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Get Global

Ideas In Motion – Our Rwanda Global Internship

In this blog, our Global Experience Opportunity interns will be writing a series of weekly blogs from their experience of working with Ideas in Motion, a non profit organisation in India that aims to connect Rwandan speaking experienced students and young professionals from around the world. This blog will be based upon their experience of local culture, sights and their work on the internship. Our students will also be updating you on what they have been getting involved in and enjoying each week!

Week 1

Hello, my name is Keira! I am a 21-year-old Marketing and Management student from North Yorkshire! And I’m I Chian, 21-year-old International Business Management student from Malaysia!

This year, eight of us (Hannah, Chris, Keira, James, Olly, Sith, Calum and Chian) have enrolled in a 4-week internship in Rwanda offered by Ideas in Motion. We are here in Rwanda alongside eight students from Groningen University, helping entrepreneurs in the area and learning lots about this different culture.

After a long-haul flight and tiring transfers, all of us finally arrived in the heart of Africa, Rwanda. Mr Amos, the owner of our accommodation, picked us up from the airport. He has been very welcoming and has recommended some great spots to visit in Kigali. Our hostel, the Kings Hospitality Center in Kimihurura district is very near to where the President of Rwanda lives – thus it is a particularly safe area with a great expat community. There are also many great restaurants surrounding us offering a range of food from African delicacies such as brochettes and ibiyari, alongside a spicy sauce (akabanga) that gets everyone sweating. There are also Ethiopian, Chinese and western options available. Every night, we have been exploring the different cuisines around our hostel.

Here is a sneak peak of our everyday breakfast (picture). the mixes of fruit are insane and it tastes amazing!

Here’s a picture of some of the Newcastle University students enjoying a nice meal at “Papyrus” – a bit more expensive but delicious food with an amazing view.

Hannah and I (Keira) are spending the next month working with a business called Academic Bridge. Their aim is to ease data admin in schools through their software and improve communication between children, teachers and parents. This week we went into the office and met the CEO, Mariam and the Account Manager, Christian. Christian showed us the software and how it worked. All children in the particular school are enrolled on to the platform so teachers can update their presence/absence, input their grades, include any disciplinary actions taken and write their reports. Their aim is to reduce all paper admin in schools and make it easier through digitalisation. Their current strategy development involves their expansion into Kenya, where Hannah and I will be helping with sales and marketing. We have also been told that we will be able to visit schools in Rwanda which we are really looking forward to.

Olly and I (Irry) are working in Water Access Rwanda, a social enterprise supplying affordable, clean and safe water around Rwanda. We will be visiting their office on Wednesday and plan to start working on next Monday. We also had a chance to visit two of the nearest kiosks, which are 15 minutess away from the office, the technician has been showing us how they supplied and filter the water sources which are really eye-opening.

The work so far has been really interesting, although we are beginning to understand that in Rwanda, it is very laid back and “Rwanda time” means that meetings will be roughly two hours after the proposed time. The relaxed culture is evidenced in restaurants where food tends to take a couple of hours to come – we have now learnt that it is good to go to the restaurant before you get too hungry! Having three public holidays in our first week has also demonstrated the chilled out atmosphere, with the President deciding to extend Rwanda’s liberation day bank holiday on Friday morning! Therefore, having planned to go to our internships, we all quickly got messages that it was illegal to work today as another holiday was declared. We have therefore made the most of these bank holidays to explore the city together!

Moto taxi is the most famous and convenient transportation around the city, with their cost depending on our bargaining skills! They weave in and out of the cars, with lanes not really of much importance in Rwanda, instead they use their horns to ensure others on the road know that they are there. We have visited Kimironko market, where locals sell their creations. They have many fabrics and some of us have some custom made clothes from here. We also visited the Inema Art Center, which has some beautiful artwork, and on liberation day, we enjoyed a day by the pool at Hotel Milles Collines where the film “Hotel Rwanda” is based.

There is also a gym out here for the more athletic amongst us. The boys have signed up for a month membership and are enjoying going there every morning.  

This country has been stunning and sophisticated. It is the first country to ban plastic bags with paper bags becoming the norm. The locals are all really friendly and the children will always say hello to us as they pass. The view along the road is filled with green, tropics, and endless rolling hills. It has so far been a lot of fun, and we are looking forward to getting more involved in the internships this next week.

Week 2

Hello, my name is Olly, I am a 22-year-old Business Management student from Leeds. And I’m James, a 21-year-old Marketing and Management student from Manchester. Together, we’ll be covering everything that has been going on in our second week in Rwanda! 

