UWE Bristol graduate returns to volunteer in Rwanda 20 years after being adopted from an orphanage

Issue date: 27 March 2013

Louise talks about her plan to return to Rwanda – http://youtu.be/NezLi7m4r68

A graduate and Students' Union Sabbatical Officer from UWE Bristol, who was once an orphan in a Rwandan orphanage, is going to return to Kigali this summer for the first time since she was adopted by French parents in 1993.

Louise Goux-Wirth is going to spend three months volunteering in an orphanage in a quest to find out more about her cultural heritage and to give something back to the country where she was born.

Louise says, “This is a significant time to be returning to Rwanda as it is now 20 years since the genocide. My brother and I were three when my adoptive parents brought us initially to France and then across to the UK, so I have no actual memory of my time in Rwanda. My adoptive parents were living in France in a little village called Jargeau that is twinned with Janga in Rwanda and the adoption was organised through the links developed through the twinning arrangement. We lived in France for a short time and then moved to the UK where I have lived ever since.

“My parents very thoughtfully compiled a beautiful photo album full of pictures of myself and my brother at the orphanage, the surrounding area, the people who cared for us and this has been my only real link with my past in Rwanda. When we left we both spoke Kinyarwanda but I have no memory of this.

“It's quite strange to be brought up in a country when you know that things could have been very different and when you know that you have such a different start in life to the people you are growing up with.

“One thing that I am very keen to do is to make an updated version of the album to compliment the one put together by my parents when they came to collect us from Rwanda.

“Personally I could never go to Kigali as a tourist. I want to feel part of a community and it just seems fitting and right to go to work with children in an orphanage. I will be returning to a different orphanage to the one I lived in – I'm not even sure if that one still exists. This all fits well with my degree in Education Studies and I'm sure that much of what I have learned can be put to good use. I have organised my trip through a volunteering agency and have raised the money through fundraising.

“This trip is for me about many things, to learn about my cultural heritage, to give something back and to find closure. I have always planned to go to Rwanda and the period between my final year as a Sabbatical Officer at UWE Students' Union and entering the 'real world' of work is possibly the best time to fit in this important journey – it feels like it is now or never.

“I have no idea where this trip will lead me but I have been making the most of the way twitter gives access to some important people and hope to meet with the Minister for Education to see if there may be other opportunities whilst I am there.

“My time at UWE Bristol has been amazing and I especially feel that the time as a Sabbatical Officer has made me grow in confidence because of the wonderful opportunities and challenges that the post brings with it. Things could have been very different in my life but I feel a real draw to learn about the country where I was born and where my cultural roots reside.”

Louise departs for Kigali on 15 July and will return in October 2013.

Read Louise's blog to find out more.

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