Rwanda Mission Trips

Q: What does a mission trip to Rwanda cost?

Approximately $3,000/person for an eleven-day trip. This cost estimate includes airfare, lodging, meals, land transportation, driver, and translator.  Airfare is the biggest expense and varies depending on your local airport and the time of year that you are flying (summer is the most expensive).

In addition, we ask that your team raise $2,000 in project funds to implement PEACEwater’s programs at a rural church.

Fundraising – Most people raise funds for their trip and the project money from family, friends, and church members.   PEACEwater members can supply you with sample letters, pictures, videos, fundraising ideas, and with prayer.

Tax deductible checks are made out to Saddleback Church.

  • Once your trip account is established at Church, you can submit the funds in special blue envelopes and drop them off at the church office.
  • Please put project fund checks in a white envelope, labeled “Attention: Larry Ledgerwood for deposit into Project Account (PA) 15.”

The cost does not include additional funds for shots, malaria pills, transportation to and from your local airport, airport meals/snacks in transit, souvenirs, and safari expenses (see information below on Akagera National Park). RwandaMap

Optional Safari – Most visitors to Rwanda take a side trip to Akagera National Park http:///www.rwanda-akagera-park.com to see African wildlife.  Herds of elephant, zebras, giraffe, water buffalo, baboons, monkeys, and wild pigs emerge from the woodland to drink at the lakes. Visitors might also see crocodile or even a lion (recently reintroduced into Akagera). The park is a habitat for over 500 different species of birds. There is a hotel and a luxury tented camp option. The cost varies by the number of participants who split the cost of a safari vehicle and hotel expenses.

If your team works in an area far from Akagera, you may go on an R&R to a more convenient wildlife area.

Q: Where will we go in Rwanda?

You will fly into Kigali, the capital city. Larry and Carolyn McBride, PEACEwater: No Thirsty Child’s founding directors, will meet you up at the airport. You will stay overnight at a hotel in Kigali on the day you arrive and leave Rwanda. Your team will be partnered with a rural church and you will spend most of your trip in the rural area.

Q: What will we do?

You will spend your time getting to know the pastor and church members while working alongside PEACEwater’s Rwandan staff. Your trip is an introduction to water problems and solutions in developing countries. We value the opportunity to show donors the difference that their generosity makes in the quality of life for Rwandans. We hope that you will return home and find more ways to help with the international water and sanitation crisis. Your trip itinerary includes:

1 Thursday Depart from LAX
2 Friday Arrive in Kigali
3 Saturday Tour Kigali, Visit the Genocide Memorial, Shop for Souvenirs, Drive to Work Site
4 Sunday Church Service, Prepare for the WASH Class
5 Monday Help with the WASH: Health and Hygiene education program.  You will receive a copy of the lessons in advance of your trip and learn to teach a lesson from our Rwandan teachers (on Sunday afternoon).
6 Tuesday Help install a rainwater harvesting system at the church with our Rwandan workers.
7 Wednesday Fetch water with Rwandan children from the church.
8 Thursday Set up water filtration systems at the church and in the pastor’s home.
9 Friday R&R at a wild life area, Reflection time
10 Saturday Shop for Souvenirs, Depart from Kigali
11 Sunday Return to LAX

There will be lots of great opportunities to take pictures and videotape. You will have a better experience if everyone is not always taking pictures or videotaping. Please alternate events/days  to take pictures/videotape then share your film with the team  at the end of the trip.

Please assign a team member to lead daily devotions. Please be prepared to pray with each other and with Rwandans.

Rwandans are friendly, kind, and curious.  There will be lots of opportunities to laugh and fellowship with them. They will not ask questions but are delighted when you share a little about your family, work (or field of study, if you are a student), your hobbies or volunteer activities in the U.S., and what motivated you to come to Rwanda. Rwandans love to hear compliments about their country and things that you like about Rwanda. Translators vary in quality so use short, simple words and sentences.

At church, you will be asked to come up front to greet the congregation. Please don’t stress! Rwandans feel that it is a blessing that you traveled so far to visit their church. They just want to hear your voice. To make this easier, you might want to prepare a few short introductory remarks before you leave the U.S. and give your Rwandan translator a copy to review in advance.  Copy machines, computers and printers are not readily available in Rwanda.

If you can sing or play a musical instrument, please prepare a couple of songs to share with our Rwandan friends. They will be delighted!

Q: What can we expect in the way of accommodations?

