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Rwanda Trip Revealed Love of Children, Reality of Genocide

Sept. 10, 2008 — The thing Chelsea Galiber will remember forever about her recent trip to orphanages in Rwanda is the outpouring of love the orphans gave.
"I will never forget how the kids ran to us and hugged us," she said. "They were so happy to see us. They weren't interested in the toys we brought them, they wanted to interact with us."
Galiber, a 10th grade honor roll student at St. Joseph's High School, spoke Wednesday at Gertrude's Restaurant to close to 25 members and guests of the Rotary Club of St. Croix Mid-Isle. The club's September theme is "New Generations."
In July, Galiber went on a 15-day trip with 11 students and five adults from St. Croix and St. Thomas, helping HIV/AIDS orphans in numerous orphanages across Rwanda. First lady Cecile deJongh was one of the adults.
The students signed an agreement to hold fund-raising projects to pay for their trip. They also agreed to write a report on their experience and, after returning, present the report to a group of their choice. Rotary has an international humanitarian focus.
The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, along with public and private entities, helped make the trip possible.
Galiber's PowerPoint presentation began with statistics on Rwanda and information about the 100-day genocide. It happened in 1994 in the Kigali area of Rwanda, with the Hutu killing Tutsi people, leaving 300,000 children orphaned.
"That is part of the reason for so many orphanages in Rwanda," Galiber said. "And now it is because of mothers dying from AIDS and kids being abandoned."
Two of those centers are Amizero and Benimpuhwe. The group split up, with the ones who went to Benimpuhwe helping build a playground and foundation wall, and painting buildings indoors and out. Galiber's group went to Amizero, where they purchased and gave out supplies. Both groups helped pass out breakfast porridge to the orphans, Galiber said. She showed the Rotarians a colorful photo of a mural her group painted to brighten up the center. The girls in the group painted a big yellow sun, trees, a giraffe and an elephant.
They also went to Avehumure, a center housing 22 handicapped children. There the group helped clean up the center's vegetable garden, taking out roots and vines, then they planted vegetables and did composting.
"We had fun playing with the kids, and made them laugh a lot," Galiber said.
She also spoke about her visit to Cards From Africa, where teen orphans are employed making greeting cards from scrap paper. The teens are the heads of households, and this employment helps pay for their younger siblings to go to school, she said. Galiber showed in her presentation how paper is recycled into pulp and dried in the traditional African method of making paper.
They also toured the Kigali Memorial Center, housing the remains of 258,000 Tutsi who died in the genocide.
The trip was a great experience and she really learned a lot, Galiber said.
"I didn't know anything about the genocide in Rwanda," she said. "It was pretty amazing what happened. I would hope to get the same help as these kids if I was in their situation."
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