Home Society A Visit to A Rwandan Village that Moved a Wartburg College Alumnus

A Visit to A Rwandan Village that Moved a Wartburg College Alumnus

by Peter Muyombano
11:58 am

Wartburg College delegation met H.E Paul Kagame on May 21. Olivia is seen standing right behind HE (Picture, Village Urugwiro)

It’s not all visits that move one’s heart strings but a visit by a group of Wartburg College students and alumni to Groupe Scolaire Bare, a 12 Year Basic Education school in Ngoma district, eastern province of Rwanda transformed Olivia McAtee and triggered her mission to support school feeding.

Olivia (in the middle) asks a question during the meeting with the President (Picture, Village Urugwiro)

May 19th 2023 was a special day dedicated to a cultural immersion experience as one of the rewards to the students who were at the end of their 18-day learning trip tour for the May term in Rwanda, a trip during which the delegation met and interacted with H.E President Paul Kagame on May 21.In their trip for the May term in Rwanda, Wartburg students were led by Dr. Brian McQueen, an Associate Professor of Sociology, Criminology, and Criminal Justice at Wartburg, and the course instructor. Dr. McQueen was accompanied by Olivia McAtee, a Wartburg alumnus and a chaperone for the group.

Three other leaders on the trip were Dr. Deborah Johnson-Ross who doubles as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Wartburg, Steve Noah who is a 1971 Wartburg graduate and longtime friend of Rwanda, and Jean Bikomeye, a native of Bare and current doctoral candidate at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the Public and Community Health PhD Program who was invited as a special international teaching scholar.

Students at GS Bare welcome the Wartburg delegation with a delightful traditional dance

At GS Bare, Wartburg Students had a very special reception. The headmaster, father Jean Damascene Maniraho, had all the students out in a square, and their new band and lead singer greeted students. Father Maniraho gave a very brief history of GS Bare and led the Wartburg crew on a school tour. The tour concluded with a brief stop in the school kitchen, in which over 1500 school lunches are prepared every day.

During the tour, the headmaster pointed out some challenges the school faces: “Many students come from families that struggle to pay the $20 per term for the cost of school lunches.” That’s the genesis of the idea to raise funds to pay for the school lunches for 100 students for the entire 2023/2024 school year.

Bikomeye pictured addressing President Paul Kagame on May 21st, 2023, as Olivia looks on (Picture, Village Urugwiro).

Olivia McAtee says the entire visit to the village was a transformational experience for her. “I felt a very special connection with the people in the village. I felt a special connection to the community and wanted to do something beyond a one-day visit,” says Olivia. “When I asked Bikomeye what I could do, he suggested that a small fundraising to support the GS Bare school lunch program would be a perfect start,” added Olivia. “Bikomeye and I had several phone calls, and my mom hosted a dinner meeting with close family friends. An idea of a GoFunMe Page started. I set it up. We are so pleased that people from around the world are supporting this fundraising. We have so far received $ 6,185 in donations, a little over our $6,000 target. The fundraising is still open, and donations are still being accepted. GS Bare will receive 100% of all donated money when the school opens back in September 2023,” concluded Olivia.

The headmaster is very thankful for the efforts. “The support being raised for the 100 students is a critical stepping stone that will significantly contribute to their good future,” said father Maniraho who added that they are looking for more partnerships beyond a one-off donation. “It would be very nice if some of the donors have interest in having a personal connection with the students they have just supported. Maybe pen-paling opportunities might start here,” concluded Father Maniraho.

Olivia (in the middle) asks a question during the meeting with the President (Picture, Village Urugwiro)

The school leaders have already compiled a list of 100 students who will benefit from the funds.

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