This program is organized by Duke faculty/staff in collaboration with DukeEngage. It is a new program for the summer of 2017.

    • Rwanda map

Program Dates

June 3 - July 31

Service Focus

Assisting with and documenting the efforts of four nonprofit organizations that are working for the betterment of the Rwandese people in the areas of public health, education, land reform, women’s rights and the well-being of children.

Service Focus:

  • Documentary arts
  • Health care
  • Children/youth services

Program Leaders

  • Program Director: , Visiting Lecturer, Center for Documentary Studies.  Bamberger’s work explores large social issues of our time.  He has had one-person exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, the Yale University Art Gallery, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the National Building Museum.  A trademark of Bamberger’s exhibitions is that they are first shown in the community where he has chosen to photograph, prior to their museum exhibition.
  • Project Collaborator: Katie Hyde is the director of Literacy Through Photography (LTP), a program based at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies.  Katie has offered to lead a two-week LTP program for DukeEngage-Rwanda in partnership with one of our host organizations.


Over the course the summer, DukeEngage students will be embedded with 4 community-based organizations to document daily life across Rwanda.  We will use photographs, audio, and video recordings to explore contemporary issues rooted in the work of our host organizations.  These issues include infant mortality and efforts to reduce it; education of vulnerable youth; land reform and home ownership rights for women; health and safety conditions for children and domestic workers; and housing conditions and urban renewal in Kigali’s poorest neighborhoods.

Service Opportunities

As part of the Rwanda Documentary Project, the following organizations have agreed to host DukeEngage students in the summer of 2017.

The Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) is a Kigali-based NGO that advocates for the rights of Rwanda’s poor.  Much of their work focuses on land-reform policy with a particular focus on increasing the rights of women to own property and homes. RISD’s work includes policy research, networking and advocacy. 

Save the Children is an international NGO advocating for the health, wellbeing, and rights of children in more than 120 countries worldwide.  Their primary focus in Rwanda is on education, health and nutrition, child protection, and child rights governance.  Save the Children came to Rwanda in 1994, in the aftermath of The Genocide. Today it works in 14 Districts and all 5 Provinces. 

The Rwanda School Project was created to provide quality secondary education to some of Rwanda’s most vulnerable youth.  In 2007 this U.S. based NGO raised the funds to buy land for the school in Rwamagana and school founder Robin Strickler taught a free English class there for 9 months.  Today the Rwamagana Lutheran School has an enrollment of over 130 students and a campus on five acres that includes a main school building with ten classrooms, boy and girl dormitories, a dining hall and adjacent school kitchen, a science lab, chicken coops and a school garden.

The Nyabisindu Health and Wellness Center is a pre-natal and post-natal health clinic that serves 75-100 women and their babies weekly in a mobile clinic in one of Kigali’s poorest neighborhoods.  The clinic is staffed by a mix of Rwandese women and men—several of whom live in the village—with two full-time midwives, and a range of long and short-term international volunteers.  The mobile clinic in Nyabisindu operates every Tuesday and Thursday.  The Iranzi Clinic, a newly constructed modern facility within walking distance of Nyabisindu, will be opened for daily care in the months ahead. 

Students will devote a 40-hour week to volunteering at their host organization.  They will have two primary responsibilities.

  1. To assist the host organization with its overall mission.  This might include advocacy work for RISD, child rights research for Save the Children, tutoring or coaching at the Rwamagana Lutheran School, or administrative support at the Nyabisindu mobile clinic.
  2. To use their documentary skills (photography, writing, video, etc.) to help the host organization tell stories about the work they do.

Much of the documentary work will be quite interesting and offer our students an opportunity to witness and document everyday life and critical social issues in cities, towns, and villages across Rwanda.  For example, our student documentarians will photograph children in community schools, pregnant women in a portable health clinic, literacy programs for children in Rwanda’s public and private schools, and single mothers in rural villages who are the first in their family to own land.

Students will also occasionally be asked to photograph at their host organization’s meetings, make a portrait of a staff member, or do some organizational writing.  While this kind of work might be less exciting it is a service that is essential to the needs our host organizations. 

When possible, a half-day each week will be reserved for DukeEngage students and advisors to meet as a group to review our evolving documentary projects.  In some instances, we will schedule these informal meetings at the offices of our host organizations so their staff members and the citizens they serve can participate. 

