I had a fantastic experience with Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI). I traveled with them to Rwanda - obtaining an overview of the culture first, then the history of the genocide and then on to visit the fabulous Gashora Girl's Academy. RGI is well run yet open to new ideas. They are a fantastic fund-raising organization. They make it easy and fun to get involved in the work that they do both in the Pacific NW as well as in Rwanda.
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Gashora with my 12 year old daughter and it changed my life and hers. This organization is doing such tremendous work, and when you meet these girls (these young women really) you see how they are going to change the direction of their country and the world. The school is a beautiful place, with a focus on excellence and the whole girl. The students excel academically, but when you meet them you realize that they are being taught leadership and poise and persistence as well. In addition, the entrepreneurial curriculum and passion of the students is also evident in the businesses they are starting on site. Lastly, the organization that oversees the school is one run with great thoughtfulness and integrity, which you can see in the selection of the school staff and the culture of the school. I can't say enough great things about this school and this organization.
My daughter and I were very fortunate to travel to this beautiful country and meet the most incredible young women that are students... RGI is amazing! It is changing lives that will someday not only touch a country but also touch the world! We could of visited with the girls all day. They are all old spirits that are kind, curious, driven and full of hope for a better world. Our family ended up sponsoring one of the girls. She made us laugh, think and believe in all of the possibilities that the world has to offer. I can’t wait to see where RGI will take her. This trip was life changing in ways I could of never imagined.
RGI is an unbelievable organization and my trip to see the school, meet the girls and the teachers was life changing for me. These young women are so gracious, hardworking and appreciative of the education they are receiving at the Gashora Girls Academy. They are innovative, and see no boundaries to what they can accomplish. They are proud of their country and want to make Rwanda even better with their education. To tell you that the girls are incredibly inspiring is not enough; they are absolutely amazing; beyond words!
One thing that really struck me is how much they want one another to succeed. There is no jealousy, only support. That motto is something I took home and try to live up to each day after seeing this school.
The teachers care about the students like family. They give so much in the classroom and on the campus as a whole. I would go back in a minute!
Rwanda Girls Initiative 08/23/2018
Thank you so much Vicki for your wonderful words. You captured the spirit our school so well. Your family's support is amazing! Thank you.
Inspiring. Phenomenal. Irreplaceable. Unique. My experience at RGI’s Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology was life changing. Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology is more than just a typical school, it goes on being a community that guides the girls along their journey to transformative impacts in the society.
My experience naturally, has been shaped by each and every member of the GGAST community, arguably the best group of people I have ever met, I am because you are! I will fondly remember the classes that always pushed us out of our comfort zones, the late nights, the early mornings, the ups and downs. I am humbled by the safe haven that we helped establish at GGAST, it’s the reason why many of us were able to grow. I loved the intellectually stimulating discussions in Mr. Thorp’s G.P class, the rigorous debates in the dining hall, dormitory, all over the place. I loved the shows we put together. I am grateful that I was able to share in your success and your struggles. In each and every one of you I can find a quality that is worth admiring and celebrating. My fellow Ladies of Invention, I am in awe of you.
I didn’t graduate from GGAST, I simply wore a gown and received a piece of hard paper. I am afraid writing this short piece will in no way do justice to my three years at GGAST.
To the entire GGAST community of students, founders, alumni, staff and faculty, friends and supporters, thank you. Thank you for believing in us even when it seemed surreal. You have taught me (us) more than you realize and you embody values that I esteem to have. I am immensely grateful for the experience, and it is my prayer that more and more girls get to experience the same.
I simply wore a gown and received a piece of hard paper. I did not graduate from GGAST.
Once A Gashora Girl, Always A Gashora Girl!
