Chloe, an undergraduate student from ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, joined the SolarSPELL project in fall 2017 and traveled with the team to Rwanda. The following is an anecdote from her experience:

When I would tell people that I was going to Rwanda on an implementation trip for SolarSPELL, their expression would quickly shift to one of concern and the first thing they would ask was “is it safe?” This reaction would always sadden me. Of course there is always a chance of risk when one travels, but there also is one every time one gets in a car. Regardless of this point, Rwanda was recently ranked the 9th safest country in the world according to World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. Their ranking was right after Switzerland (8) and above Australia (22), the United Kingdom (78), and the United States (84). So many people would never even think to travel Rwanda because of an event that happened 23 years ago and many of those people reside in countries that are ranked far below Rwanda in safety and security. These are just statistics, however, and I never let statistics shape my expectations of a country I am traveling to because I have always found my experience is far more complicated than a number. My experience in Rwanda has once again proven the importance of travel and cross cultural collaboration, and I could not be more grateful to SolarSPELL for giving me the quintessential opportunity to do so.

Since my arrival to the land of 1,000 hills, there has not been one unpleasant moment. The luscious green landscape of the country is breathtaking, but what truly has made my experience is the intelligent, passionate, and kind people I have met. One of the purposes of SolarSPELL’s 2018 Implementation & Training Trip to Rwanda was to engage Bridge2Rwanda Scholars on content curation for the East African Library. The Bridge2Rwanda (B2R) Scholars’ Program has built a fellowship of globally educated, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa. It is a rigorous program that identifies and prepares Rwanda’s most talented and promising students to compete for international scholarships. Their goal is to prepare B2R Scholars to succeed as international students and to live with purpose as future leaders of Africa. The SolarSPELL Team’s first week in Rwanda was working with the B2R Scholars on content curation for the East African Library.

During this week, I had the opportunity to interact with the scholars through conversations both in the classroom and over meals. I can honestly say I have not met a more interesting or interested group of individuals. The scholars are primarily from Rwanda, but also from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Each one of them are among the top (if not the top) students from their home country. Their stories and dedication to continue the development of their countries are beyond inspiring. Every conversation was an in-depth discussion and cultural exchange that has developed me further as a global citizen. Thanks to the partnership of the two organizations and this week of engaging with them, I am now fortunate enough to say I have met some of the most incredible young adults of my generation who will continuously change our world for the better.

I have always appreciated SolarSPELL’s bottom-up approach to curate locally sourced library material with the oversight of the impacted community. Now, however, SolarSPELL’s future in a region has never been brighter. SolarSPELL will be taking on 10 interns from the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars to lead content curation, provide school trainings and technology support. This allows SolarSPELL to empower communities in new ways we have never before by having individuals from the impacted communities at the forefront of our efforts. The SolarSPELL team is stronger than ever and I could not be more eager to see what we will accomplish in the coming months.