We will do our best to match our DukeEngage students with host organizations mostly aligned with their academic interests. Students will work in teams of 2 per host organization.

At the close of the program, a culminating series of presentations will be produced for the organizations that host us.  These might include photographic exhibitions installed in community centers and at the organizations’ offices, short video presentations shared via digital projector at town gatherings, and a DukeEngage Rwanda website (likely to be launched in year 2).

In Nyabisindu we plan to collaborate with the Health and Wellness Center to produce a large-scale exhibition of photographs that includes both the clinic’s work and daily life in the village.*  The clinic coordinator will work with us to premier this exhibition as a fund-raising event that will help to renovate a home in the village center.  Project director Bill Bamberger will also collaborate on this effort.

Host organizations will be provided full access to the documentary material we produce for use on their websites and for other means they might employ to promote and raise awareness for the work they do.

In addition to offering documentary service work interns may arrange with their host organizations to volunteer in other ways. At the Nyabisindu Women’s Health Clinic, for instance, our interns might be called on to register pregnant mothers or to help with daily paperwork.  At the Rwamaga Lutheran School they might tutor students in English or mathematics or volunteer to work in the community garden.  We hope that the relationship of our interns to their host organizations evolves to best serve the goals of these organizations while utilizing the diverse capabilities of our DukeEngage students.

*We will need to raise funds for ink, paper, and presentation materials to produce the Nyabisindu exhibition. 

Program Requirements

Language: There are no language requirements, though some fluency in Kinyarwanda would be a huge plus. Fluency in French would also be an asset.

Coursework and Technical Skills: Students are expected to have completed two documentary production courses at the Center for Documentary Studies or comparable department. These courses can be in photography, audio, writing, film, video or web production. Courses in documentary history, theory, ethics and best practice are also encouraged, but documentary production skills are essential.   Students may submit portfolios or links to a website in addition to or in lieu of the required coursework if they feel their portfolio or website demonstrates the requisite documentary experience to participate in the program.  Please send links to portfolios or websites directly to the project director at .

Equipment: Ideally student will have access to the equipment necessary to undertake their documentary project.  However if students do not have the requisite equipment, we will work with the Center for Documentary Studies to arrange for loaner cameras, audio gear, etc.

Personal Qualities: We are looking for students who possess a mix of self-assurance and humility.  Experience working in other cultures is a plus.  Interest in and respect for others is essential.  We also hope our students will possess the following attributes:

  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity – effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, races, religions, and cultures; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment
  • Ability to work productively on a supervised team - responds to feedback and critique from co-workers and supervisors with maturity and openness to improvement; listens actively and communicates courteously; responds with patience and perseverance to new or unanticipated situations and obstacles; accepts responsibility for their actions; balances their personal expectations of the DukeEngage volunteer experience with the realities of working on short-term projects in cultural and workplace settings that are new to them
  • Self-awareness – possesses an age-appropriate understanding of the personal strengths and weaknesses they bring to a DukeEngage project/program; able to articulate their beliefs and values, and to state authentically their personal motivation to serve as a volunteer; demonstrates an awareness of how others may view them in a variety of cultural settings

Program Details

Description of community: students will be staying in Kiyovu—a centrally located neighborhood within walking distance of Kigali’s Nyarugenge City Market and the historic colonial-era Commercial and Matthaeus districts. Buses run through the neighborhood from every hub in the city. Kiyovu is known for its eclectic mix of expatriate and middle-class Rwandan residents. English is widely spoken in Kiyovu and the area has far fewer water and electricity outages than the rest of the city (some say this is because the president resides there).