My high school life wouldn't have been better. The three years I studied at Gashora Girls Academy( a school founded by RGI) have been so far the most meaningful in my life. The knowledge I got from there is my drive to become the person I aspire to be. The education at GGA is far beyond compare to the education anyone would expect from just a high school. As one of the school values say, Gashora Girls are destined to greatness. That's what the education I got, the education at GGA is built on, striving for greatness. Every after day, we were being taught to work not only hard but also smarter, and to never stop dreaming. All this is because the administration,the teaching stuff and the environment around were ready to give us hope, inspirations and opportunities to explore to the best of our abilities.
I was recently reading a novel titled the "Outliers"; The Story of Success" by one of the most famous canadian writers and a New York Times writer; Malcolm Gladwell.The author focuses on understanding successful people and how they achieve "success". In understanding successful people, the society has come to focus far too much on their intelligence and ambition and personality traits forgetting what surrounds them- their culture, their family,their generation, the opportunities, the culture of legacy and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.The book emphasizes the latter factors as the ingrendients for success by using the stories of different successful people in the world like the computer programmers; Bill Gates and Bill Joy and a successful Jewish lawyer, Joe Flom to mention but just a few. This book connected to me in many ways reflecting to my life at GGA.
An excerpt from that book; "Outliers are the people who have been given the opportunities and who have had that strength and presence of mind to seize them". This is exactly what we were taught at GGA,that it now became a culture and legacy. At GGA,We were given the opportunity to learn,practice, be inspired and inspire,and be able to not only recognize opportunities but also seize them, seize them firmly. Whenever I try to look four years back, I see a big difference in the person I was and the person I am now. The education, culture and experiences from GGA are the mother to the person I am; a McGill University MasterCard Foundation Scholar and the person I live long to be. Gashora Girls Academy has strengthened my ambitions, exposed me to different opportunities and I feel honored and grateful for what GGA has invested in me. Not only am I proud to be a Gashora Girl, I am equally proud to always be one. I stand willing, ready and proud of protecting the culture legacy that GGA has built.
I wish and pray nothing but, that more girls would have the likely experience and education that I got from GGA. It will be more inspiring to see more and more girls flourish as Gashora Girls and grow into inspiring "Outliers" of the future.
The last four years as a student and a member of the Gashora Girls community have been the most invaluable years of my life. Rwanda Girls Initiative has brought together committed teachers, administrators and different kinds of people, who together worked daily to give us the most exceptional education. We were prepared academically not just to excel on exams, which was my initial definition of education, but to be able to approach every other life experience with the same individuality and open mindedness we have developed over our years there. In class, my teachers and classmates challenged my way of thinking, and now as a college student, I reap the fruits of this kind of preparation.
There is more to Gashora Girls Academy than a great academic foundation. I grew as a leader and explored my career interests through internships and many other opportunities, such as the chance to meet great figures in my country. It is a community where expression of one’s uniqueness is encouraged. I have enjoyed seeing the talents of my classmates, learning about different faiths and points of views, which all came together to create an enriching diverse community. My wish and prayer is that more and more Rwandan girls get to have the same and even better experience than I had. Just like the school motto states, I have been educated, I have been inspired, and I am ready to transform my country. Thank you Rwanda Girls Initiative.
" Within the past year my life has changed drastically, leaving everything that I have ever known and going to another country, changing culture, language, and entourage basically every part of my life that defined me. I keep my head high because it is supposed to be a good and enriching experience for me, but is it really? When in this kind of situation, the little things that you wouldn’t otherwise notice become the memories you hold on to..."
"One of my favorite books, Who Moved my Cheese, exemplifies this feeling by using cheese as a metaphor of life. There are different people who search for “the good cheese,” that cheese that everyone craves for, “the good, happy life “and when they find it, they are usually content with what they have and don’t want to look for another cheese but one day they’ll wake, look at their cheese, and the cheese will be finished because, well, they ate it...
I think there is a very important lesson to learn from this. No cheese can last forever: whatever you think lasts forever won’t, so you need to prepare for anything to happen. Sometimes you get the courage to move forward when your cheese is finished, but other times it is just simpler to tell yourself that you wouldn’t survive in the maze because it takes a lot of courage to chase for the uncertain thing… chasing something that might not even exist. Recognize when fear is holding you back."
