A be­yond re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Orleans Star - - LOCAL NEWS -

Con­tin­ues from front page For Eg­gle­ston, learn­ing and bond­ing with the youth there was the most re­ward­ing part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, "The youth’s level of en­gage­ment - that was prob­a­bly the coolest part."

Com­ing home harder than ex­pected

Eg­gle­ston re­turned to Cana­dian soil re­cently, but not to Ot­tawa un­til this week. First, she had to un­dergo a rein­te­gra­tion pro­gram in a small com­mu­nity in Nova Sco­tia.

"The re­turn cul­ture shock was more se­vere," said Eg­gle­ston ex­plain­ing that she had an eas­ier time orig­i­nally ar­riv­ing in Rwanda. "It’s hard to be­come dis­con­nected from the peo­ple and cul­ture. You’ve built re­la­tion­ships that aren’t there any­more. It’s tough."

Over the week­end, Eg­gle­ston par­tic­i­pated at a public forum at the Coady In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute and con­fer­ence on ac­tivism and so­cial jus­tice at St. Fran­cis Xavier Univer­sity.

There she was given tips and tools to deal with the cul­ture shock with­out be­com­ing com­pletely re­moved from the links she’s made in Africa.

In ad­di­tion to con­nect­ing youth, Eg­gle­ston is hop­ing to share her ex­pe­ri­ence in or­der to dis­pel any per­sist­ing neg­a­tive no­tions of Rwanda as­so­ci­ated with the coun­try’s tur­bu­lent past. This April will mark 18 years since the end of the geno­cide. Eg­gle­ston said it’s re­mark­able how the coun­try now pro­claims such na­tional sol­i­dar­ity and unity. “Vis­i­ble ac­tion is be­ing taken to bring jus­tice and build rec­on­cil­i­a­tion among cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing re­turn­ing refugees,” she said. "I think that’s the thing that sur­prised me the most, was the pow­er­ful sense of com­mu­nity."

De­spite dif­fi­cult mo­ments vis­it­ing Geno­cide me­mo­ri­als, Eg­gle­ston said the progress they’ve made as a coun­try is truly touch­ing. "It’s very strik­ing but very beau­ti­ful," she said. "What hap­pened was aw­ful but now there is an over­all rec­on­cil­i­a­tion."

For Eg­gle­ston, she said those mo­ments are what are driv­ing her sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences in the fu­ture.

"There were def­i­nitely pe­ri­ods of time where I missed home, but I could even go back for longer. Six months felt too short in the end. You make some se­ri­ous con­nec­tions and de­velop real re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple there. I would love to go back." poignant to pur­sue

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