Bridin’s blog- first days in Kigali

I have just begun a real adventure on a PULSE assignment in Kigali, Rwanda. The PULSE Volunteer Partnership is GSK’s skills-based volunteering initiative. Employees are matched to a non-profit organisation for 3 or 6 months full-time, contributing their skills to solve healthcare challenges at home and abroad. I have been assigned to work with an organisation called Jhpiego on the Maternal and Child Survival Program in Rwanda. I feel very fortunate to be given this opportunity by GSK and am very grateful to my department to release me for 6 months. I hope that during my time in Rwanda I will meet Jhpiego’s expectations and make a positive contribution to the Maternal and Child Survival Program.

Getting ready to leave for my PULSE assignment was pretty busy and a little stressful (this is my excuse for not sending my first blog before leaving!) Packing for 6 months is hard! Six months supplies of contact lens, make up…. I had so many dilemmas of what to take and had to reluctantly removed a few items, mainly shoes and toiletries. Closing my suitcase was still a struggle, small incident of the zip bursting a few hours before leaving… but with the help of a few friends, I was on the way to the airport with a new slightly roomier suitcase on time. I arrived at Heathrow looking like the bag lady, I have never had so much hand luggage boarding a flight (photos not included)! The airline thankfully didn’t charge for my excess luggage.

I arrived at Kigali Airport early Saturday morning got my first sightings of the country of a thousand hills, it really is a beautiful country. The drive from the airport was fascinating. I was struck by the number of people out walking, dressed in beautifully bright clothing and by the huge number of scooters weaving in and out of the traffic. Also, I actually got a glimpse of the president driving his own car!

I’m very lucky to have a few fellow PULSE colleagues, Robin and Tamsin, in Kigali for the weekend and part of this week. We’ve been able to explore the city together. We’ve had a few nice meals and love the food! My first cup of African tea was a surprise, it came with the milk and sugar already added in the tea pot, delicious, I have been drinking it every morning since. The avocado and tomatoes are great as are the bananas and passion fruit. And as a person who is fond of carbs, potatoes and in particular chips are really good!

Work started on Monday and received a very warm welcome. This week I am getting familiar with the area I will be working in and enjoying meeting my new colleagues. I’m also working learn a few words of Kinyarwanda and getting settled with accommodation, local phone etc.

I have photos, but am having difficulty loading and will plan to do so very soon :).

21 comments

  1. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your stay already! Rwanda is a beautiful country, with a surprising amount to see and do in a small place. I was a PULSE volunteer in Kigali in 2014 (along with two others) – feel free to reach out with any questions!

    1. thanks Colleen, that is great to know. It is a great place and any hints and tips will be very gratefully received.

  2. Haha, I can totally relate to the suitcase/ luggage management bit. Getting nervous about that myself, even tho my assignment only starts in 2 months. Anyway, really great to hear about your first days in Kigali and how well you’re settling in. Enjoy this amazing experience!

  3. It worked! Fabulous first blog, Bridin 🙂

    I’m back in Kigali tomorrow night (again!!!) so will see you on the weekend.

  4. Bridin, good to hear you are settling in well, looking forward to hearing more from you. Enjoy the experience.

  5. Great blog, Bridin! Lovely to see your photos, although I am interested in those from the airport! Looks like a fabulous start on this incredible Journey! Anxious to hear more! All the best to you!

  6. Great Blog, bringing it all back to me. Enjoy the experience; I look forward to revisiting Kigali through your blogs. And those potatoes, they call them “Irish Potatoes” there! 🙂

    Murakoze Cyane

    1. Oh too funny! they are very good. I was on a drive out of town and I saw them growing in the fields. thanks Christos

  7. Hi Bridin, very exciting! I was a volunteer in Rwanda in 2014. I had a chance to speak with Robin and Tamsin before they left, it’s nice to hear you were together a bit upon entry. I hope you enjoy your time, it’s really a beautiful country with beautiful, kind people! Good Luck!

    1. Thanks very much Desmond, yes it is great to have a bit of company especially on the first few days when we are all trying to find our feet!

  8. I’m a bit slow in finding and reading this first entry to your blog, but am looking forward to reading about your adventures and seeing pictures of your environment!

  9. Packing and getting ready was really hard! One thing I have had trouble finding is contact lens solution. I finally found some, but I would advise people to definitely take plenty of solution along with their contact lenses.
    Also, there was so much to do prior to departing for 6 months. That is a reality, not an excuse. I am so glad to have met you! I look forward to reading more. Your photos are great! Thanks for sharing.

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