These are excerpts of an essay I wrote for an assignment in one of my classes. I can honestly say that Gashora Girls Academy was a "good cheese," a cheese that is very hard to let go of. When I'm walking to class everyday, I still find myself imagining what it would be like if I was still at GGA, I know that I have to look for another cheese but I also know that me being able to run through this crazy maze that is the world, looking for another cheese is possible because of the skills that Rwanda Girls Initiative through GGA has equipped me with.
I can only hope that more girls in Rwanda get to taste the not only good, but great cheese that is Rwanda Girls Initiative, a NGO, a life-changing one.
In the almost 3 months I lived and worked in Rwanda, wherever I travelled, people knew Gashora Girls Academy. This school, founded by RGI, has earned the reputation as the best high school in Rwanda, and for good reason. For over two decades, I taught in academically top-notch private schools in the U.S., but the students and teachers at Gashora impressed me as some of the best I have ever met. Every teacher puts in a 1000% effort until each student fully understands the content and concepts. Out of about 3000 students that I have taught over the years, the students at RGI's school are probably the smartest and most motivated that I have ever met. The community members at Gashora truly care about each other; this school gives its girls the confidence and the skills to make their own communities and the world a better place. The network these that the "Gashora Girls" create will help Rwanda in the future and will make a positive difference in their own families for generations. When Rwanda Girls' Initiative first started working on plans for this school, only a small percentage of girls in Rwanda went to high school at all. Thanks to RGI, the graduating students really are ready to take on the world.
I feel blessed to be among the girls who had the opportunity to study at Gashora Girls Academy, a school founded by RGI. The education system was far beyond what I expected from a normal high school. Our teachers were dedicated to their job, and were always looking for the best for each student. They have always been there for us, each time we needed them even beyond class hours. The administration was caring, understanding, and was always ready to make a change for our well being. Our class was extremely helpful, we all worked together from the beginning, and we still do. we have created strong friendship and strong sisterhood that will last for ever. I can say that my experience at GGAST was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life.
I had dreams, but chances were very low for my dreams to come true. When I got to Gashora Girls I was given hope. I kept that hope, and worked harder and smarter each single day. One of the results is that am now a student at Seattle University. This had been my dream for years, and it is no longer a dream, it is an accomplishment. I feel satisfied, happy and ready to lift the Gashora Girls pride at Seattle University. I thank God who gave us the amazing organization RGI filled with people who have big hearts, and who have always been caring and loving till now.
RGI is providing an amazing education and much more to girls in Rwanda. The work being done there and the incredible scholars emerging from the school are truly outstanding and will help affect positive change in Rwanda for generations to come. I was lucky enough to visit the school recently and observe first-hand the time, effort, and hard work the students and educators put forth. It was a life-changing experience and I'm very happy to be a volunteer, a fan, and an all-around supporter of RGI and the great folks involved!
Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI) is creating positive change and incredible opportunities for its students. It was founded on the proven premise that educating girls in Rwanda helps their families, their villages and towns, and ultimately the entire country. Its founders, Soozi & Shal, have assembled an incredible array of people and organisations from around the world to help launch and sustain RGI.
The Rwandan government is a critical and strong partner, with President Paul Kagame being personally involved, including giving the keynote speech at the recent ceremony celebrating the first graduating class.
RGI is managed with amazing thoughtfulness, creativity, transparency, integrity, and love. I fully support RGI and encourage all who are interested in improving the lives of girls and women to do the same.
The Rwanda Girls Initiative has created an innovative model to offer first class secondary education to girls in Rwanda. The Gashora Girls Academy is unlike any other school, welcoming a diverse group of students and engaging them in rigorous academic coursework that will clearly position them as leaders while helping them develop as wonderful young women. I visited the school, and have worked closely with the organization as a volunteer. During my recent visit I was not only very impressed by the students, faculty and the head of school. I left feeling inspired many times over!
