions both days we went to memorials about how humankind can commit such atrocities. We were impressed with how well they tussled with the subject matter.
“Pupils seemed most affected by the part of the memorials dedicated to the plight of innocent children during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.”
Suzie said the trip to Rwanda had a number of special highlights. She said: “It was the interaction aspect of the trip – we built on the link foundations we already have in Rwanda.
“Relationship building is so important to Rwanda. Rwandans do not ask us to do things for them, they ask that we do things with them and listen to their stories.
“Positive relationship building is key to KHS and our partner school, GS Bumbogo. I think the pupils would definitely say the Street Kids Rescue projects or Comfort Babies was a highlift. For us staff, the highlight is seeing students from KHS grow on a trip such as this.”
Staff hope to lead another trip in 2021.