Hackley’s Rwanda Partnership: 10 Years of Collaboration

By the Hackley Rwanda Partnership team

In 2017, the Hackley-Rwanda Partnership— a collaboration among Hackley School, Green Hills Academy in Kigali, Rwanda, and Duha Complex School in rural Musha — marked its 10 year anniversary.

Together with REAP (The Rwanda Education Assistance Project), the three schools have sponsored visits among their students, faculty, and administration, participated in online collaborations studying gender equity in education and educational resources, shared music and art, and learned about each other’s schools and lives through trips and homestays.

And it all started in a little coffee shop in Kigali in 2007… Sitting in Bourbon Coffee in the MTN building in central Kigali, Michael Clark, former Hackley Lower School librarian, looked out at some of the 1000 lush, green hills of Rwanda. A set of buildings on the hillside beneath him caught his eye, and his subsequent conversation with Ed Ballen, Founder and Director of REAP, confirmed that he was looking at an independent school nestled into the valley. When Michael returned from his trip helping to set up a community library in Rinkwavu, he reported that he had made a connection not only with Ed and REAP, but with a school that reminded him a lot of Hackley, Green Hills Academy.

Soon after that propitious encounter, five Hackley faculty members would all make summer trips to Rwanda to work with teachers at GHA and Duha Complex School, where REAP’s work is focused on teacher training, gender equity, empowerment of girls, reproductive rights, nutrition, and English language instruction. All formed lasting bonds with teachers and students at these schools; in subsequent years, the Headmasters of both GHA and Duha, as well as other administrators and faculty from these schools, have paid visits to the Hilltop. Green Hills teachers have collaborated with their peers at Duha, and their students have played each other in football (you’ll have to ask them to find out who won!).

In 2013, we had our first true student exchange with Green Hills. As part of Hackley’s Casten Travel Program, which supports global education trips with a small teacher-student ratio and financial aid that assures access for all students, three Hackley faculty led a trip to Rwanda, and subsequently, a delegation of GHA students and faculty came to Hackley. Both groups were hosted in homestays, spent time in classes, and had some opportunities for sightseeing. A second group of GHA students and faculty visited Hackley in 2015, and a third group arrived in April 2017. And over Spring Break 2018, five Hackley teachers will travel to Rwanda to continue to deepen our connections with both GHA and Duha.

Each year, Hackley hosts a BOWLing for Rwanda event, for which students of all ages across the K-12 school create beautiful, hand-painted bowls for purchase — filled, of course, with ice cream for all as the entire community comes together for sundaes! The funds support the Duha Complex School, and the event has become a wonderful tradition in which we get to celebrate this ongoing partnership.