Charmaine, congratulations my daughter. You are now a YESS girl!” These words blurted out by my headmistress, Sister Monica.
My name is Charmaine Mupita, I am a Girl Guide from Zimbabwe currently participant of Youth Exchange – South to South (YESS) Programme in Rwanda. Being part of this movement has changed everything about me, and how l would hold me in every aspect as well as boosting my self-esteem. This has always been something l had wished for ever since l heard about YESS program in 2016.
It was a very big challenge for me to leave my home, my parents for six good months and leave with unknown people. At some point, l felt like asking my coordinator, Rejoice to select someone else but inside l told myself, ‘‘Charmaine, you can do this!”
The departure from Zimbabwe was very emotional. My mother gave me a warm, motherly hug with the greatest advice ever and bid me farewell. Being on the plane for the first time was such an enjoyable experience and after several hours we reached Uganda where we had our preparatory course and camped at Speke Resort Munyonyo,a very fine and luxurious hotel, l must say. The course and camp ran for nine days. I was delighted to meet other participants whom l would be staying with and treating as my own family. We created such a strong bond, till now we are still in touch.
We left for our host countries on Friday 25 January 2019, around one hour we were already in Rwanda and we were heartily welcomed by Dasha and Rachel, the YESS alumni as well as the driver at the airport. They took us to the house which we are proud to call home even up to now. It is well furnished and has beautiful scenery outside with beautiful flowers and well-trimmed lawn and hedge. I liked it at first sight. I was given my own room painted lime and red. These colours still harmonize so well and this gave me the reason to love this room more.
We were offered tantalizing fried eggs, bread and coffee by Alice, a YESS alumnus who was a participant in Zimbabwe, and l enjoyed hearing her speak in my mother tongue, Shona. I almost cried as it made me miss home more, but l was strong. The landlord who is very generous bought soft drinks for us and asked us questions about our countries. To my surprise, he told me l did not look Zimbabwean, he said l look Rwandese. The other four participants then reached home later the following morning, ate and we slept as we were tired from the flight.
The following day was incredible. I could not wait to see our coordinator, Germaine in person. It had always been WhatsApp chat. She came together with our peers, Shemsa and Safa. They welcomed us, and we were introduced to the life in Rwanda and how we would be doing our administrative work at the office. We did our shopping with the peers in town as we could not use Kinyarwanda; they would translate everything for us. Fortunately, we now know how to do our shopping as well as bargaining since we are now familiar with the place and what transpires. We had also a welcome party, I felt loved and appreciated. In the party we had drinks, we ate and we have been given some AGR t-shirts it was simply amazing.
Monday 26 January 2019 was my first time in the office. We did so many things; organizing a campaign, helping in administration works and other activities provided by the AGR. Our coordinator was very motivating; she was always stressed on this importance of hard work and loving what we do. This has been the pushing factor to what we do as we would not want to disappoint her or ourselves. As a result, we get so much recruitment in our campaign, we have recruited 793 girl guides out of 1600 of our target in six different districts within 2 months only! We had an Isango TV talk show for launching our campaign on Yes, Girls Can Say No To Alcohol and Drugs. This was scary at first but l managed to sail through, it was my first time appearing on the television, but it was awesome. I also was honored to attend the local Commission on the Status of Women, where l was Canada representative. I got a prize for representing my country well.
The YESS programmer has helped me to boost my self-esteem, to improve advocacy skills and assertiveness, I developed my communication skills, I learned that l can be the change that others want to see and feel. This exchange program has helped me to respect other people’s culture and values. Furthermore, I appreciated the cleanness and safety of Rwanda, its security is too tight to allow any misbehavior or crime. I enjoyed the culture, the food (ugali, matoke and eggplants) Kinyarwanda language like: Murakoze means thank you and Nitwa Charmaine means my name is Charmaine.
This exchange thought me to turn the ball of negativity into positivity and be confident of who you are and you are capable of doing anything in this world if you stay positive.
You dare to participate in this program you will not probably regret it.