While oral histories and place-names suggest that the area around Mount Kigali once belonged to a network of rotating residences used by the Mwami (Rwandan King) dating back to circa 1000 C.E., Kigali’s status as capital city is much more recent.  When Kigali was named capital of newly independent Rwanda in 1962, the town had a population of just 6,000 spread over two square kilometers. Today, close to 1.3 million people call Kigali home, and it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Kigali is a city of fascinating contradictions. It is one of the safest and, some say, cleanest cities in Africa. During the dry season (when the program runs) the daily temperature hovers between 75 and 85 degrees.  4G LTE internet access is available in the city—even on most buses. In the Central Business District, newly built iconic high-rises tower over older—yet still operating colonial-era Omani trading districts. One can go shopping in a supermarket located in the basement of a shopping mall, or haggle over prices in a street market; sip an iced mocha latte in Bourbon Coffee with expats, or drink ginger tea from a plastic cup while hanging out with street traders in Nyamirambo.  Despite Kigali’s reputation for modern infrastructure, however, electricity and water outages are common; income inequality and underemployment continue to rise in the city; and while the new Kigali Master Plan has brought more paved roads and high-rises to downtown, its implementation has meant evicting hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes.

There will be much for students to explore in Kigali during their downtime. They will be encouraged to see Rwandan music and dance performances from intore (traditional dance) to igisope, a fusion of rumba and Kinyarwanda folk music. The summit of Mount Kigali offers breathtaking views of the city, while the Kigali’s public markets are great places to shop, meet Rwandans, and explore the city’s rapidly changing built environment. Students will also be required to participate in umuganda, the last Saturday of each month when the entire city shuts down for compulsory community service. 

While Kigali is a safe city and most visitors find that “hospitality” is not a strong enough word to describe the lengths that Rwandans will go to make them feel welcome, this is not a program for timid travelers. Students will have to navigate language barriers, service breakdowns, and other moments that require quick improvisation. During their internships in rural communities and on the Kigali’s periphery, program participants will be persistently made aware of their foreigner status by crowds of children shouting “muzungu!” In other words, this program requires a sense of adventure, lots of patience, an open-minded curiosity about other languages and cultures, and—most importantly—a reflexive sense of humor.    

Housing and Meals:  For most of the program, students will be housed at a modest, yet comfortable guesthouse in the heart of Kigali city.  The guesthouse is in a safe neighborhood and an easy walk to the downtown shopping district. 

The guesthouse provides wireless internet, laundry service (for a modest fee) and a complimentary daily breakfast. Most students will eat weekday lunch with their host organizations. There is a restaurant at the guesthouse that serves lunch and dinner and many local restaurants, plus a grocery store within walking distance.  We are in the process of contracting with the guesthouse to provide dinner 5 nights a week. 

The guesthouse rooms on the first floor open onto a pleasant garden. It provides basic accommodation: toilets and running hot/cold water, but not much more.  We have arranged for students to share a twin room and in special circumstances single rooms will be available. The rooms have locking doors with bars on the windows and the grounds of the guesthouse have a gated fence and a security guard.  Jackson Uwizeye, the guesthouse manager, speaks fluent English and is very accommodating.

If you do not eat certain types of food for cultural, religious or personal reasons, please contact the DukeEngage office, , to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated at this program site.

Transportation:  Students will be based primarily in Kigali, where the roads are pretty good.  When they do travel to surrounding towns, students will travel with a guide provided by their host organizations and, in most instances, with a driver also provided by the host.  The guide will usually be an employee of the host organization, will speak Kinyarwanda and help the student navigate geographically and culturally.  If students spend the night outside of Kigali their host organization will arrange for guesthouse lodging and meals.

The bus system in Kigali is inexpensive and fairly comprehensive.  We will devote some time during our initial week in Kigali helping students understand how the bus system works.  While more expensive, taxis also provide a useful way to get around, especially when travelling locally in groups of two or more. 

Students interning at the Rwamagana Lutheran School will commute daily by private car with the school principal and/or school faculty. 

Communication:  Student will be provided a basic local cell phone upon their arrival in Kigali. Internet access is available at the guesthouse and at 3 of the 4 host organizations.  Students should bring a laptop for both project work and personal use.

Opportunities for Reflection: In addition to the weekly meetings, on-site with the host organizations, the group will meet collectively, once a week, with the site-coordinator and/or the project director. These meetings will serve multiple purposes: to build camaraderie amongst the group, to share stories and answer questions about our experiences in Kigali, and to reflect on what is working (or not working) in our individual internships.  Additionally we will use some of these gatherings to occasionally discuss an assigned reading or theme related to Rwandese life. These meetings will be scheduled in the evening or on weekends and usually at one of Kigali’s many restaurants. Guest speakers will be invited to some of these gatherings to talk with us about topics like reconciliation in post-Genocide Rwanda, street markets and commerce in Kigali, efforts to reduce HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, educational reform in modern-day Rwanda and the role of public art in underserved communities around the globe. 

