On the Way Home: Rwanda

Sat 15 October 2011

I'll be back in Boston this time tomorrow after a too-short visit to Cambodia.

On the way I stopped at the OpenMRS Implementers conference in Kigali, Rwanda. OpenMRS is the open-source medical record framework that I've been using at the children's hospital in Cambodia. They host an annual conference for everyone who's using or developing the software.

The morning of day 3 was devoted to show and tell. I joined the field trip to a clinic in Rwinkwavu, about two and a half hours outside of the capitol.

Rwanda is nicknamed the Land of 1000 Hills. The landscape reminded me of Vermont - rolling hills with farms and cows, mountains in the distance.


At the clinic we were treated to a clinic tour, and then a more detailed explanation of how they've customized the software to match the site's needs.

The conference has been an amazing introduction to both people and ideas. I'm almost looking forward to the long flight home just to turn off the computer and give my brain a rest.

There wasn't much chance for sightseeing until today. I visited the Genocide Memorial Museum with some other attendees. It's strange to talk about that as a tourist activity, because it commemorates a solemn event. The museum is very well done. The last room was the most difficult. It begins with a plaque that says "these are our beautiful and beloved children, who should have been our bright future." The room is filled with hundreds of snapshots donated by their families - kids mugging for the camera, toddlers playing, round-cheeked babies startled by the flash. This is what the news called "ethnic strife".

As the exhibits show, we can't attribute this kind of violence to the circumstances of a unique time or place. It's important to bear witness, that we may never forget and never repeat it. Go to the museum if you have an opportunity. It's not an easy visit, but it's worth it.

Category: Volunteering