ECHO ABROAD: Footsteps in Rwanda

“Footsteps in Rwanda” Highlights

During the spring and summer of 2008, twelve Charlotte-Mecklenburg area students participated in The Echo Foundation’s “Footsteps in Rwanda” global initiative. Over the course of several months, the students delved into detailed analysis of Rwanda’s past and present, studied the Partners In Health (PIH) model, and raised nearly $20,000 for a primary school linked to PIH.  In July 2008, these eleven Footsteps Ambassadors and one Footsteps Student Intern spent two weeks in Rwanda learning from the PIH clinic’s staff, making improvements to Nkondo Primary School, meeting leaders involved in Rwanda’s recovery, and witnessing a pivotal moment in Rwanda’s history.  Fourteen years after the genocide, reconciliation and healing are transforming Rwandan society, allowing the people of Rwanda to build a hopeful future together. See what these Footsteps Ambassadors have to say about their journey.

Andy holding girl

Watch Andy Thomason’s reflections on the students’ journey to Rwanda.

“What I witnessed was that the forgiveness and gratefulness of the Rwandan people is a part of a healing process; a process that every Rwandan understands is necessary in order to improve the future. It is this memory, and many more that I will possess for a lifetime.”        —Dylan McKinney


“The optimism and strength of the people who live there [in Rwanda] showed me that, no matter the conditions, you can be proud and happy with what you have. True happiness…lies within self-worth and solid relationships.”                            —Suzanne Fleishman

“Some may choose to be ignorant to the problems of the world, but on this trip I have seen these problems and now I am charged with responsibility to combat them. This is only fair because this trip has also empowered me with the knowledge, experience, and human compassion to do so.”   —Alex Gunn


“As I go through my daily activities, for the rest of my life I will always remember the faces I saw, the hands I held, and the people I met. When I remember Rwanda, life will seem much bigger than many of my activities, goals, and even problem. I will have to remember to live life differently. I now have no excuse to be ignorant.”    —Hannah Heidenreich 


“Having the opportunity to study the work of Partners In Health, collaborate with Nkondo Primary School, and meet living examples of a reconciled society, I saw the capacity of humanity to come together and make positive change in the lives of others, no matter the circumstance.”  —Cate Auerbach

“The lessons I learned from this experience will most certainly alter my life’s course, and, I can say with certainty, that I am a better person because of it.”  —Andy Thomason  


“I returned home burdened by the weight of renewed consciousness. I remember the countless children who looked at me, a foreigner, not with bewildered eyes, but with an inexplicable sense of hope and resolve. …How can we collectively begin to ensure that these children, and so many like them, have access to clean drinking water? To health care? To education? Recalling the memories I feel fortunate to have taken away, I hold one thing true—these are the questions I hope I will spend the rest of my life pursuing.”   —Rachel Myrick

“The most important thing that I learned from Rwanda was how courageous humanity can be, even after a crisis like the genocide. Egide, especially, showed me how strong the human heart can be. I hope that for the rest of my life I show the same strength and dignity that the Rwandans have.”   —Susan Mackey

“I learned how easy it is to find similarities between people from opposite sides of the world, despite the obvious cultural, geographic, and socio-economic differences.”   —Michael Nole


“It is difficult to comprehend that the Rwandan genocide claimed 1 million lives in 100 days. To truly grasp the enormity of the tragedy, it is necessary to break down the numbers and think of the murder of each individual. Personal accounts of survival and devastating loss, such as the story told by our driver, Egide, help give the genocide a face.” Jocelyn Ruark

“From this day on I will carry with me the love I felt from all of my fellow ambassadors and the memories that we share of helping our Rwandan friends, taking 5 hour car rides along bumpy dirt roads, playing with HIV positive children and attending Bishop Rucyahana’s service where we all sang and danced and felt the love truly radiate in all of our hearts.”   —Clare Rizer



“I have always believed that I could change the world, but there is a great difference between an ignorant belief and an enlightened one, between hoping to point a wand and realizing that there is a price to pay for change. Traveling to Rwanda made me brutally aware of just what it means to say, “I will help you,” to vow to save the world, to make a pledge to a people who have lived through so many broken promises. I have never felt more strongly the reality of what it means to commit to changing the world, but in spite of that, and perhaps because of it, I am more empowered than ever to do so.”     —Gabby Reed