Gashora Girls Initiative is just much more than what people hear or see. Only a person who has been part of it (student or staff) really feel and see it's great impact. When I went to Gashora Girls Academy, I thought I was going to school, just like any other high school one would go to. However, the experience I had is what makes me who I am today. Teachers challenged us to think hard, critically and outside the box. They helped us see beyond, and not only academically did we grow but also intellectually, mentally and socially. A Gashora girl refuses simple explanations instead pushes her self for more challenging questions.
Gashora Girls Initiative promotes education of a whole girl. I met girls from very different backgrounds, with totally different beliefs unlike my previous school where people had similar backgrounds. Living in an environment like this challenged my perception of life, and I must say that this is a place where I built the strongest relationships I've ever had.
In addition to the whole girl education, Gashora Girls Initiative has opened the biggest doors for me by helping me get into Seattle University on a full scholarship; I had never thought of studying abroad until they showed me that even the sky was not the limit. I should say this is one of the most successful stories in schools in Rwanda to have over 1/3 of the whole high school graduating class (85 students) go in the US/Canada universities on full aid.
I've had the opportunity to visit the Gashora Girls Academy and it is truly amazing. The students and teachers are so impressive and have such respect for each other. The girls are dedicated and hard working and will definitely help to shape the future of Rwanda.
It's very easy for educators to do their job without actually putting in any effort. A teacher could just teach what he needs to teach and that would be the end of his job. My realization of that fact is why I am so grateful to everyone in Rwanda Girls Initiative. It would have been very easy for everyone to give the least effort possible but everyone went out of their way to make every student's experience at Gashora memorable.
My teachers also went out of their way to make sure that I was understanding every single concept they taught even if that meant that they wouldn't have any time for themselves later than night. The administrators made sure that every single program in the school worked smoothly and they would take in consideration every single one of our concerns. Every one went out of their way to make sure that we the students were having all we needed and for that I will always be grateful.
Rwanda Girls Initiatibe is a golden organisation and who ever had anything to do with this NGO would attest to that.
Normally you go to high school,get the education you are supposed to get,make half life time friends that you will forget after your second year of college, then graduate and leave like you were never there.That is what happens when you got to any high school.Atleast that is what I thought when I went to Gashora Girls Academy. But it wasn't any high school I was going to, where teenagers just go and reminisce about what they would rather be doing other than study and make something out of their lives.When I saw this link on my friends wall earlier this afternoon,I was thinking of what reviews one would post on an organisation that gave you so much to make out of your life. The organisation that has shaped me honestly more than anyone else could ever try and do the same, I can't make a review rather be grateful that I got to study and graduate in a school RWANDA GIRLS INITIATIVE funded and founded, The school that changed my entire life,The school where kids don't just sit down and talk about the best artist on the billboard chart but wake up every early morning,(when I say early I mean before the birds even wake up),to strive for opportunities,engage in the community to shape their future and to create Gashora Girls Academy the best high school in the nation,the best home for the girls and the best community for everyone that stepped in our own magic land.Its been a year now since I graduated from GGAST only because i want to progress in life, otherwise I would do it all over again.I am jealous of the girls that get to explore all the opportunities that GGAST has to offer.RWANDA GIRLS INITIATIVE has changed lives and just a review can't explain how grateful all of us are,but a review is the start.
I got the oportunity to study at Gashora Girls Academy, a school founded and funded by Gashora Girls Academy. My experience there was one full of life changing moments. I was so blessed to be in a warm and close communtiy where people wished each other growth and success in all aspects. As they used to say, we were all a family.
I am so grateful to God and to the Rwanda Girls Initiative for not only impacting my life positively, but my family's, my friends' and the community's as well.
