Volunteering allows both expats and travellers an opportunity to get involved in a cause, meet locals with big hearts and big ideas, learn a lot about the country you find yourself in and maybe even have a little bit of a positive impact in some people’s lives. A perfect combo! Of course it doesn’t really work if you’re lazy or money-hungry… but if you’re a kind soul with something to give, some spare time and a desire to get involved in your community then we’re here to help you find a place to volunteer in Rwanda.
People searching for volunteering opportunities online before arriving will often be led to pay-to-volunteer programs that charge crazy amounts of money that go way beyond living expenses. Maybe this sort of thing is for you if you have lots of money in the bank and want your hand held through the process, but I’m assuming most people reading this will want to organise something where they’re able to help without having their cash go off into some middleman volunteer vacation company’s pocket.
All of these organisations listed below are the real deal and willing to take volunteers without crazy high mysterious fees (although in most cases you will have to cover your own living costs). I’ve had personal contact with someone at each organisation and have volunteered at some myself so I’m willing to vouch that the work they’re doing is amazing and that they’d be pretty interesting and rewarding places to spend your time.
Drakkar Creativity Boost
Drakkar is a Rwandan social enterprise that distributes books to schools, students, teachers and anyone looking for books in the country. Out of this company has sprung the Drakkar Creativity Boost, a movement of creative people who visit schools throughout Rwanda whose aim is to organise fun and creative afternoons for school children and their teachers. The idea is to develop creativity in kids at a young age (something which my teacher friends say is lacking in the Rwandan schools they’ve worked in) to help them in think critically and solve problems later in life and also to provide interaction with creative role models.
It’s a cool idea and one that people who like working with kids and being creative would really love. One Saturday each month a small group of volunteers visits a low-resource school in a rural or urban area of Rwanda. The group decides on a theme beforehand (this can be in cooperation with a teacher of the school) and organises a creative afternoon for the school children and teachers.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/drakkarcreativityboost
Information Flyer: Download
FAV-Rwanda Transit Center
These guys don’t have a website (I’m working on it as we speak… look for it in the New Year) but they’re doing some really great work with street boys. I’ve visited their center a few times and witnessed a fierce dance competition on one occasion, sat in on a sex-ed lesson from Inga the second and then went back for a big meal prepared by the boys. The center is Rwandan started and run with some funding help from a fund in Luxembourg and the occasional volunteer who are sent through a German organisation.
There’s no housing or anything involved. You’d have to get yourself there each time and probably also come up with your own ideas of how you could help (based on your set of skills) but the boys are great and there’s a lot of opportunity to really have an impact here if you’ll be around for awhile, eager to practice Kinyarwanda, and have a lot of initiative.
Generation Rwanda is a Kigali-based NGO which aims to help orphans and other socially vulnerable young people in Rwanda to pursue a university education by offering scholarships. They have four full time volunteer positions (English Language Instructors, Career Development Associate, and Technology Associate) that are filled on a yearly basis and they can also always use help with specific projects and trainings throughout the year. One of their biggest projects is their student selection process which requires as many hands as possible.
They’re also always interested in making career connections through professional mentors and internship opportunities with businesses in Rwanda so if you think you can help in this way, get in touch.
The Kinamba Project
The Kinamba Project is a school in Kigali that was initially started by the local community to help the most vulnerable children get an opportunity to go to school and is now supported by Meg, a former head teacher in the UK. I stayed at this school on my arrival to Kigali with a friend who was interning there, so I saw the great work they do first-hand.
They’re in need of volunteer teachers to work in the classes alongside Rwandan colleagues and provide training for the teachers and assistants in participatory teaching and learning, particularly in science and mathematics. English teachers are in demand (especially those prepared to work in the evenings to teach the parents at their request) as are artists to work with the children and the adults and anyone willing to help with sports and games for people of all ages. They’re willing to welcome any enthusiastic people and are very open to new ideas.
Rwandan Orphans Project
These guys are an orphanage and a center for street children located just past the airport who provide housing, clothing, food, health care, education and many other needs to nearly 100 vulnerable children from around the country. I met someone who works here while I was out for aka benz one night and it sounds like a really great organisation, similar, I think, to what FAV-Rwanda (listed above) does.
