Since its establishment in 2006, the Rwanda Initiative has operated a media internship program in addition to its teaching partnership with the National University of Rwanda. Through the internship program, senior journalism students from Carleton's program get the chance to spend two months in Rwanda, working as interns with media organizations.
The purpose of sending Canadian interns to Rwanda is both to help Rwandan media outlets fill some gaps in their reporting staff and to create a corps of future reporters in Canada who will have first-hand experience in reporting and living in the developing world, thus broadening their future coverage. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide was inadequately reported in the West, in part because of a lack of familiarity with the country and the region.
In 2006 the project took 16 Canadian interns to Rwanda. In 2007, 22 Canadian students participated. In 2008, 13 Canadian students participated in the program. Typically, the interns receive a partial subsidy to offset the cost of their airfare and are provided with full room and board in Rwanda.
To date, Carleton students have worked as interns with the New Times, Internews, City Radio, Focus, Contact-FM, Grands Lacs Hebdo, Radio Rwanda, TV Rwanda and Umuseso Newsline.
The students live in shared accommodation in Kigali in houses maintained by the Rwanda Initiative. Living arrangements are modest, but adequate. The houses are staffed by a cook/housekeeper and groundskeepers who also provide security. The Rwanda Initiative has a full-time coordinator on the ground in-country who arranges for pickup and orientation for new arrivals and is available 24 hours a day to attend to student interns. It is worth noting that living conditions in Rwanda are quite good and personal security in Kigali and across the country is as good as in any Canadian city.
Nearly 50 Carleton journalism students have now been to Rwanda through the program and by all reports their time in Rwanda was transformative. Project participants are required to engage the Canadian public about their experiences through blog entries posted on the Rwanda Initiative website.
The internship program is made possible by a private donation from Mr. John Honderich, former publisher of the Toronto Star and matching funds from Carleton University.