AVEGA was recently visited by students and lecturers from Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. This was the second trip to Rwanda for the school’s Mercer on Mission program, following a successful visit last year by another group of Mercer students who helped train Avega-Agahozo’s leaders on marketing, business plans, and effective communication across channels. Mercer University is among the top colleges in the southeastern United States.
The 2016 Mercer on Mission team trained AVEGA’S leaders from all of Rwanda’s provinces on essential entrepreneurship skills, including project management and leadership. During the four-day training course, Mercer University professors Dr. Etienne Musonera (formerly of Rwanda, now living in the US) and Dr. Gerry Mills also reviewed key strategies for developing successful business and marketing plans, as well as handling Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Dr. Musonera and Dr. Mills are instructors teaching undergraduate and master’s students in Mercer’s esteemed Stetson School of Business and Economics.
After the initial training, the AVEGA members were divided into groups and teamed with some of the Mercer students to put into practice what they learned by creating and presenting a marketing plan. The professors advised each group to focus on existing objectives for Avega-Agahozo. The Mercer on Mission students were able to draw on their business training to help the AVEGA members in each group develop a comprehensive marketing plan. The teams started out by brainstorming ideas and capturing key information to help formulate the plan. The Avega-Agahozo members are grateful to the Mercer students for their constructive feedback during the group discussion, and they hope that successful implementation of their projects will be possible.
On the final day of training, the Avega-Agahozo leaders from across the country presented their marketing plans back to the larger group to demonstrate what they learned. Each team reviewed their plans for effectively implementing projects that are exciting for Avega-Agahozo. These ideas can help support the mission of AVEGA and ensure its legacy for the future.
Dr. Musonera and Dr. Mills closed the session by thanking the AVEGA trainees for the great job they did on their marketing plans and presentations. Dr. Mills expressed his gratitude to the members of Avega-Agahozo for their hospitality and attention. Dr. Musonera said that this second year of Mercer on Mission working with Avega-Agahozo has been a pleasure for him. “I consider all of you my sisters and a part of my family,” he said to the members of AVEGA. He also thanked his colleague Dr. Mills, for helping to organize the trip and training, and his students for their interest in coming to Rwanda to assist Avega-Agahozo. He concluded by reaffirming Mercer University’s commitment to work with AVEGA in partnership. Dr. Musonera also indicated that he plans to work with the government of Rwanda to help raise the level of business and economics offered by the University of Rwanda to meet international standards.
Many of the Mercer University students also took time to thank Avega-Agahozo, especially their AVEGA teammates in developing the marketing plans. The Mercer on Mission visitors expressed their appreciation to the members of Avega-Agahozo for their great hospitality and kind generosity. The students promised to keep in touch with AVEGA and become ambassadors for the group when they return to the US.
President of Avega-Agahozo, Valerie Mukabayire, wrapped up the training session with a speech thanking the leaders of Mercer University for their commitment to support Avega-Agahozo by building the capacity of the organization’s leaders through training in key entrepreneurship and business skills. She said, “It is hard to express my immense gratitude for the things you have done here during this training. I would like also to thank Dr. Mills, Dr. Musonera, and your students for their commitment to help Avega-Agahozo. This shows us that you love Rwanda because you’ve helped the widows of the genocide against the Tutsi. Avega-Agahozo came from nowhere, but today we have hope for life, and are working to raise the welfare of our members.” She also gave a special note of thanks to Mercer student Scott Markle for working with AVEGA volunteer Emile Karamutsa to help spread the organization’s message over social media.
President Mukabayire said that Avega-Agahozo has chosen to move beyond the tragedy and aim high. Its objective of engaging directly with its members and the communities in which they live is the most effective way of inspiring positive long-term change and collaboration with other people and partnerships. She reflected that the Mercer on Mission team had chosen to do the same thing by coming to work with Avega-Agahozo in Rwanda. President Mukabayire also recognized the efforts of the AVEGA trainees, saying that the presentations were perfect. She note that this training is very important to Avega-Agahozo, because the participants are leaders for all levels of Avega-Agahozo. She expressed her hope that they would share these new skills with others when they return home to their groups.