Carmel Valley teen tells of life-changing Rwanda trip

Narayan and Shuva Gopinathan of Carmel Valley experience both the nature and lifestyle of Rwanda during a recent summer trip. Photo courtesy of Narayan Gopinathan

By Claire Harlin
Staff Writer

Carmel Valley high school student Narayan Gopinathan spent three weeks with no electricity, paved roads or running water in Rwanda this summer — and the trip was so fulfilling that he wants to give the same experience to other youth.

Gopinathan, a Bishop’s School senior, is in the process of creating a website called, which connects students to the Batsinda Primary School in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. The school, where Gopinathan taught English to both children and adults, is in need of more volunteer teachers, and Gopinathan sees the opportunity as a life-changing experience.

“My time there was really special and it was hard leaving,” said the 17-year-old, telling a story about how each one of the 160 kids at the school put on a performance for him to show their appreciation.

A P3 (or third grade) classroom at Batsinda Primary School in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo courtesy of Narayan Gopinathan

There is a need for English teachers now more than ever because the official language used for educational purposes in Rwanda changed to English in 2008, and many school administrators and teachers do not speak English. For example, Gopinathan said, the pastors who own the Batsinda Primary School spoke very little English.

Gopinathan and his mother, Shuva, also organized a book drive and collected more than 200 pounds of reading material — four suitcases full — which they transported to Rwanda and donated to the school.

Gopinathan learned about the opportunity to go to Rwanda from his aunt, who works for the Center for Disease Control in Kigali. He volunteered under an organization called Nziza, meaning “beautiful” in the Kinyarwanda dialect, which promotes cross-cultural exchange between students in the United States and the area encompassing Rwanda and Southern Uganda.

As for his impression of the country, Gopinathan said he was expecting Rwanda, whose history includes a 1990s genocide, to be more chaotic — like India, where he has been to visit several times.

Gopinathan said it seems that when many Westerners think of Rwanda, they think it is dangerous. But Rwanda today is an incredibly peaceful country with low rates of crime and corruption, he said.

“It’s amazing that Rwanda has turned into such a stable and prosperous country,” said Gopinathan, who is captain of his school’s academic league and an editor at the school paper.

Gopinathan said the trip was particularly inspiring for him because he’s interested in economic development as a possible higher education path.

“I’d be interested in applying what I learned about Rwanda to other countries,” he said. “It’s amazing how the country has become an island of stability and order, and their president really cares about the people.”

To contact Gopinathan about volunteer opportunities or his trip to Rwanda, email

Related posts:

  1. Carmel Valley son and mother seek donations of children’s books to distribute on trip to Rwanda
  2. Tour DaVita a life-changing experience for Carmel Valley resident
  3. Carmel Valley Teen Korps members support Mary’s Meals
  4. Carmel Valley resident’s foundation helps children orphaned by AIDS in Zambia
  5. Carmel Valley surgeon performs life-altering operations overseas

Short URL:

Posted by Staff on Sep 12, 2011. Filed under Carmel Valley, Featured Story, News, carmel valley. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply



Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6





  • New Rancho Santa Fe Library Branch Manager welcomes community input
    Rancho Santa Fe Library’s new Branch Manager Haley Kwon has been charmed by the village’s “sweet, down-home” character, the simple pleasure of visiting the local library and people’s enjoyment of a slower speed of time. “It’s a small town and the library is a place for people to connect,” Kwon said. “People have a different sense of time here, they come in t […]
  • Robotics booming at Rancho Santa Fe School
    By Karen Billing At R. Roger Rowe School, 44 percent of first graders are participating in the robotics program this year. The school is fielding 44 robotics teams, including 31 percent of second grade, 23 percent of third grade, 35 percent of fourth grade and 39 percent of fifth grade. In the middle school, there are two FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams and fi […]
  • Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices honored with Stevie Gold Award
    Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices was recently named Startup of the Year in the 2014 American Business Awards, earning the brokerage the Stevie Gold award. The award was presented at the Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. “Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is among a select few organizations to be entrusted with the Berkshire Hathaway name,” co […]