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Harrisonburg, VA, Kigali, Muhanga, Rwanda

Program Description

The course is an interprofessional comparison of service delivery to at risk infants in both the US and Rwanda. Students from the College of Health and Behavioral Studies will focus on some key elements of infant development in each country to include nutrition, health, speech & hearing, and wellbeing.

The course will start with an online portion to develop an understanding of global health initiatives. We will then move to Rwanda, where students will immerse themselves in the culture of this vibrant African country. This will include a visits to the genocide memorial and to one of the mass graves. Students will visit survivors who have helped shape the home health care system that the students will subsequently study. There will also be time to experience Kigali city life.

The group will then move to Muhanga, a small city about 30 miles from the capital city. Here the students will split their time interviewing families in the small villages surrounding the city as well as the city. They will also spend time with faculty and students from the Institut Catholique de Kabgayi and a day trip to the Royal Palace in Nyannze. Before leaving we will travel to the east for a short safari in Akagera.

At the end of the program the students will develop a cross cultural comparison of the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s approach, with recommendations for how US services to at risk infants can benefit from what they have learned in Rwanda.

Location Description

Rwanda is located in the central eastern portion of Africa and is about a quarter of the size of Virginia. It has a tropical climate that will vary little through the duration of this program, with sunny temperatures ranging throughout the course of the day from 55 to 80 degrees. Locals speak Kinyarwanda as well as combinations of English, French, and Swahili.

Marred by the genocide in 1994, the country has experienced a renaissance since then. The economy is growing and most indices of health and education have experienced steady improvement. The culture is vibrant and while resources are not abundant, the country is bustling and is often called the gateway to doing business in Africa. Similarly, it is ranked as one the safest countries in Africa, with a murder rate below that of the US. The currency is the Rwandan franc and the most common religion is Christianity.


Rory DePaolis | | Communication Sciences and Disorders

Lisa McGuire | | Social Work


We will stay briefly in Kigali in a downtown hotel that includes wifi and is walking distance to some of the highlights of the city. Accommodation in Muhanga will be provided by Azzizi life, a not for profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women in the villages surrounding Muhanga. The Azzizi life hostel is situated in Muhanga within a short drive of the villages that students will be working in. The hostel includes wifi and showers and is walking distance to the downtown.

Breakfast will be provided at the accommodation sites and dinners will be together as a group either in restaurants or at the hostel. Students will be given a stipend to cover the cost of lunch. In addition, students will be sharing meals with families in the villages as part of their field work.

Additional Items to Consider

  • Students will need to consider a number of immunizations recommended by the CDC (for example typhoid, hepatitis A and possibly C, tetanus booster).
  • In addition, Rwanda may require proof of yellow fever vaccination in order to enter the country.
  • It is also suggested that each student consult with their doctor well in advance of the trip on issues such as medications for malaria and stomach discomfort.
  • Sunscreen and effective insect repellant are also required.
  • Rwanda has excellent infrastructure so US phones might work, but students should check with their provider.
  • Wifi is common throughout the country. It is sometimes very slow.
  • There are ATMs in both Kigali and Muhanga, and opportunities to buy Rwandan Francs at the airport. The dollar is widely accepted, but to be safe, students should bring $50 or $100 bills that are from 2013 or later.
  • Finally, each student will need to purchase a visa (currently $30) at border control at the Kigali International Airport.

COVID-19 Location Information:

Each country has different requirements upon entry with regard to COVID-19. Please check this website for the most up-to-date information on what is required for the country (or countries) that are part of this program. Please note that this changes often, so we encourage you to check back frequently.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors, Graduate Students

Open to non-JMU students

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($40 fee)
  • Short Essay
  • Interview with Program Director may be required
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 


Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


CSD 490 / SOWK 487 / HTH 391: Supporting Healthy Infant Development: Interprofessional and Cross-Cultural Perspectives (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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