Kim Aperloo, visiting her sister’s World Vision sponsor family in Rwanda. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
When Kim Aperloo was 18 years old, she jumped on a plane to Africa to work with children.
Now, eight years later, having clocked up three trips to Rwanda, she has booked a one-way ticket to live there.
Kim, born and bred in Wairarapa, attended Ponatahi Christian School and graduated from Wairarapa College.
She will be leaving New Zealand indefinitely in less than a month.
From a young age, Kim said she had always wanted to “help the poor kids in Africa – as cliché as it sounds”.
“When I was a teenager, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school, so instead of going to university like everyone else, I decided I wanted to go to Africa.”
The first step she took in getting there the first time was to “randomly Google volunteer in Africa”.
After joining a New Zealand volunteering organisation, she looked at all the countries they serviced in Africa and “chose the one I knew the least about which was Rwanda”.
It was only until Kim was actually on the plane to Africa that she began to research the social issues and history of Rwanda.
Upon arrival in the foreign country, Kim said she “jumped off the plane and I just knew that this was the place I was supposed to be”.
“I knew this was home and this was where I belonged and where I needed to be.”
In the following years, she made two more trips to Rwanda, lasting about three months each, working on various projects at an orphanage and a social centre.
This time though, her trip is indefinitely one-way, having secured a gig as a social worker for a small Christian non-government organisation based in Kigali, the capital city.
“They have 300 kids working with the organisation,” Kim said.
“All are orphaned children or from one parent households, or children who are very vulnerable in the community.
“My job will be visiting the families to see if there are any problems and if we can come up with any solutions together and things like that.”
The first barrier for any social worker to overcome in Rwanda is the language barrier.
“Most of the country does not speak much English – it is actually very rare to find someone who speaks good English,” Kim said.
“The language spoken there is Kinyarwanda.
“I’m quite lucky because I was brought up bi-lingual, so I can actually speak a lot of Kinyarwanda – it’s easier to pick up other languages when you already speak multiple.”
Kim said although she knew a lot of the language, she was far from fluent.
“Every time I’ve gone, I’ve only been there for three months.
“When I’m there for longer than three months, I hope it just sinks in a bit more.”
She also has spent a lot of time with the Rwandan community in Wellington and attends Rwandan church which is spoken in Kinyarwanda.
“Even though it’s going to be really hard to leave my lovely life in New Zealand – I could easily stay here – I feel like it’s my calling to go,” Kim said.
“My faith is a big part of why I’m doing what I’m doing.
“Even though I personally really want to go to Rwanda, I feel strongly that God is the one that wants me to go to Rwanda.”
The biggest lifestyle adjustment will be the living conditions, Kim said – “like using bucket showers and
washing my clothes by hand, using the toilet over a hole, and cooking on charcoal.”
“I think it will be fun for a few months, but after a while I know I’ll be over it.”
Kim said she would be using her own savings to make her way to Rwanda, but she is also organising a market to raise funds for other expenses she may come across while over there.
“I have two people I support already in Rwanda, and one of them, a girl, will be living with me.
“Any money I have will be going towards school costs, living costs, transport costs, those sorts of things.
“The boy I support goes to boarding school, so I pay for the school fees.
“I also anticipate that I’ll be involved in a lot of different projects and that people will come my way in need of support.
“It would be good to have that money to use.”
Her fundraising market will be held on May 5 in Carrington Park, Carterton.
“We have about 20 stalls confirmed from everything from arts and crafts, baby goods, jewellery, clothing, preserves, food and more.”
The wet weather venue is the St Marks Church Hall in Carterton.