What is beautiful about all this is that they continue to stay by our side, even now that I go on to do my undergraduate studies- they continue to stay beside me just as before. I am so grateful to you Rwanda Girls Initiative. I thank you deeply, because you have greatly impacted my life, my friends', and the Gashora community, Rwanda, and the world.
I volunteered at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (a school run by RGI) in Summer 2014. The school is unbelievable, providing girls of all backgrounds with a quality education. The Rwandan curriculum is incredibly advanced and rigorous. But Gashora goes beyond just the curriculum to provide its students with other educational opportunities and extracurricular activities. Many of the school functions are run by students, who act as "prefects". Additionally, the school has many sports and clubs including basketball, debate, karate, leadership club, technical club, traditional dance, and many more. The school also encourages students to participate in essay writing competitions, science competitions, and more educational programs outside of school.
But most importantly, the school encourages its students to think. The students are all trying to come up with solutions to solve Rwanda's problems, through alternative energy and female empowerment and simply debating. They value their ideas and the ideas of others. They are being empowered to make changes.
When you visit, you truly feel that you are seeing the future of Rwanda in this school. I've never met such an inspiring, talented group of students!
I volunteered in Gashora, Rwanda at the school run by RGI this past summer, and am already looking for opportunities to go back next summer. I was given a stipend from my school to go to Gashora to volunteer, without quite knowing what to expect and it was a much more rewarding experience than I could have ever imagined. From the first day, I was in such awe at how empowered and inspirational the girls are, and how they have such big dreams that they are willing to work for. These girls are so fortunate to have RGI to help their dreams become realized.
It's hard to put into words how special and rewarding it is to work for RGI. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer at Gashora Girls Academy, the girl's school run by RGI in Rwanda. Our students are phenomenally bright, talented, and driven. Getting to work with them every day is a privilege. RGI is truly empowering the next leaders of Rwanda to accomplish their dreams. This is an organization that is really making an impact!
From the time Soozi McGill and Shal Foster begin to look for land in Rwanda to build the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST), through the building of the community center and the school, to the opening, and now to the first graduation, I have witnessed a unique thoughtfulness in the way Soozi and Shal created this first secondary school for girls in the Gashora Sector of Rwanda. To see today the school filled with vibrant, eager, and excellent students from all sections of Rwanda and every socio-economic background and to see the dedication and professionalism of Head of School Peter Thorp and the teachers and staff fills my mind and heart with gratitude for all who made this possible. I have heard people from the President of Rwanda to ordinary citizens acclaim the school as one of the finest in the country. In the years ahead, more well educated young women with fine values and strong leadership qualities will emerge from the GGAST. These young women will help build a better tomorrow for this African nation. The Rwanda Girls Initiative is one of the most deserving non-profits I have had the privilege of of knowing.
Having volunteered for a total of 4 months at their school in Rwanda over a three year period, I can honestly say this is a fantastic organization doing amazing work. This organization is literally changing the lives of the young women who are receiving an education here. I have personally witnessed the girls transformation from arriving at the school as shy, timid girls to determined - stand-back-don't-get-in-my-way young women who WILL make a difference in the world.
These girls have changed my life, RGI is changing their lives. I am honored to have been involved.
The Rwanda Girls Initiative is one of the most compelling and caring non profit organizations I have come across. RGI focuses on the education of Rwandan girls in part to create a sustainable education base in an area nearly destroyed by genocide. The principal founders are compassionate and driven to create a model that can be replicated in throughout Rwanda and hopefully throughout the global community. Social change is a slow and challenging process-it is my belief that the foundation for change is rooted in education and support. The Rwanda Girls Initiative is a shining example of a model that can move the world.
Great plan, fantastic infrastructure. Having friends from across the globe, for these friends both "well off" and not, education is paramount for success for all of them. Especially those with daughters. RGI has a sound business plan and executes it quite wonderfully.
RGI is changing the lives of young women in Rwanda! The founders, Soozi and Shal, have watched a dream come true and they are empowering these young Rwanda girls through education. Congratulations to all the hard work getting the idea off the ground, building an amazing school and GRADUATING their first class of amazing young women. They are helping change the world one small step at a time. Bravo!!