Now that all interns (both from Newcastle and Groningen) have touched down in Kigali and fully settled in, this has been our first ‘proper’ working week with each of our respective start-ups. After a brilliant first-week filled with exploring, sightseeing and the occasional soiree, everybody in the group was looking forward to getting stuck into the tasks at hand. I (Olly) am working with ‘Water Access Rwanda’, a start-up aiming to tackle the overarching issue of water scarcity across Rwanda; I (James) am working with TEMACO, a company aiming to corner the sanitation market in both Rwanda and Congo. Olly is helping to develop the business plan, marketing strategy and financials of Water Access Rwanda, whereas James is carrying out market research into the existing sanitation market to aid TEMACO’s applications for NGO contracts. Alongside a few others, we have also managed to connect with other local entrepreneurs, and are planning on getting involved with other projects such as Root Foundation and Agrego. Everybody in the group have settled in really well so far, and it seems like everybody is enjoying their internships.

After a first week packed with activities, we both get the feeling that we have a real task here topping Keira and Irry’s report from last week, but we’ll give it a go and provide a quick run-down of everything that’s been happening since last Friday. 

Saturday

We kicked off week 2 at a local pool party; this provided a great opportunity of getting to know the RUG students. It was a brilliant day out, and we even became the face of Cocobean’s Facebook Page, a club which appears to be the pinnacle of Kigali’s nightlife. With entry costing just 5,000 RWF (equivalent to roughly £4), and including 6 Heineken’s, this was a real no-brainer.

Sunday

To pay our respects and educate ourselves about the history of Rwanda, we visited Kigali Genocide Memorial; 2019 marks the genocide’s 25th anniversary. Learning about the countless stories of the genocide was extremely interesting, and it was staggering to hear of the coercive tactics that were employed by charismatic leaders to ignite the hatred between Tutsis and Hutus. It was also eye-opening to learn of the historic trends associated with the genocide, and how the motives behind it somewhat resonate with the proletariats overthrowing the bourgeoisie in Marxist theory. This was largely due to the majority of wealth in Rwanda being held by the Tutsis, whom represented a much smaller percentage of the population. Resultantly, the Hutus aimed to attain superiority through overthrowing the economically superior Tutsis. Perhaps the biggest lesson learnt from the genocide memorial was the notion of forgiveness; despite the fact that approximately 800,000 Rwandans were killed during the genocide, the country is now a relatively stable nation filled with peace and harmony, with no ethnic sub-divisions such as Hutu’s and Tutsi’s existing any more. The government has truly done a remarkable job of instilling such solidarity and unity in a country that was broken just 25 years ago.

After visiting the genocide memorial, some of us decided to get a tour around the Presidential Palace Museum, which was spectacular. We weren’t able to take any photos, but I would definitely recommend visiting. Whilst there, we also noticed a wedding which was happening directly opposite. Our tour guide managed to sneak us inside, and we got well looked after all evening, receiving complimentary drinks and even a few slices of wedding cake! 

Monday

After a jam-packed weekend, Monday marked everybody’s first ‘proper’ day at work; it was extremely interesting to finally get involved in our respective projects. Most of us tend to start work at around 9.00am, however it varies between interns. After having breakfast, most of us travel to our respective workplaces via mototaxi for an average price of around 700 RWF (70p). In my case (James), my internship only requires us to meet up with our entrepreneur 2-3 times a week, meaning that my days are very flexible when it comes to working arrangements.

To summarise an average working day for an intern here, I (James) will provide an overview of my own working interactions in and around Kigali. My first meeting on Monday provided me with an overview of the company and its long-term goals. After a brainstorming session, a set of tasks were divided between my partner and I to determine what we thought we could help with over the period of our stay here in Rwanda. Due to my background in marketing and data analysis, my task for the week was to gain an understanding of the market and my company’s product portfolio, in order to gain a preliminary base from which to launch a primary market research campaign in the various districts around Kigali and other Rwandan provinces. The end goal for my internship is to consolidate all data and compile a report on the various areas of the sanitation market in Rwanda that TEMACO could utilise when applying for NGO contracts.

Tuesday – Wednesday

In regards to work spaces, many of us tend to work remotely out of the numerous bars and cafes dotted around Kigali. One of the most impressive spots found so far is the Shokala cafe, which is located above Kigali’s public library. Alike many cafe’s, Shokala boasts impressive views of the surrounding area, with a casual and professional environment; it also boasts one of the best WiFi connections we have found in Kigali. Although the coffee in Rwanda is said to be some of the best, the locals prefer to drink tea, however, all coffee needs can be met in most places should you have a craving. As many of us work remotely outside of our internship offices, most of the day is spent café hopping, and working on our respective projects. This allows for some creative and inspiring work environments of which Kigali is certainly not short of.

