It was a day of cultural understanding and conversations as the Upper School community welcomed six students from Hope Haven Rwanda to campus for a visit and special assembly.
The visit was organized through the coordination of Hamden Hall Trustee Emeritus and past parent John Beirne and Hope Haven Rwanda founder Susan Hollern as the students were in Connecticut for a debate tournament hosted at Yale University. Academic Dean Justine Fellows planned the itinerary - incidentally, Mrs. Fellows has her own personal connection to Rwanda.
“The visit was a noteworthy opportunity for our students to learn more about the Rwandan community and get a global perspective from peers their age,” said Mrs. Fellows. “It’s hard to emulate this kind of learning in the classroom, and the goal is to provide cross-cultural experiences for a broader understanding of stewardship and compassion. We hope to continue these types of exchange partnerships as they are rewarding to all involved.”
Upon their arrival, Head of School Bob Izzo and Mrs. Fellows welcomed the group along with their teacher, John D’Amour, in the dining hall for breakfast before splitting off into a campus tour. The breakfast was followed by a busy schedule of classes that showcased the academic vigor of Hamden Hall.
Throughout the day, the students took part in myriad classes around campus from acting lessons in the Dolven Rotunda with theater teacher Charlie Alexander to AP Biology with Dr. Gina D’Angelo, to Meteorology with science teacher Sarrah Gavin, to Human Rights with history teacher Nuray Ibryamova, before enjoying lunch and concluding their visit with an assembly.
At the assembly held in Taylor Gymnasium, Mr. Izzo acknowledged and thanked Mr. Beirne and Mrs. Fellows for their coordination before introducing Mrs. Hollern. Mrs. Hollern spoke to the students, faculty, and staff about the founding and history of Hope Haven Rwanda. In 2009, she traveled to Rwanda for the first time after having attended a fundraiser supporting Technology in Education for Rwandan children. She began volunteering and attending missions trips in Rwanda and knew something more was needed. With the help of dedicated personnel, Hope Haven Rwanda was established in 2012 with 97 students and has now grown to over 1,800 students. She transitioned to a video presentation before introducing the six students, who shared more about what they are studying at Hope Haven.
The floor was open for questions from Hamden Hall students and faculty. A student raised her hand and asked, “what types of changes do you hope to see in the world when sharing the message of your school?” Emelyne from Hope Haven said there needs to be more empathy and support between communities while another student, Lydia, noted that creating meaningful connections is of utmost importance and to always remember to be giving in all that you do.