A group of cosmetology students and admission counselors made a life changing trip recently. They traveled to Rwanda, a country with a dark history and a bright future. Two decades ago, the small African country of Rwanda was home to one of the worst genocides in recent history. This year marks the anniversary of what was one of the darkest years in Rwandan history. Twenty years later, the country is showing signs of improvement, though scars still remain.
“We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, Africa to a welcoming staff at Africa New Life Ministries. The city is beautiful, clean, and full of lovely people. We are excited to spend time and work in Kigali, but we are also faced with some powerful history of the country,” one of the students commented. “Taking the sights and sounds in first hand has changed us, and walking along side the Rwandan people this week will change us more,” said Melissa Bittle, Admissions Director at AOHD.
In 2012, Ron King Academy’s sister school, The Academy of Hair Design (AOHD), partnered with Africa New Life Ministries to build Dream Beauty Academy, located in the capital city. It is a non-profit cosmetology school funded by AOHD with the help of individual sponsors. The team worked with two classes of students to teach muzungu (white people) hair, manicures, pedicures and business skills.
In a country where more than 60% of the population lives in poverty, the school is helping women develop
careers that will affect their families for generations to come. Dream Beauty Academy is allowing women to transform their minds, spirit, and cultivate their passions and talents. In an 11 month program, students are educated in a trade that allows them to provide for and change the legacy of poverty in their family. Unlike the US, structured training is not a requirement for professionals in Rwanda, so the diploma the graduates earn gives them an edge over the competition.
Many Rwandans travel by foot to work, some for three hours each day. In an attempt to help graduates find work and internships closer to home, the admission representatives spent a day visiting and building relationships with established salons in the city. Securing positions in salons closer to home will lessen the physical burden of transportation and allow limited financial resources to be allotted to food, shelter and other necessities.
One of the most memorable moments for the US team was while visiting recent graduates in Kigali salons. “It was exciting for us to see their success first hand and encouraging for them to be blessed with a visit. We showered them with love, products such as fingernail polish, combs, makeup to use for guest services and departed with congratulations and uplifting word,” remarked one of the students.
An admissions representative received an experience of a lifetime during the trip. As a devoted sponsor, she helps financially to provide education, food, activities and health care for a child through African New Life Ministries. While visiting Rwanda, she was able to meet the child she sponsors and her mother in person. The home visit allowed the sponsor and child to meet for the first time, exchange a first hug, and look in each others eyes. “Rwandan
people have such beautiful eyes and to see the love between a sponsor and child is truly an experience one will remember.”
The purpose of Dream Beauty Academy is to help enrich Rwandan women’s lives and help many escape sex trafficking that is rampant in the country. As it is accomplishing this goal, the school is also doing something unexpected for the Americans involved.
“The African school has been a sweet surprise — an awesome surprise. We expected it to change their [the Rwandan students] lives but it has affected our students in an incredible way. It’s changed the culture of our schools,” says AOHD and Ron King Academy owner David Gonzales.
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