I was excited to come to Rwanda for my internship in ‘sports for development’ field with UN-HABITAT. Although I have lived in Rwanda for two years before, (volunteering with Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA)), I couldn’t wait to be back. Rwanda is a fascinating place with so much beauty, green spaces and amazing people that I knew that my new adventure will be worthwhile. But funny enough, when I came to Kimisagara One Stop Youth Center in Kigali for the first time, I couldn’t conceal my surprise. So much space, gym with roof and even floodlights for night games! I thought I knew Rwanda, but this has proven me wrong! I have never seen such excellent sports facilities anywhere else.
The center itself is a wonderful oasis of hope for young people in Kigali. More than 1000 of them visit the center every day, enjoying various services provided. It’s run by unpaid volunteers who organize training sessions, workshops, events and activities related to IT, good governance, health and entrepreneurship. Sport is naturally extremely important and the state-of-art facilities offer space to practice football, basketball, handball, inline skating and modern dance. Personally, I was very impressed with the “disability football team”. In Rwanda, there is a huge number of people with disabilities, the sad legacy of 1994 events. The disability team in Kimisagara is just so inspiring! They play on crutches and you wouldn’t believe how fast they can be!
During my five months stay I have learned a lot about partnerships. The Center was initiated by the UN-HABITAT but is now 100% managed by the Ministry of Youth and ICT. Yet their ongoing collaboration and mutual support makes it work and thrive like no other. The Kimisagara center serves as a model to other youth centers across East Africa. On a different level, Cho and I (both UN-HABITAT interns in Rwanda) formed a partnership to complete tasks given by the Center as well as UN-HABITAT. There were many challenges, many unforeseen changes to plans and many unpredictable communication hiccups but we’ve managed. It would be very difficult for me to do it on my own but together, we’ve learned to adapt. This, I consider a very useful skill for the future.
I’ve had a lot of plans at the beginning but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make them all work. I wish I had more time to develop new sports programme to involve wider community, create a project tackling the youth unemployment, which is a huge problem over there and perhaps find ways to bring even more young people into the Center. Maybe next time. For now, I am happy and grateful for the experience. I have learned a lot and had wonderful time in Rwanda, the beautiful country on the rise to prosperity.