Three Vermont high school students spent part of their 11-day trip to Rwanda visiting students in Project Independence, which provides job skills training for Rwandan young people orphaned by AIDS. On one day, the Vermont students' first stop was a garage in the capital of Kigali where Rwandan students were working on vehicles as part of a three-month internship in auto repair. Then the group watched students studying hospitality learn about food preparation in a class at a hotel restaurant. That afternoon they visited the home of Paulin Irankunda, 22, who had just graduated from Project Independence and had gotten a job as a server at the restaurant where he'd been an apprentice.
The three Vermont students on the trip have been leaders in Operation Days Work, a program involving 18 schools across the country. Students at each school do odd jobs on a designated day each year to raise money for a project of their choosing that benefits young people in another country. Last year they decided to give the money to CHABHA (Children Affected By HIV/AIDS), a Vermont-based group that supports several programs in Rwanda, including Project Independence. The Vermont students traveled to Kigali to document the progress of Project Independence and make connections with the Rwandan young people in the program.