The Kiva Parachute: Landing in Rwanda

By Whitney Webb, KF16, Rwanda


Things became real when I stepped out of my NYC apartment for the last time and hailed a cab to the airport. It was one thing to say (repeatedly) “I’m moving to Rwanda to do a fellowship in microfinance. I’m so excited. And a little nervous.” It’s quite another to pack up your bags and actually board a plane to Rwanda, or Indonesia, or Paraguay, etc… I’m guessing more than one of us Kiva fellows had the inevitable panic attack prior to and during departure.

At the end of training, there were a few fellows saying that they felt like they were about to jump off a cliff. Some of us felt like we had parachutes and others were just preparing for a free fall.  Almost all of us have have traveled or worked abroad pretty extensively, so it wasn’t completely out there to move abroad for 4-12 months.  But in all honesty, it takes guts to go so far out of your comfort zone alone, start working at a new job, most likely not speak the local language, and just have faith that you can do what you need to do to make some sort of an impact.

I think that aside from our own courage we had a lifeline in Kiva and in each other. The training educated us, the staff inspired us, and in each other we no longer felt so alone. Kudos to the 16th Kiva fellows class – we all made it out to the field. I don’t know if I could have stayed as sane without you.

I have only been in Kigali for a week now, but so far I have found a few more “parachutes” to help me through:

The people

Daniel and Pelagie at Urwego

Coworkers - Aimable and Jessica

Finding the humor and just “going with it”

My first weekend in Kigali. Volunteering as a supervisor at Kigali Up, a local music festival. That orange slap bracelet means I am the boss.

Volunteers helping to make "Kigali Up" a success. The wonderful Kathrin (KF15 & 16) in the middle

Attending a coworkers wedding

Following instructions and bringing a broom up to the newlyweds at the end of the wedding.

Finding a little Zen 

Yoga on our front porch overlooking Kigali

Seeing "signs" when you need them the most

About the author

Whitney Webb