Thirty eight students participated in the Communal cleaning exercise, “Umuganda” a term in Kinyarwanda that is loosely translated to mean “coming together to achieve a common purpose” in English. This is a cultural Rwandese practice carried out every last Saturday of the month where community members meet to clean and organize their neighborhoods. The cleaning exercise is followed by short dialogue where community members discuss concerns, celebrations and how to promote development in their communities. The intent of the practice is to promote community cohesion and unity. The exercise was carried out in the Nyakabanda Administrative Cell where the AIMS Rwanda Center is located.

The whole exercise was fun for me. It gave me an opportunity to work physically with my hands which I had not done in a long time. It was also an opportunity for me to give back to the country which made me feel great since I am hosted in Rwanda and receiving from Rwanda,” Ibrahim Michael Olusegun, AIMS Rwanda Scholar from Nigeria.

AIMS Scholars, AIMS Rwanda staff and community members had an opportunity to interact with the Vice Mayor, Social Affairs and two Members of Parliament during this process where they learnt more about the Rwandan culture and development. AIMS Students also had an opportunity to interact with children attending Gabiro Primary School.

I had so much fun during the cleaning exercise. While it was very hot, interacting with community members and the children gave me a very different perspective on the Rwandan culture and people. The children were so open to learning and I was able to interact with one student on Mathematics. One of the mothers kept taking so much care of me during the process, offering me water and biscuits which I found extremely considerate. This connection made us build a relationship with her and she invited us to visit her family. This was the best part of the exercise for me, bringing different people together,” Aishatt Abbas, AIMS Rwanda Scholar from Nigeria.

During the exercise, students worked to unblock several drainages, created additional water drainage trenches and removed a lot of the bush and shrub that was in the area. Students also participated in the community dialogue asking questions about Rwanda in general and the socio-economic development of the country. This program is in tandem with AIMS community immersion principle and particularly resonates with Master Card Foundation’s give back component of the MasterCard Scholars Program.

Find more picture about the event on Flickr, click here.