Other Opportunities:  While students will have some free time to explore Kigali, all weekly meetings, group dinners, guest speakers and cultural excursions are required as an integral part of the overall program. Evenings will be used for editing and producing student documentary projects and for journal writing.

Suggested Readings

Honeyman, Catherine A.  The Orderly Entrepreneur: Youth, Education, and Governance in Rwanda.  Stanford University Press, 2016.

Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

Burnett, Jennie. Genocide Lives in Us. Women Memory and Silence in Rwanda. University of Wisconsin Press, 2012.

Uvin, Peter. Aiding Violence: The Development Industry in Rwanda. West Hartford: Kumarian Press, 1998.

Goodfellow, Thomas. “Kigali 2020: The Politics of Silence in the City of Shock” Open

Democracy Digital Commons 3/14/13, uploaded 3/15/13.


Lemarchand, R. Rwanda and Burundi. New York: Praeger Press, 1970

Mamdani, M. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in

Rwanda. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001

Strauss, S. and Lars Waldorf (eds).2011.Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human

Rights After Mass Violence. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011 (note: This book is banned in Rwanda).

Shearer, S. “Producing Sustainable Futures in Post-Genocide Kigali” in Sustainability and the Global City, Myth and Practice. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015

Strother, Zoe. “`A Photograph Steals the Soul’: The History of an Idea.” In Portraiture and Photography in Africa, ed. John Peffer and Elisabeth Cameron. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013, 177-212.

Strother, Zoe. “Looking for Africa in Carl Einstein’s Negerplastik.” African Arts 46:4 (Winter 2013): 8-21.

Curricular Connections

Documentary production classes at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS)

DOCST 105S / 705S Documentary Experience: A Video Approach
A documentary approach to the study of local communities through video production projects assigned by the course instructor. Working closely with local groups, students explore issues or topics of concern to the community. Students complete an edited video as their final project.

DOCST 202S Children and the Experience of Illness
An exploration of how children cope with illness, incorporating the tools of documentary photography and writing. Students will work outside class with children who are ill and teach them how to use a camera, working toward an exhibit of photographs at the end of the semester. 

DOCST 230S Small Town, USA: Local Collaborations
Theory and practice of documentary photography in a small-town context. Students working in collaboration with one nearby small town complete a documentary photographic study of one individual or group within that town. Includes analysis of the documentary tradition, particularly as it relates to locally situated work and to selected individual projects; building visual narrative, developing honest relationships with subjects, responsibility to subjects and their communities, and engaging with and portraying a community as an outsider. Photo elicitation and editing techniques.

DOCST 271S Public Policy Video (formerly "Video for Social Change”)
Documentary film course focusing on the production of advocacy videos for social change. Covers methods and traditions of community organizing, introduces knowledge and skill sets needed to make effective videos for grassroots organizations, and explores how video is integrated into organizing strategies to achieve better results. Includes instructor-supervised fieldwork with community partner organization. Student groups will research, write, direct, and produce their own videos for a campaign to improve educational and economic opportunities in Durham's low-income communities. 

DOCST 310S / 710S The Short Audio Documentary
Introductory to intermediate public radio–style audio documentary production. Includes instructor-supervised fieldwork with an audio recorder in a variety of settings using creative approaches; students produce three short pieces (3-4 minutes long) in varying styles (journalistic, narrative, artistic) for posting on class site and public websites. 

DOCST 318S Photography Workshop
Examines historical and contemporary photographic artists for whom a particular photographic technique is essential to the creation of their work. Investigates strategies of intentional lighting. Explores techniques most suited the documentation of individual student’s chosen subject matter and create a cohesive body of work by semester’s end employing that strategy. May use digital or analog equipment. No textbooks are required, though students will need to budget a comparable amount for supplies and equipment.

DOCST 360S / 760S Multimedia Documentary: Editing, Production, and Publication
M 10:05 a.m.–12:35 p.m. (CDS, Bridges 104)
Edit and shape fieldwork material into a Web-based multimedia presentation, with a focus on video. Learn current technologies and techniques for multimedia publications. Examine unique storytelling strategies for on-line presentations and compare this medium to traditional venues for documentary work such as exhibitions, books, and broadcast.

