Seven IU students, through a university program, will volunteer to teach children during a three-week camp this summer to Rwanda. Applications for the trip will be accepted through February.
The university has been running the trip since 2012 after they were paired with a school in Rwanda in 2009, according to the trip organizer Beth Samuelson, who is also an associate professor for literacy education at IU.
IU students will teach English classes to primary school students with books made and published by the Books and Beyond Club at IU. Their goal is to use these books to help elevate the kids’ reading level.
“The goal of the trip is to take IU students of any major or graduate students,” Samuelson said. “The main goal is to teach English to the kids of Rwanda with a set curriculum.”
Students at IU pair with the teachers in Rwanda and teach more than 50 children in a classroom at one time.
The Rwandan students come during their winter break to attend the camp for three weeks. Around 350 kids attend three different classes, including a kinesthetic English class, a practical writing class and a reader theater class, all of these aiming to improve their English skills, said Caitlin Wischmeyer, a junior international studies major at IU who went on the trip last year.
Wischmeyer is studying abroad in Tanzania but is still hoping to go on the trip.
“It fit with my eastern Africa travel requirement through my major and I was part of the Books and Beyond Club as well,” Wischmeyer said.
One new goal for this year’s camp is preparing the sixth graders for the national English placement exam.
Samuelson said the Rwandan school’s headmaster encouraged this additional goal. While much of the curriculum doesn’t exclusively cover the material on the test, learning new vocabulary and reading skills still helps the students prepare.
But the camp is a positive experience for younger students as well.
“For the younger kids, the government in Rwanda doesn’t fund their school very much, or at all, so they need us to come with those books to help them learn,” Wischmeyer said.
A lot of Rwandan students come for help even if they didn’t sign up.
“We had 300 kids sign up for the camp, but each day 10 kids who didn’t sign up would be there, so we ended up with around 350 kids wanting to improve their English skills,” Samuelson said.
In addition, three students are chosen to have their work from the camp put in the book for the next year. This is presented at the closing ceremony.
However, previous attendees said the biggest takeaway from the trip for the IU students was how much they learned from the children.
“It wasn’t just us going to help student, it was us getting to grow as students,” Wischmeyer said. “We got more from them than they got as us.”
Sophomore epidemiology major Tammy Rivas agreed.
“I realized how much you can learn from other people, especially from other students,” she said.
Both Rivas and Wischmeyer said they still talk to Rwandans from the trip over email multiple times a month.
Samuelson said the trip is both educational and safe.
“Sometimes people have an association with Rwanda through the news coverage, but nowadays Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa,” Samuelson said.
An informational session will take place Monday, Dec. 9 at the Office of Overseas Study.
Students can apply for the trip until Feb. 15, and while the trip typically takes around seven people, this year they hope 11 will attend.