By Nusrat Ahmed, WiSci STEAM Camp counselor
WiSci STEAM camp at the Gashora Girls Academy
The girls I have met at the WiSci STEAM camp, a three-week long intensive science and leadership program in Rwanda, speak with the strength of their country on their lips. But despite their diverse backgrounds, coming from Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, America, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, they are all inherently a manifestation of the beauty, resilience, and power of Rwanda. I sincerely believe that there is a divine purpose as to why these girls, all with individual stories of self, were planted together on Rwanda's soil. Because in Rwanda, life flows like water. There is connectivity between all of the workings of nature. And for a perceptive person, there is pleasure in even the humblest of ants. It is here I learned of the powerful idea that the beauty of this world is a sum of its parts. It is here that the girls are all a part of something much greater.
We wake up together at 7 am, and eat a breakfast of fried bread and peanut butter. Knives and forks sit cross-legged on pink plates, later to be washed in red buckets outside of the dining hall. The girls go to class, and learn how to make apps and computer games. They learn leadership development and networking skills. They learn how to create social change. For lunch and dinner we eat Irish potatoes, rice, beans, and drums of mayonnaise and tomato sauce. The showers are communal and the singing is too. The floors are slippery of bubble parties and flip-flops with toenails scented of earth. We wash our own clothes and hang them on clotheslines straightened by sunshine. We metallic and glitter our nails, paint murals for charity, haggle at markets for drum key chains and elephant pants, flower graves at genocide memorial centers, and chorus during bus rides through cities and night skies, air cleaned of color. We sit in circles and talk about relationships, about periods, and showers, and love, and rejection, about fear and mothers, and supporting one another. We talk about philosophy theories, and hey, how was your day, and how to build self confidence, become country delegates and community mapping, and dance parties that water red blood cells, and making bridges out of cardboard with only three pieces of tape.
These girls ignite such an explosive love and pride in me that it ruptures out of the fabric my skin serves to decorate. They each have an intention to serve and are both aware of the world's pain but also aware of the world's possibilities. There are times I need to take a metaphorical step back because I am coming to understand the world and my story of self in a new way. It is through their genuine hunger to serve and create and lead and grow their communities that I have learned that nothing is as inspiring as seeing incredibly brilliant young women want to change the world and create apps and services and clubs to do so. No one is tired of helping and no one expects recognition. Because by serving, you are acting in harmony to nature and to what you are a part of. The eyes do not expect gratitude for seeing, nor do the hands for touching. But yet the human body is fulfilled and completed by its ability to see and touch just as our good deeds fulfill and complete nature's ability to progress and continue to exist in infinite beauty. Just as these girls serve to fulfill and complete Rwanda in its mission for renewal. And just as the humblest of ants at a Wisci STEAM camp engineers trails and pathways to carry out what nature expects of her.
Nusrat Ahmed is a junior studying Anthropology at Princeton University. She is passionate about children's rights, women empowerment, and youth activism. Her guilty pleasures are Swedish fish, cherry coke, and reality TV.