After the working day has been completed the majority of the group venture out around the local neighbourhood for dinner and some light entertainment. A nice variation of restaurants can be found, with many places offering Western cuisines (even Fish and Chips). An important tip for eating out, however, is to order before you are hungry. In most establishments it can take anywhere between 1 – 2 hours for food to arrive, this a cultural norm in Rwanda where eating out for most is considered a special occasion. Regarding entertainment, we have found ‘Mamba’ to be one of the best local spots in Kimihurura, as it has a range of activities such as pool, bowling and volleyball; all of which are coupled with a relaxed drinking environment.

After dinner, the majority of us choose to spend evenings socialising with a few drinks; some of us even get in the occasional gym session. Despite being in the heart of East Africa, it is still possible to find all the comforts of home.

Thursday – Inema Art Centre

To cap off our first working week, a combined group of Newcastle and RUG students ventured out to experience a bit more of Kigali’s nightlife scene. We have discovered that Kigali has vibrant nightlife, hosting establishments that cater for all tastes, ranging from high-end nightclubs to casual bars, all exclusively playing afrobeats. As expected, It is significantly different to the nightlife that we are all accustomed to at Newcastle, but has been extremely entertaining. After speaking with some locals, Inema Art Centre sounded like the place to be on a Thursday; it is a casual outdoor event with a diverse crowd, attracting many young Rwandans, Europeans and even and an abundance of Americans. Whilst here, we managed to interact and network with other young entrepreneurs, UN employees, diplomats and interns such as ourselves from all over the globe. After having a great night at Inema this week, it definitely looks like we will be returning for more next week.

Every corner that we turn, the example that Rwanda is continuing to set becomes increasingly evident, and despite the overarching sense of adversity experienced just 25 years ago, African nations should use Rwanda as a success story, due to the exemplary progression shown. Upon reflecting on our time here, I strongly believe that we will all take away a refreshing sense of excitement and enrichment, as we have all witnessed perhaps one of the most exciting and prosperous times of Rwanda’s volatile history.

As we approach the weekend, everybody is looking forward to visiting ‘Lake Kivu’ – one of the Great African Lakes. Join us again next week to hear about our visit and see some pictures!

Week 3

Hello, my name is Sith, I am a 19-year-old International Business Management student from London and I am Calum, a 21-year-old Economics and Finance student from Edinburgh. Together, we’ll be covering everything that has been going on in our third week in Rwanda!

Friday

We can safely say that we are finally getting into the swing of things at our respective internships and at the end of the second week we were excited to take our weekend trip to Lake Kivu. We embarked on our journey early on Friday Morning and half of us decided to drive, whilst the rest of us took the local buses, which took slightly longer to get there.

We eventually all arrived late Friday afternoon at our accommodation. We had chosen to say at Inzu lodge, an ecological lodge with breathtaking views of the lake and incredible food with their French toast breakfast being arguably the best meal we had in Kigali thus far.

Saturday

This was the main day of our trip to the lake and once again, we split up into different groups to do different activities. Some of the group left at 05:00 to hike up Mount Bisoke in the hope of seeing gorillas (which they did), while others went on a bike ride to see the surrounding villages and encountered friendly locals which welcomed them gladly.

The evening was spent at a restaurant called Paradise Maladie and we managed to see a performance of traditional dancing and even joined in at the end. Many of us continued to partake in the spirit of the jovial atmosphere into the night, with many of us going into the local town to experience their nightlife and we were not left disappointed.

Sunday

This was the last day of our visit and before we left Lake Kivu, we felt that it would be fitting to take a boat trip on the lake. This enabled us to visit the hot springs, beach and the island that was on the other side of the lake. This was a great, inexpensive experience as we only paid 5000 francs per person. This completed our activities in Lake Kivu, and when we had eaten our lunch we headed back to Kigali in our respective modes of transport.

Entering our third workweek we had all established with our entrepreneurs exactly what the outcomes we needed to execute were, this allowed us to work with a relative degree of flexibility and do so remotely. This enabled us to utilize the pools at local hotels and work at local cafes such as Pure Africa Cafe and the local Art cafe, as well as enjoy the inexpensive 3000 francs lunch buffets in our local area.  Because of these luxuries, we were able to spend many of our days together and get to know each other better.