Typically, you stay in a guest house in a town and make day trips to the rural church.  The guest houses usually have small bedrooms with attached private bathrooms and indoor plumbing.  Most meals are buffet style in a dining room.  You may stay overnight in smaller towns where accommodations are dormitory style with a shared toilet and a sink for washing up. Some of the things that you will want to bring are:

  • Towel –  You may want to go to REI and buy a lightweight, absorbent towel for backpackers and campers.
  • Shampoo and soap – Please bring your own. Please don’t bring a U.S. hairdryer; they don’t work in Rwanda.
  • Baby Wipes –  Water is sometimes rationed and availability is sporadic.  If the water is not available or there is no hot water, you will be glad that you brought something to clean up with.
  • Toilet paper – Always a good idea to bring a roll or two in your suitcase and bring in your day pack/purse as you travel around Rwanda.
  • Hand Sanitizer – Keep sanitizer handy in pockets and purses to use before meals, after using the bathroom, after shaking hands or interacting with children.  Please use them discreetly so as not to offend our hosts.
  • Flashlight – Bring a good one as the electricity goes off periodically.  Also, the lighting is dim at best so a reading light might make your trip more enjoyable. The head lamps that are used for camping seem to work well.
  • Mosquito Net & Insect Repellant – Usually nets are supplied but it can be a good idea to bring your own to insure full protection with no holes.  Bring an insect repellent with Deet to use day and night.
  • Shower Shoes – Please bring some plastic flip flops to wear in the shower.
  • Woolite – While guest house staff can often accommodate laundry requests, you may want to bring a small amount of detergent to rinse your clothes out in a pinch.  There are no dryers; clothing is hung on a clothesline to dry and may take several days. Also, some people prefer to keep undies in the privacy of their rooms.

Q: What shots are required?  What medicines are recommended?

Yellow Fever is required to re-enter the U.S. and everyone must bring their yellow vaccination booklet as proof that you have received a Yellow Fever shot.  It is a good idea to get a Typhoid shot and have a Tetanus booster.  You will want to take medication to protect yourself against Malaria (the daily pill form is preferred; many report disturbing nightmares when taking the weekly pills). We recommend bringing Cipro or another antibiotic, an antidiarrheal, sleeping aid, and motion sickness pills.  Team leaders should bring a first aid kit.  Check with your physician or online at www.cdc.org for more information.

Q: How safe is Rwanda?

Very safe. Violent crime is very rare. Rwanda is one of the safest and least corrupt countries in Africa.  Kigali was selected by the United Nations as the worlds safest Capitol. Teams are always accompanied by trustworthy translators and drivers.

While Rwanda is a safe country, petty theft is common. Rwandan’s are very poor so we ask that you avoid temptation by keeping money with you at all times, preferably in a money belt or pouch under your clothes.  Do not leave money in hotel rooms or vans, or leave your purse unattended.  If women are going to carry money or valuables in a purse, you might want to get a cute backpack or small shoulder bag that can stay on your body while you are teaching and touring. We recommend that you lock your suitcases when you leave them in hotel rooms.

Q: How is the food?

The quality and quantity of food will vary.  Expect lots carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, and bananas) and beans. Beef, chicken, and goat meat is limited and tough.  The food is safe as long as it is well cooked or peeled. Please do not eat anything unless it is cooked or peeled (do not eat salads, for example).  There are few restaurants in rural areas and the menus are often very limited.  We recommend that you bring protein bars, nuts, peanut butter, granola bars, beef jerky, tuna (self-opening canned foods that can be eaten unheated), or other snacks.  If you have leftover snacks, please gift them to the pastor (not the translator or driver). 

Q: Can we drink the water?

No!  Please drink only bottled or filtered water.  Bottled water is readily available for purchase and a supply will be available to you at all times.

Do not drink any tap water or juices that might include unpurified water.  Please use bottled or filtered water to brush your teeth. Keep your mouth shut in the shower.

Q: What will the weather be like?

The weather is much like southern California in the summer, low 80s during the day and 60s at night.  The biggest difference is that there is very little air conditioning so it seems hotter.  July-September and January are the dry seasons with little or no rain. In the rainy season, (November & December, March & April) bring an umbrella and rain coat or poncho.

Q: How should we dress?

We ask that you conform to Rwandan customs.  We are missionaries.  Our goal is to develop relationships and trust.  Rwandans dress up.  Often Rwandans have only one set of good clothing and they wear it proudly to church, meetings, and many other events.  Buy clothes on sale at discount stores or used clothing stores.  Please consider leaving the clothes behind as a donation to the pastor for the poor.

Rwandan Men:  Pastors wear suits and ties on Sunday morning and to meetings.  Rwandan men generally wear long pants, collared shirts, and leather shoes.  They do not wear shorts, tennis shoes, or flip flops.  Men can wear jeans, T shirts, and tennis shoes or workboots on the day that you work with the technical team installing rainwater systems.

Rwandan Women:  Rwandan women wear skirts that fall below their knees and generally loose cotton blouses that cover their shoulders and upper arms.  Rural women even work in the fields in long skirts and never wear shorter skirts or pants. Pants are becoming more common in Kigali for younger women but older women even in the capital wear long skirts. Women generally wear nice leather shoes, often with a low heel.  Nice flip flops are also acceptable.  Women do not wear tennis shoes.

Please do not wear colored nail polish or jewelry as this offends some religious groups. Leave diamonds and other expensive jewelry at home.

Walking –Please bring tennis shoes and conservative clothing (long pants, tshirts) for exercise outings. 

Q: Should we bring gifts?

Yes.  It is appropriate to bring small gifts if you are invited to a home for dinner or meet with pastors and other leaders.  It is also appropriate to give an offering at the Sunday church service.

