Elizabeth Davis first heard about the Rwandan genocide—in which more than a million people were killed—as a college student in Tennessee. The atrocity deeply affected her, so much so that after graduation she moved to Rwanda.
about tcsChanging Lives in Rwanda
Davis spent the first two years volunteering at a home for street kids in Kigali, where she met and befriended fellow volunteer Dave Hughes. Through their work, they saw firsthand the lack of opportunities for young women to continue their education.
That's why a few years later, they founded the Akilah Institute for Women, with a mission to educate young, low-income women. In Rwanda, it’s rare for women to graduate from high school, let alone college. Only one percent of all Rwandans attend college and less than a third are women. The Akilah Institute for Women offers a three-year diploma in several subjects, including hospitality management.
“Our hospitality students complete their internships in hotels, lodges, tourism companies, airlines, customer care departments and other businesses around East Africa,” Davis said. “TCS World Travel was one of our first partners. They have been bringing visitors to our campus since 2010.”
TCS World Travel travelers often visit the Akilah Institute campus and meet the graduates on our trips. Many Akilah Institute alumnae work as interpretative guides for Terra Incognita Ecotours, the ground agents who lead our expeditions in Rwanda. Terra Incognita Ecotours owner Gerard Caddick hires Akilah graduates based on the invaluable, real-world experience they receive while at the school.
“We believe strongly in the empowerment of young women to advance the economy of Rwanda,” Caddick said. “I’ve witnessed so many of these young, unassuming women blossom before my eyes, from shy young ladies to strong confident women.”
In addition, Akilah students get the opportunity to meet people from around the world and learn about their many different cultures.
“I have learned a lot from working with TCS World Travel,” said Nadine Niyitegeka, a graduate of the hospitality program. “Meeting with different people and learning from them was a great experience. They taught me to become sensitive to the unique qualities of others. I found out that it is important to develop an appreciation for different cultures in order to become a well-rounded person.”
The graduates’ in-depth knowledge also provides travelers a firsthand look at what life is like in the East African nation.
“They offer an invaluable part of the travel experience,” Caddick said. “These women know personally what living in Rwanda is like, from day-to-day family life to the political climate.”
This institute and its graduates make a lasting impression on travelers. Many TCS World Travel guests who visited the Akilah Institute continue to be involved in a variety of ways, such as hosting fundraisers to support scholarships.