Dateline: Kigali, Rwanda, Africa

I just arrived back at the Hotel Mille Collines, the subject of the Don Cheadle movie Hotel Rwanda. It’s been an eventful five days in Africa already. I arrived in Kigali last Saturday night with my colleagues Dr. Tasha Eurich and Alice Madden. The next day we were transported across the Ugandan border to Lake Bunyonyi, site of the Global Livingston Institute’s (GLI) first-ever Women’s Leadership Retreat. The GLI project is a collaboration with the Buechner Institute at the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs, the Wirth Chair in Sustainable Development, and Makere University.

The retreat was held at the not-quite-finished Entusi Resort and Retreat Center on a beautiful peninsula accessible only by small motorboat. The American graduate students and the invited Ugandan women leaders had arrived the day before. That evening we kicked off the retreat with a wonderful welcome dinner and a performance by some local children that warmed our hearts. Entusi, the dream of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s senior policy advisor Jamie Van Leeuwen, has been entwined with the local community, providing jobs and a link to additional resources to help with economic development, health and education goals.

Over the course of the next couple of days, our eclectic assortment of women (and a few men) got to know each other and shared lessons of leadership, culture, and common struggle. The Ugandan women also participated in the Global Women’s Scholars Network, a National Science Foundation project led by Wirth Chair Alice Madden.

And always there was music, warming our hearts in the chilly lake air and bringing a smile to my face as I heard echoes of my beloved New Orleans musical traditions in the rhythms and harmonies of local African beats.

Working with GLI and UC Denver on this effort certainly was a different way to spend my vacation, but I will cherish many new friendships and return humbled and inspired. Please visit the GLI’s website to learn more and perhaps support the cause.

Part 2 of the trip starts tomorrow with a brief time-out to see the Mountain Gorillas of Gorillas in the Mist fame, then on to a few days visiting with Water For People’s programs in Rwanda.

More photos from my first 5 days in Africa