Rwanda is often called The Land of a Thousand Hills, and for good reason. No matter where you are in the evening, a valley of endless lights is present before you. “Kigali by night,” the locals tell me over and over. It is mesmerizing. As my trip comes to an end, Rwandans have asked me how I have liked their country. Truthfully, I respond that I have loved it, that it is a beautiful place filled with wonderful people.
While rapid change has taken place here over the last 18 years, there is still much to be done. There is a blanket of death covering this small country, as everyone here has somehow been affected by the genocide. Many are sole survivors of entire families, some are orphans who became head of households at a young age, there are those who were purposefully infected by HIV, and many who are psychologically disturbed by the utterly horrific events that occurred. Additionally, there continue to be many needless deaths due to lack of health infrastructure.
There are however, incredible projects being undertaken here that have seen record-breaking results. Partners in Health came to Rwanda in 2005, and the HIV rates have dropped from 17% to current day 3% of those tested. Efforts to reduce mother to child infection have been nearly 100% successful. The Access Project and many other smaller scale operations aim to create efficient and reliable health centers in all areas of the country. Family planning, education and nutrition have become priorities. Most importantly, a full circle approach has been taken to create sustainable results.
Rwanda is a rich country with such great potential. Amazing coffee, tea, fruits, and beautiful hand made crafts are all cultivated here. Some of the worlds last silverback gorillas inhabit Rwanda’s national parks. The people are warm, loving, loyal, intelligent, and hard working. I hope you all have a chance to visit The Land of a Thousand Hills to see for yourself!