From the suburbs of Indiana, USA, to Karambo sector, Matt Ross 33, has been inspired by very hard working Rwandans despite existing challenges.
Ross is part of the Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the United States government. Its activities include providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries.
He teaches English at Karambo primary school, in Gakenke District, where he caught up with Taarifa’s Magnus Mazimpaka, to share his experience on working in Rwanda’s countryside.
Below is an excerpt of the interview.
Matt Ross: My name is Matt Ross. I am from Indiana, United States of America. I am here with the United States Peace Corps working as an English teacher volunteer but I also teach a little bit of history.
How did you end up here?
Matt Ross: Actually, I got my Master’s Degree in teaching English as a second language and the Peace Corps has a program called Peace Corps Master’s International. I studied for ten months in Gonzaga University, then I came here to get some practical experience.
You ended up in Karambo Sector, Gakenke District which is almost a two- hour drive from Kigali City. How did you find yourself here?
Matt Ross: Peace Corps works in a lot of communities especially in more rural places. And actually I asked them if there is a place that was not quite as hot as in Rwamagana’s training facilities. So, they put me in the north and it has been very nice.
How long have you been living here for?
Matt Ross: It will be two years next month.
How do you describe this situation and the environment you are in?
Matt Ross: Especially the people here, they are more and more hospitable villagers. You know as a foreigner, you always have some kind of problems. It is difficult to adapt and communicate. I study Kinyarwanda with my friend Anasthase who has been trying to to teach me Kinyarwanda, some French and Swahili. And I hope to get a lot of experience.
Can you speak some Kinyarwanda now?
Matt Ross: Yes, I can try! Nitwa Matayo mfite imyaka mirongo itatu n’itatu.
Can you describe the facilities around compared to where you live?
Matt Ross: Back in America I lived in suburbs. It is a house in a very wide yard though most people do not garden. Here, there is no paved road that leads to it, so I have to take a “motto” which I never did before I came to Rwanda. So it is a very interesting experience for the first time.
What is the most emotional part of the whole experience?
Matt Ross: I think it is that of seeing the children working very hard. I taught for many years in Japan and they have textbooks and everything so students are able to excel. But here in the situation the students are somehow struggle to improve their English very much considering the difficulties that we sometimes have here.
What about the rural area? The folks around here. How do they treat you, do you hang out, and go to bars?
Matt Ross: I shop a little bit; I have been to the bars a few times. People, as I said, are very welcoming but they are also very curious. They like to ask many questions and sometimes I do not always understand the Kinyarwanda they use.
What is the most memorable part when you leave this place?
Matt Ross:When I leave this place, I think it is the idea that Rwandan people work very hard to try and improve their lives.I see them overcome a lot of challenges, the things that when I want to give up because it is so difficult. But people here continue to work without any problem.It is just amazing.
Can you mention some of them?
Matt Ross: The biggest struggle is that the electricity would turn off frequently. And if it is off for a few hours I started to think that it would not come back. I wonder whether I would be able to cook tonight or see because it’s dark. So I had to use a flashlight and I worried about it a lot. They brought flashlights and candles and everything was OK until the power was back. So it is not something that I am used to in America.