Rwankuba, Gakenke District, Northern Province, Rwanda
“On my first days of my internship with the William Davidson Institute, I ventured away from my village into a neighboring village where I would be potentially working with a health center there. In front of the health center, a lady was carefully making sweaters with a machine, which I’ve never seen before that seemed to be a uniform that most of the schoolchildren wore. Intrigued, I politely asked if I could take her picture. She was ecstatic, but made me promise I’d print her a copy of the picture. Seeing that I still had three months in the village, surely, I thought it was feasible. I wasn’t able to return, and I finally sent her picture with a co-worker of mine. He told me that she wasn’t there, but her daughter accepted the picture on her behalf and that they were thankful. I was extremely pleased.
“On the last day of my internship, during a goodbye dinner, that co-worker wanted to give a speech about my going away. He started talking about this story, about how I went through with my promise, however small, and Rwandans will always remember that. He emphasized my generosity (which I thought was exaggerated, especially for just a printed photo) and then he gave me a new ending to the story. The seamstress was so incredibly grateful for the picture that she ended up making me my very own sweater! She sent it with my co-worker along with a beautifully written thank you note (in decent English!). Who knew that such a small act will create such appreciation. Thinking back, that might have been the first photo she’s ever had of herself. One that show’s her earnest work and that she is an independent, successful woman!”
Chan was one of 20 graduate students in the Global Impact internship program in the summer of 2013. The program is sponsored by the William Davidson Institute, a non-profit research and educational institute at the University of Michigan.