DOCST 480S Capstone Seminar
Immersion in fieldwork-based inquiry and in-depth projects that serve as Certificate in Documentary Studies capstone experiences for students. Methods of documentary fieldwork, including participant observation, and modes of arts and humanities interpretation through a variety of mediums (including papers, film, photography exhibits, radio pieces, and performances).

CDS course on ethics, practice, theory, traditions and community engagement

DOCST 101 Traditions in Documentary Studies
Traditions of documentary work seen through an interdisciplinary perspective, with an emphasis on twentieth-century practice. Introduces students to a range of documentary idioms and voices, including the work of photographers, filmmakers, oral historians, folklorists, musicologists, radio documentarians, and writers. Stresses aesthetic, scholarly, and ethical considerations involved in representing other people and cultures. 

DOCST 224S / 724S Children’s Self-Expression: Literacy Through Photography
Children’s self-expression and education through writing, photograph and documentary work. Focus on reading and critical interpretation of images. The history, philosophy, and methodology of Literacy Through Photography. Includes internship in an elementary or middle school classroom. Required participation in service learning. Consent of instructor required. Cross list: EDUC 244S, VMS 207S

DOCST 245S / 745S Photography in Context
Uses the Duke Library Photography Archive as a resource to challenge students to think critically about photography. Considers how photography offers insights into areas of academic study such as social change, sexual identity, and regional culture, and how images have shaped collective understanding of these issues. Focuses on analyzing and contextualizing bodies of photographic work, the historical moment in which the pictures were made, personal history and artistic sensibility of the photographer, tools of the medium, along with considering personal responses to images and the ways in which all factors come together.

Area Studies Courses on African History, Politics, Development, and Representation

AAAS 103 Introduction to African Studies

An introductory course to continental history and contemporary issues in Africa

AAAS 307 Development and Africa

Addresses the use of economic development in Africa—its many failures, its occasional successes—from colonialism to the present

AAAS 310S Conflict Analysis in Africa (Case Studies)

Draws on case studies to outline components of conflict analysis in Africa. Looks at issues of post-coloniality, autochthony, migration, citizenship, land tenure, and inequality. Identifies potentially cross-cutting, deeper layers of contemporary crises in Africa with the objective of establishing a series of templates, a ‘protocol,’  for comparative conflict analysis and conflict management in Africa. This course is taught by a professor who is familiar with Rwanda

AAAS 316s Africa Youth and Democracy

This course explores the continent’s “youthfulness,” in particular south of the Sahara where four out of ten inhabitants are under age 15—twice as many as in the United States. In a part of the world where the “principle of seniority” traditionally coupled aging with the hoarding of knowledge, authority, wealth and power, what does the abundance of young people mean for Africa’s present and future, for its economy and popular culture, the transmission of norms and values, new digital lifestyles, war, and peace? This course is taught by a professor who is familiar with Rwanda.

AAAS 337 Hollywood and Africa: Case Studies of Filmic Representations

This course on Hollywood films about Africa—from classics such as “African Queen,” “Tarzan,” and “Out of Africa” to recent productions such as “Blood Diamond,”  “The Last King of Scotland,” “Lord of War”, “the Constant Gardner” will tack back and forth between filmic representation and case study, using the latter to critique the former. As contrastive material, the class will also draw on non-Hollywood films about Africa such as “Hotel Rwanda.”

Projects and Event Series

2016-2017 “Youth, Democracy, and Dissent” an event series with various talks and discussions throughout the year on the theme of policy and activism in Africa, sponsored by the Department of International Comparative Studies.

The Africa Initiative: An institute that hosts a number of events throughout the year, from public health seminars to film screenings. Many of these events relate to Rwanda


  • Professor Stephen Smith, Department of African and African American Studies: Professor Smith has written extensively on Rwanda, and Rwandan politics
  • Dr. Catherine A. Honeyman: Scholar in Residence Duke Center for International Development: Dr. Honeyman has lived in Rwanda since 2005, runs a consulting firm there, and has recently published a book on Rwanda’s education policy.
    • SF Rwanda