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Hug on a hike

Group of students pose for picture

Week 3 Heading link

Angela O’Bryant, DNP Student

After a three-hour car ride and a 90-minute boat ride, we arrived at our resort on Lake Kivu. It was so serene. My first impression was the beauty of the grounds. Like many places in Rwanda, there are flowers and trees and even flowering trees everywhere! We walked by mango trees, lemon trees, and flowers that we have back home in the U.S., but they are just a little more beautiful here for some reason. Maybe it’s the “vacation” mindset. Maybe it’s the thought that I don’t have to pull weeds around these flowers. Ha-ha! Regardless, I enjoyed the grounds and landscaping of the resort very much. There was even a lovely beach, although I didn’t spend much time there.

We hiked passed many small villages and homes. Often children would come running to the edge of the path when they saw us coming. Some were fluent in English and would greet us, even asking us how we were doing. At one point, we were walking along and heard a very cheery “Good morning!” from a tree! We looked up, and there was a young boy, probably 10-11 years old, high in the tree.

As the children waved and smiled and the women walked by on their way to church with their babies straddled across their backs in the papoose fashion, I longed to hold one of those babies. Even an embrace from a small child would have been so welcome. I wasn’t sure if I was starting to get homesick or just enamored with the children that stared at us with bright, wide eyes, dirty skin and clothes, and sweet, innocent smiles. I thought, “I have to get my hands on one of these kids soon”. My heart ached in my chest.

We continued our hike, stopping to take pictures from atop the mountain and talking as we walked. Then, I looked up and saw a young girl. She was about six years old, the same age as my great niece, who I was really missing. This young girl locked eyes with me and started running to me with arms outstretched. I bent down immediately and scooped her up into my arms. She squeezed me around my neck for a solid two minutes while I hugged her back in the warmest and most loving embrace I could muster. As we hugged, my classmates and our guides laughed in astonishment that she came straight off the edge of the road to hug M.E. She came directly for me. No one else. None of us could believe it. When I put her down, she walked over to a few classmates and hugged them as well. However, mine was the first, longest, and best of all, the hugs that morning. I don’t even know her name. I just know that in the middle of a beautiful Sunday morning, in a serene and picturesque lake village in western Rwanda, a little girl needed a hug just as much as I did.

Angela O’Bryant is a DNP student in Advanced Population Health. She traveled to Rwanda in July 2022 for the Global Maternal-Child Health study abroad program. Angela’s focus is on understanding the cultural context of women’s health in Rwanda in relation to evidence-based practice recommendations. Angela holds a master’s degree in Nursing from the University of Virginia with an emphasis on Public Health Leadership. She also currently works as full-time faculty at the UIC College of Medicine Peoria campus.

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