RGI has been brought light and hope to the girls and women of Rwanda. Watching these two good friends nurture and grow this program has been inspiring. What a tremendous labor of love. They have planted the seeds of life long learning into many young lives, as well as future generations. I couldn't be more proud of them.
Empowering girls with education is a conduit issue, from which flows a healthier economy and a better society -- anywhere -- be it in Rwanda, Africa, or any country or continent. As we all know now, if girls and and women are empowered, a country rises to greatness.
This is Rwanda Girls Initiative's sole focus, and they are having remarkable success with a direct positive impact on their students and Rwanda more broadly. I cannot endorse RGI enough!
RGI has seamlessly brought together the traditional cultures and values of Rwanda with a more Western approach to education. They have enrolled the best and brightest of Rwandan young women while also diversifying the student population by bringing students together from all socio-economic backgrounds. In the 3 years the school has been open the young women in Gashora have found not only access to a great education and other opportunities, but they have found their voices. The students are remarkable and the efforts made by RGI on behalf of the students should be highly commended.
I'm just a friend who watched these 2 ladies make this project happen over the years. Saw a few pics and heard about their travels to a country I'm not very familiar with. Try to picture a bunch of long flights, networking with educators and local government, finding property, building, filling it up with young minds, to the gorgeous pic of all the girls graduating. What a beautiful gift and major production for all the folks who made it happen and who will keep making it happen year after year. I can't say enough good things about how it all turned out.
Astounding and inspirational, the Rwanda Girls Initiative is bringing change, talent and hope to a country with a devastating history. The girls at the Gashora Girls Academy have dreams to be astronauts, pediatric oncologists, computer scientists and so much more.
I first got involved with RGI after a 2011 trip to Rwanda with the Wharton School. I then joined a team working with Soozi and Shal to help ensure the school could continue to support the most promising girls all over Rwanda for years to come. Change starts with education, and girls are a critical piece in that equation. The staff and girls are dedicated to make sure this mission comes to life.
RGI is incredibly high-impact. The girls accepted to the school were lucky if they ate one meal a day before attending and now they are getting scholarships to Yale's Global Scholars Program. RGI truly brings to life the power of "the girl effect."
Great program to bring different factions in a war torn country. Educating and in powering girls to help themselves.
RGI is run by a great leadership team. Soozi, Shal and Peter are incredibly dedicated and have been very effective securing capital for the project. Their goodwill is highly contagious.
These are all the standard platitudes, so let me be more specific. I am a medical doctor and did a medical volunteerism side project treating one of the RGI students here in the US. The student had a chronic leg infection and was going to have to have her leg amputated in Rwanda. Soozi recruited the volunteer medical team and flew the student to the US, AND took her into her home for 4 months during her multiple surgeries and treatments. She drove her to therapy every day during that time as well! Because of Soozi's determination to get her treatment in the United States that 17 year-old girl was able to keep her leg and it is now completely healed. Soozi's drive and goodwill literally saved her student from losing her leg at age 17.
I have been fortunate enough to be working with RGI as a co-founder, board member, volunteer and donor for the past 5 years. RGI is driven in everything it does by its mission to educate and empower girls in Rwanda. It has been my honor to work with all the other volunteers and hard-working staff at the school in order to fulfill support this vision. Everyone is dedicated to supporting the girls' success and giving them the most opportunities possible. These girls will be the future leaders of Africa!
Five year ago the founders decided to focus on education in Rwanda. Three years ago, the all girls, secondary STEM boarding school opened - and now holds 270 girls. Now, the first class graduated this October. No hyperbole, the founders and staff have built one of the most successful and challenging secondary schools on the African continent -- with education standards that match or exceed the finest western private schools. All while integrating and respecting the culture, customs and history of Rwanda. Simply amazing!