October 13, 2017
Nicholas Navarro joined the University of Pennsylvania Hillel's service learning trip to ASYV this past May for an unforgettable week exploring the Village and Rwanda.
Nicholas is the highest fundraiser of any service trip participant in 2017 to date. We caught up with Nicholas to hear more about his experience visiting the Village and his tips on how to be a successful peer-to-peer fundraiser.
1. What are you currently studying at Penn and what year are you in school?
I'm a Junior at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. It's an interdisciplinary major.
2. Had you ever been to Rwanda before your trip to ASYV?
My visit was the first time I had ever been to Rwanda.
3. What did you enjoy most during the visit?
I think my favorite part was just interacting with the kids in the Village. When I realized Family Time wasn't every night, I was kind of disappointed because I looked forward to interacting with them, asking them questions, and answering any questions they had. I made an effort to sit with kids during meals because I wouldn't be able to have Family Time with them every day. I think one of my favorite events was the talent show at Village Time. A day before I was asked "what's your talent?" and it was a question I had never considered. As someone who had done school as their primary activity for their entire life, I never considered it a talent. Viewing what I do in the context of talents was something new to me. I also loved the talent show because it demonstrated the sense of family that is present in the Village. Everyone supported each other and seemed connected in a way that isn't common in college. The fashion show was also the most incredible thing I've seen in a long time
4. Did the experience change any expectations you had about Rwanda or the Village? Did anything surprise you?
A lot of preparation for the trip revolved around learning about the Genocide and general Rwandan demographics. I think Rwanda taught me a lot about forgiveness. In the context of the genocide, the fact that individuals were able to continue their lives and/or forgive perpetrators gave me a real life example of perseverance and forgiveness in action. I also think the Village taught me about dreaming and accomplishing goals. I thought the school would be focused on just education, and I didn't think about the moral development involved. This aspect taught me something even after only having been there for a short time, about not just bettering yourself, but bettering yourself toward something. Rwanda surprised me in its cleanliness and infrastructure. I don't want to imply that I had unwarranted expectations that many often have coming from the US/Western countries, but, in many ways it was better than the U.S.
5. What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
In the words of the Village: "if you see far, you will go far". I think a lot of personal development is framed in short-term tangible rewards. The quote for me is a reminder to think about what you actually want and work to achieve that future, even if there are difficulties or if another path is more immediate.
6. Any words of wisdom or advice for incoming visitors? What about fundraising advice?
Utilize the people in your extended social circles. When I fundraised it wasn't just about reaching out to my friends, but asking certain people to reach out to their friends. My parents and grandparents were great at asking their friends who I don't necessarily have a close relationship with. Furthermore, fundraising was about making it easy for an individual to donate. I used Venmo to solicit smaller $5 donations and added a description of what I was raising money for. That way everybody who donated via Venmo only had to click accept.