Raising Hope for Rwanda
Dr Andrea Grove Interviews CSUCI student Kyle Morford about his Rwandan Orphanage Project
Dr. Grove: Ok Kyle, why don’t we start with you telling us about your project.
Kyle: Well the project is many stages. It’s about seven stages right now. The first stage involved collecting money so we can fund for an electricity project for orphans in Rwanda; in an orphanage where 120 kids live in 22 houses and they are also members of 1994 Genocide.
Dr. Grove: Great and so why did you do this?
Kyle: I saw a need in Rwanda. I saw that there was a huge lack of funding and resources going into these orphanages and I figured I could do something about it.
Dr. Grove: Neat and then once you made contact with your counterpart in Rotoract, in Rwanda, what steps did you take to figure out what you needed to do for the project and how did you go about getting those resources?
Kyle: The first thing I did was I started calling around. I got the phone book and I started making calls to local government people. Started calling around Camarillo, to the legislative; just trying to find out what resources were available what was going on down in that area. Then I started calling local service clubs like Rotoract and the Lions Club and seeing if they could help in any of these projects that I am working on.
Oh and how did I figure out about getting those resources? Well once I made contact with Rotary I found out I should be going to the Rotoract Club at our school. I went and talked to the Rotoract club, which I am already a part of, we never did any thing like this to this scale. And so I started making more connections with the Rotary members, going to their meetings every Wednesday, and eventually started making more contacts and then we got some grant proposals together and we started approaching local business and organizations and just asking for funds and telling them what we are doing. Just grant writing proposals mainly.
Dr. Grove : In your opinion what has the value of your project been to the people in Rwanda? What did you see that you were giving them?
Kyle: Well when I went down there the biggest thing that I noticed was when they took us into this dark house and all of a sudden they turned on of the light switches and the whole room lit up and it was because of us and the project that we started that these people had electricity. Before us the kids would come home from work and they wouldn’t have any electricity to study. So the project was a huge success because now the kids could home form work and study and get a better education which allowed them to get better jobs in the workplace and will eventually be able move out of the orphanage and be self-sustained .
Dr. Grove: That is such a huge impact that it just keeps giving over such long period of time, it’s real neat to see that.
Dr. Grove: When you think about your own experience what has the value of the project been to yourself and what have you learned as a result of the project?
Kyle: Well I kind of just learned how much one person really could effect change. I never thought in my life that I would be able to bring electricity to an orphanage to all children in Rwanda. That’s something I never thought I would be able to do, but with the right partnerships and the right team helping you out it’s possible. So I guess it made me realize that I can make a difference and it just takes a lot of hard work.
Dr. Grove: How specifically do you see this work, this civic engagement, as enhancing what you learned in your classes on campus?
Kyle: Actually, everything I’ve learned on campus really helped when I was in Rwanda. Even from just watching how my teachers act, because when I was down there I was teaching an English class and so just seeing how the teachers acted and reacted to students that helped out a lot. My political science classes, it was great because when I was down there I was talking, I was living actually, in the house of one of the Senators of Rwanda, and so all we did was talk about politics, and my political science classes enabled me to talk about the World Bank and African debt crisis and all these really important things to these people. When its theories to me its like their real life and so it put a face to all the theories and principles that I’ve learned in school so far.
Dr. Grove: What would you like to see our campus do to support this type of project, which is really international service work and we don’t have a lot of infrastructure to support that now. So what would like to see happen here to support that?
Kyle: Well I think we should strengthen the institutions that we have on campus. I think we need more funding because I came to the campus initially and asked what the campus could do to help and they basically told me I was on my own as far as fundraising because they didn’t have any budget to support this kind of student activity. I think that’s really a shame because if you look at some schools on the east cost, a student project like this could get 40,000 dollars pretty easily form school grants so I think its just kind of a big shame; its part of being such a new university. But I think that we need to grow in the way of supporting students and fundraising and building up the structures that we have in place right now.
Dr. Grove: Just in conclusion, is there anything you would like to say to other students who might think they want to do something about the global problems they hear about but they don’t really know what they can do?
Kyle: Yes, I think that the most important thing is that students really just need to start. If you have an idea about something like I did, start making phone calls, pick up the phone book start calling local business that have to do with that, start asking questions, start calling school representatives. Just start, the hardest thing in a big project like this is just getting the motivation to do something because its so overwhelming and its such a huge risk and such a huge commitment of time, but you just need to start, you need pick up the phone, you need walk to someone’s office, you need drop by visits, you just got to start. As soon as you start the wheel in motion, it all turns pretty easy and you really start seeing the benefits after a short period of time.