I tried to email them and got no response but their website says they accept volunteers, preferably for a minimum of two weeks upwards. Previous volunteers brought their music, art, computing, social work and therapy skills to the boys and staff but they’ll welcome any self-motivated person who wants to come along and just help out generally around the Center. Anything from playing football with the kids, holding drawing classes or teaching them English or about money management, hygiene and gender equality.
Website: http://www.rwandanorphansproject.org or http://www.ropstories.org
Contact: Jenny at 0782 023 254 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rwandan-Orphans-Project/109466929118504
One of my friends volunteers with Solid’Africa and it seems like a really fun gang of people with a lot of energy, dedicated to a great cause. Solid’Africa is focused on helping vulnerable patients in hospitals by providing them meals and also friendly visits. I’m not sure if there are clearly defined volunteer roles or if they’ll accept anyone with an idea. In the past, one volunteer helped with their budget and built a website while another gave courses on project management and helped establish the organisation’s structure. I know they currently have a need for more admin help and are very open to volunteers in any capacity.
Team Rwanda (Musanze)
This sounds like a really great way to get connected to the amazing work that’s being done with Rwanda’s cycling team. There are opportunities in Musanze (Ruhengeri) about two hours from Kigali to teach English to the riders of Team Rwanda four nights a week for 1-2 hours during their regularly scheduled training camps.
Team Rwanda offers room and board for the week for anyone traveling to Musanze to teach. A schedule of training camp dates can be provided for 2012. The primary goal is to teach general every day phrases, bike parts and body parts. Currently the levels of the riders are widely varied from fairly good English speaking and comprehension to almost none. None of the riders are currently up to speed with written English. There are also opportunities to help out with English tutoring for riders who live in Kigali.
If English teaching isn’t your thing then maybe leading lead yoga/stretching classes is. The team’s riders have recently been exposed to yoga and love it and they’d eventually like to expand the program and begin training the riders to lead classes as well. Team Rwanda would offer room and board for the week’s training camp for anyone traveling to Musanze.
Get in touch with them for a list of the training camps for 2012.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Team-Rwanda#!/pages/Team-Rwanda/27990066134
Contact: Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tubahumerize serve women living in Rwanda, regardless of their age, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. In particular: genocide survivors; victims of gender-based violence and oppression; women living with HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses; single mothers, grandmothers and orphan girls heading up households; and widows. They currently serve over 300 women with regular trauma counselling, micro-financing, skills training – including a very active sewing, embroidery and quilting program – and other educational programming.
They’re located out in Kabeza (not too far from the airport) and have two rooms on-site to house volunteers. They only accept female volunteers over 25 and prefer self-motivated individuals who will arrive with their own ideas on how they can help.
Ubushobozi focuses on helping orphaned and/or head-of-household teenage girls in the Musanze (Ruhengeri) area who are no longer enrolled in traditional schools due to lack of fees and the need to support the daily needs of their families. The girls are enrolled in their (free) vocational skills training program (sewing, weaving, crochet) and participate in English, mathematics, business, women’s health/family planning, traditional dance and yoga classes.
They’re very eager to receive volunteer English and math teachers, health educators, yoga instructors and seamstresses and crafters. Volunteers can come for as little as a day or for much longer and they’re willing to work with volunteers to craft a mutually beneficial experience.
Find Your Own Opportunities
If you’ve got any useful skills to teach or help out with then why not try reaching out to an organisation you like who might not have a formal volunteering program? I’m a web design nerd and this skill is in huge demand as websites can be expensive (or if know a lot about Facebook or Twitter then maybe helping out with social media is a good way to get involved in an organisation that you relate with) so I’ve been able to reach out to a few groups to help in this area. Teaching English or playing with kids isn’t really my thing so it’s pretty cool to be able to still get involved and help out doing something I like to do.
If you’re a farmer type then why not try to find somewhere to help set up a garden? Or if you’ve got a teachable skill then see where you can help out – anything from sewing to Excel to yoga to drawing to how to make vodka jello shooters. Or if you’re a master marketer or fundraiser I’m sure there are lots of places who’d want to pick your brain. If you’re passionate about what you do and eager to get involved then I’m sure some group doing good things in Rwanda out there would love to have you share your knowledge with them.
If you know of any other volunteering opportunities that I haven’t listed here, anywhere in Rwanda, please leave a comment with the details and I’ll get in touch and add them to this list.