It is not appropriate to randomly hand out gifts or money.  Any gifts or money should be given to the senior pastor. Singling a child out to gift a soccer ball may result in that child getting beaten up.  If you bring candy to hand out to children, please make sure that there is enough for everyone.  Please put the in their hand as it is never appropriate to throw candy or other items at groups of children on the street.  Please do not give empty water bottles to children; we save them and distribute them strategically in the W.A.S.H. classes.

Please bond with the pastors, church members, and PEACEwater’s Rwandan staff. Mission teams should not focus their generosity and love on the translator and driver, who are paid for the job they are doing.

Gift Ideas:

  • Men’s ties, pens, boxes of chocolates – make good gifts for Pastors
  • Scarves, hot pads, hand towels, washcloths, salt & pepper shakers, clothes line & clothes pins, manicure sets, soaps, lotions, and chapstick – make good gifts for pastors’ wives.
  • School supplies – pencils & pencil sharpeners, pens, paper, crayons, colored pencils, scissors, coloring books are great gifts to Sunday schools or schools.
  • Sports Equipment:  Soccer balls & pumps, bats & balls, plastic bats & whiffle balls, Frisbees..
  • Kinyarwanda Bibles and Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – we may be able to pre-order them for pick up in  Kigali.  Please let Larry and Carolyn McBride know if you want to order some.  They cost $4 each.
  • Flashlights (that do not need batteries) – many homes do not have electricity.

Q: How should we pack?  What are baggage restrictions?

Carry-on Luggage – Bring at least one complete change of clothing, medicines, and 3oz sizes of personal care products in your carry-on bag; checked baggage can be delayed in transit so prepare for the unlikely possibility of several days without your checked suitcases.  Please bring all valuables and electronics with you on the plane (cameras, memory cards, etc.); we have had problems with theft from checked baggage.  Some airlines have strict carry on limits so please look on the airline’s website for information after your tickets are purchased.  For example, Ethiopian often weighs carry on bags in Washington, D.C. and sends bags weighing more than 15.4 pounds or bigger than 8x16x22 inches to checked baggage.

Checked Baggage – Most airlines allow you to check two 50 pound bags.  We require team members to bring 50 pounds of personal belongings and 50 pounds of PEACEwater: No Thirsty Child supplies.  Spread your clothing between your two checked bags so that if one is late you will have some of everything that you need. Please pack a copy of your passport and immunization record plus your address and phone number inside each suitcase.  Please photo your checked baggage with your digital camera so you can show the airlines if either suitcase is misplaced.  It is a good idea to bring a lock for your suitcases to lock them up when you leave them at our house or the hotel.

Q: Can we use credit cards?  Should we bring traveler’s checks?

No. Rwanda is essentially a cash economy.  Some tourist locations now accept Visa cards and you should bring a Visa card in case of emergency; but you cannot count on using it for daily expenses.  MasterCard and Amex are not accepted in Rwanda. The currency is the Rwandan Franc with an exchange rate of around 760RWF to $1USD.  Banks charge a transaction fee per bill so you will want to bring $50 or $100 bills to minimize transaction fees.  Rwandan banks only accept 2006 and newer bills.  The bills must be in excellent condition.

The team leader or his/her designated financial representative will handle all money and keep all receipts to turn in to the church.  As soon as team leaders get the new bills from the U.S. bank, we recommend that trip money be split among the adults for safekeeping during travel and while in Rwanda.  As the team leader or financial representative needs more funds, he/she can request trip money from each adult, one at a time (so all money is easily accounted for).

Q: What about cell phones?  Internet service?  Electronics? 

The McBride’s will supply your team with one Rwandan cell phone that can be used to call home occasionally.   If you want to bring your phone, contact your cell company to see if you can get international coverage; it costs about $2.50/minute. If you do not have an international plan, please be sure to turn off data roaming before you leave the U.S. to avoid high fees overseas.

 You will need a two prong adapter to plug into the wall to charge your electronics (the same as used in France).  Please bring a surge protector as electrical surges and outages are common.

Internet service in Rwanda is sporadic and slow.  If you can disconnect from email and the internet, you will have a more meaningful mission experience.

Q: How can we prepare for the trip and learn about Rwanda?


  • Led by Faith by Immaculee Ilibagiza
    • Bishop of Rwanda by Bishop John Rucyahana
    • A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer

Cultural Sensitivity

  • Cross Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer
  • African Friends & Money Matters by David Maranz

Team Building

  • The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman – please take the test at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ and share the results with your teammates. Relate to your teammates in the language that makes them feel loved.
  • DISC – please take the personal strengths profile at https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ue/ and share the results with your teammates. Designate tasks and relate to your teammates better by studying the DISC profiles.


  • Hotel Rwanda
  • Sometimes in April
  • The Diary of Immaculee
  • Missions Dilemma by Steve Saint

Rwandan Language

  • Kinyarwanda is the primary language. French is commonly spoken. The government wants all Rwandans to learn English. If you want to learn some Kinyarwanda, free resources are available online and for purchase on amazon.com