We also spent our evening trying different restaurants, with our Tuesday evening once again being spent at Lavanas for their Taco Tuesday and movie night, enjoying Pad Thai at the Art Cafe on Wednesday and Thursday being spent at the Inema art centre once again for their cocktail evening. As you can probably tell from the brief summary above we found our week to be highly enjoyable!

Kuranga Digital

I have been working for a digital consultancy firm called Kuranga digital ltd, who also specialize in customer service and training an accountancy software called QuickBooks.

One of areas I have been helping my entrepreneur, Patrick, was with simpler tasks such as producing and presenting presentations. Although Patrick has a great idea and product, he has been struggling to get his point of view heard by investors, customers and is unable to begin to search for partners – hence this was the area I realized would be most beneficial to aid him with. My teammate, Luca, and I have been producing these presentations and presenting them to businesses, NGO’s and other various organizations.

The first time we presented to Patrick he was very pleased and impressed with some of the features we take for granted in the UK, such as transitions and also the more professional layout of the slides. One thing we had to change was their habit of reading straight from the screen and the clutter on every page.

After the success of presenting internally to Kuranga we were asked to present the next day to potential clients at a transport firm to try and sell them Kuranga’s QuickBooks services. As we arrived at the meeting, five of their company’s team greeted us in Rwanda, including the CFO of the business. After initial pleasantries, we got straight into the presentation, which Luca and I presented and began trying to convince them of the benefits of the accountancy software followed by a demonstration and tutorial afterwards by Patrick. The negations and questions that followed were spoken in their native tongue, so we were left out of the loop. Walking out I was none-the-wiser as to whether it was a success or not, until Patrick turned to us smiling, telling us it they had requested a proposal and that we had also been referred, by the CFO, to his friend at a neighboring company.

The next big presentation we had was later that week, which was held at a conference for the disability NGOs of Rwanda. Patrick was very nervous about it and we could not have had a worse start; because our presentation was at the end of the day it transpired that we didn’t have time for our PowerPoint which was key to the presentation. After convincing them that it would only take five minutes we got to present, meaning that we had to speak quicker than usual. This caused some issues, as many of the audience were receiving visual and audio aids from helpers such as sign language. With this complication, the fact they had just finished a full day of presentations and also problems with understanding my accent I fear that unfortunately many of the audience stopped paying attention. Even still, a few of the members of the NGOs were still interested and came to Patrick for follow up meetings.

I feel that Patrick and I are learning a lot from each other and both gaining valuable skills that we will be able to take away and use after the internship has finished.

Week 4

Hello everyone! It’s Hannah and Chris here writing our final blog post for our amazing Rwanda internship. We still can’t believe how quickly this month has gone! This week marks the final week of our GEO internship before a few of us head off to Uganda, where we have white water rafting down the River Nile planned, as well as a boat trip round the local islands.

We have all been working hard trying to finalise our projects on our placements before it’s time to say our goodbyes. Hannah has been on a placement within Academic Bridge (as Keira explained in a previous blog post). Academic Bridge offers a software service for schools to improve their administration. During this final week we have been combining all of our work into one final presentation which we will give to the CEO and owner. We have also been busy compiling feedback from their clients now that the school term has finished. Chris has also been finishing off his project where he’s been working with a local design and construction business called Kapoa contractors. To celebrate he was invited by his entrepreneur to a goodbye meal and drinks in the Rwandan Expo where his company were contracted. This was a great chance for Chris to get his final feedback and see the finished product of company’s latest contract.

Last weekend was equally busy, with us all deciding to go on a safari. We camped at Akagera National Park and saw giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, zebras – everything but the lions (which we are still gutted about!) The safari was a once in a lifetime experience, we all had an incredible time telling stories by the campfire with a few drinks and then getting up early to watch the sunrise.

For our ‘final supper’ before everybody starts flying home, we plan to have an awards night and all wear our African clothes. Please see the photo below of Chris and Henriette’s African outfits. This was an amazing chance for us to reminisce on the incredible time we’ve had together and celebrate the bond we’ve all established. I think it’s safe to say that even though we live miles apart, our friendships will continue to grow stronger. We’ve even started planning a reunion trip to Amsterdam in November!

All in in the past four weeks has been an experience like no other. Not only have we enhanced our employability skills, but we have all achieved personal development on a variety of levels. It has been a pleasure to be immersed in a culture alien to every one of us and see how this once broken country has blossomed into an innovative and passionate pioneer for entrepreneurship. I’m sure we can speak for the rest of the group in saying we have treasured every moment in this wonderful nation.

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