Hills, Hugs & Healing


At top of one of a thousand hills in Rwanda

Steve Rand, Instructor

Rwanda means land of a thousand hills. The beauty of these hills never disappoints nor do the awe-bright faces of Harwood students, who wear wonderment and  beam radiance from the time we land in Africa until… Well… Until long after we return.

The crux of the Rwanda Travel Study has everything to do with the contrast between a beautiful landscape riddled with smiling people and what happened twenty-one years ago when over one million lives where lost in less than one hundred days. Somewhat miraculously, Rwandans greet our group with open arms and genuine grins of joy even though many of them still hold haunting memories of genocide. It’s hard not to deeply appreciate so many warm hugs — gentle hobes — from strangers in a land 7,000 miles away. I think such gestures make all of us feel welcome and honored to be in a strange land with buoyantly, song-like language.

I have always admired how students and teachers from Harwood embrace Rwanda, a unique place where people are working hard to heal, avidly promoting reconciliation while perpetrator and survivor live side-by-side, and forgiveness is the norm instead of the exception. We talk about this a lot as a group: before we travel, during the trip, and upon returning. I’ve learned a great deal from students. I’ve learned even more from Rwandans.