IU in Rwanda

A decade of global change and community partnership

IU students reflect on their time in Rwanda as part of the university's Books and Beyond program.

Indiana University's Books and Beyond program recently celebrated 10 years of collaboration and service in Rwanda. But the program wouldn't be successful without the dedication of hardworking IU students who spend a year working with children in Indiana and Rwanda, fundraising for the trip and creating a program that has made a profound impact on Kabwende Primary School and the nearby community in Rwanda.

Below, meet a few of the IU students who took part in this year's program, spending a month in Rwanda teaching local children, learning about a new culture and coming together as a team ready to effect change and build community.

Sariah Borom, junior studying apparel merchandising, led a readers' skills class and painted a mural at a nearby elementary school. Borom's favorite part of the trip was interacting with Kabwende students, not only teaching them lessons but learning from them as well. "Rwanda has reminded me that joy does not come from material things. So that's the main thing I'll take back with me: that I have to find joy in myself, and not within things or other people."

Natalie Callahan, a senior studying elementary education, taught a writer's workshop. She said she was in awe of the work the Kabwende students put into writing their stories. She was also in awe of the beauty of the country. "My favorite part of the experience has just been driving up to the school every morning. You're just in the van, everybody is getting ready for their day, and you look out and see all these trees, and you see the volcano in the distance, and it's just gorgeous. And it really makes you realize how far you are from home, but how comfortable this place feels, and how amazing it is to be here."

Grace Hartman, a sophomore studying English, conducted a writer's workshop. When she wasn't interacting with her students, Hartman enjoyed diving into the Rwandan culture. "The culture here is incredible. It is simple. They draw on what they have and not what they want. That is what I appreciated the most. Everything and everyone are so genuine and the people here accept you, and although they don't know you, they respect you all the same."

Jesse Jones, a senior studying health care management and policies, worked as a kinesthetics teacher. His favorite part of the experience was interacting with the Kabwende students, who inspired him to better appreciate the educational opportunities he's been afforded. "The students here have shown me the importance of education. Before, I took my education for granted. But seeing how much these students understand the value of education made me appreciate the opportunities I've been given, to be a student at Indiana University."

Caroline Kocot, a senior studying social work, worked as a reader's theater teacher. She said the experience was not only life-changing on a personal level, but it provided invaluable firsthand experience she plans to use in her career. "In social work, one of our biggest things is cultural competency. So I can say, now that I've been to Africa, I was in a culture where I was the minority. I was very uncomfortable at first, but it was something that I think really stretched me. And it's going to help me relate to my clients more in the future."

Solomon Mabry, a senior studying English, taught English to P4 through P6 students (equivalent to Grades 4 to 6 in the U.S.). Having a desire to travel since he was a child, Mabry said education has allowed him to fulfill his dreams. "I would definitely encourage students to have a study abroad experience just because it's really eye-opening to see a different culture and a different way of living. And a lot of people in America, they're kind of in their comfort zones, so studying abroad takes you out of that comfort zone, and its kind of forces you to reinterpret the way you live life."

Brendan Moore, a junior studying linguistics and computer science, taught English classes. Moore, who hopes to become a linguistics professor, said that traveling abroad has enriched his college experience; he previously spent two months in South Africa. "I think anyone who has the opportunity should go abroad, because it's just amazing to experience other cultures, meet new people and make new friends."

Courtney Vaughn, a senior studying psychology and Spanish, was a readers' theater teacher. She said it was the people on the trip -- the students and teachers at Kabwende, IU faculty and her fellow IU students -- who made the trip so memorable. "The group was amazing. I really don't think that it would have been this amazing of an experience if it was any other group. I've said this a million times, but we're all super like-minded, and we all wanted the same end goal."

Alyssa Woolard, a sophomore studying media and international studies, documented the experience for Books and Beyond. "This program really combined my two majors. I got to film everything, so that definitely gave me a lot of media experience. And I learned a ton just from being on the ground and having to film in another country. I definitely had to learn on my feet, and coming back to America I'll bring those experiences with me. Being in another country for this long taught me a lot about different issues with human rights, and I have become more passionate specifically about education."

Description of the following video:

[Words appear: Indiana University presents]


[Video: Indiana University students making an impact in Rwanda]


[Video: Close-up of Indiana University students sitting and waving at the camera]


Student Grace Hartman speaks: My experience in Rwanda in one word would be …


[Video: Close-up of student Courtney Vaughn holding a motorized saw to cut through a rubber tire.]


Vaughn speaks: Transformative.


[Video: Student Jesse Jones is on a grassy lawn with Rwandan students, directing them in a kinesthetics class. The students begin to run.]


Jones speaks: Beautiful.


[Video: Student Caroline Kocot is sitting on the grass playing a game of duck duck goose with Rwandan students.]


Kocot speaks: Thrill ride.


[Video: Student Brendan Moore is in a classroom conducting an English lesson with Rwandan students.]


Moore speaks: Amazing.


[Video: Student Natalie Callahan is squatting next to the desk of a student at Kabwende Primary school during a lesson. She speaks to the boy, whose teacher is also looking over his shoulder.]


Callahan speaks: Impactful.


[Video: Student Solomon Mabry is in a classroom demonstrating, his arms moving as if he's swinging a baseball bat, to a group of students.]


Mabry speaks: Different.


[Video: Student Sariah Borom is sitting on the grass in a circle of Rwandan students while they play a game.]


Borom speaks: Humility.


[Video: Student Grace Hartman is lifting a colored piece of wood up to create a structure for a school playground. She is assisted by a teacher and another IU student.]


Kocot speaks: It's been simple.



[Screen goes to black]


[IU trident appears]

[Words appear: Indiana University]

[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]

[Words appear: iu.edu]