Students collect for Rwanda


by Michelle Zimmerman

Students going on the Rwandan May Term trip are working to gather donations around campus before traveling to the Republic of Rwanda in Africa.

Freshman Annie Fullas is interested in the direct interactions she’ll make inside the Rwandan culture.

“We will be working hands on with Rwandan schoolchildren, helping them to not only understand the importance of academic education, but environmental as well,” Fullas said. “We will be learning about Rwanda’s beloved mountain gorillas and how important environmental conservation is in their country.”

Students involved in the trip take time to prepare every Wednesday afternoon. They are getting to know each other and the culture as well as reading three books.

“There are three important parts of Rwanda culture to understand; the geography, the importance of mountain gorillas to the people and the aftermath of the genocide,” junior Anna Rannebaum said.

Aside for preparing for the course, the students are also collecting a wide variety of donations to take along for their trip. Donations can include toiletries, musical instruments, new or used tennis shoes, some school supplies and other items that are sent out in campus wide e-mails.

There is a collection box located in Dunn Library. Monetary donations can be given to assistant professor of music Virginia Cronskery.

“We are each bringing an extra suite case [that is 50 pounds] dedicated to donations,” sophomore Kayla Ferguson said. “I know a lot of us are planning to only bring a few sets of clothes for ourselves and wash them repeatedly while we’re there in order to have more room to bring donations. We also plan to leave our own clothes there when we leave.”

Students are teaming up with the Great Ape Trust and the Art of Conservation from Des Moines.

“We will be working with the Great Ape Trust foundation for a week planting trees,” Ronnebaum said. “We will be given the opportunity to spend some time with the mountain gorillas on the conservation. We will be spending the rest of our trip working with the Art of Conservation. This group helps educate school children about health and conservation through the arts.”

Junior Angela Niesz, a member of the group, created a blog where the students will be able to track their happenings before, during and after the trip.

“We are starting to write in our blogs now,” Ferguson said. “We will talk about our prep work, fundraisers and what we’re learning.”

The blog will serve as a communication tool with friends and family, Ronnebaum said.

“This is the place for all students going on the trip to express their fears, expectations, hopes and plans for the trip,” Ronnebaum said.

Ferguson is looking forward to spending time with the Rwandans.

“[Looking forward to] learning about their way of life and what is truly important to them,” Ferguson said. “I know they will change my outlook immensely.”

Ronnebaum is looking forward to working with children at the schools.

“I am most looking forward to interacting with the people there and learning more about myself as the trip progresses,” Ronnebaum said.

Donations will be accepted until the middle of April. You can visit the blog at for more information or to follow the students as they journey to Rwanda this May.