Tour Guide and Friend

We (Loel & Patti) moved to Kigali in Nov 2021 and met Justin in January 2022 while on a Kigali hike with a group called TourismLovers250. Justin was in College studying for a Diploma in Wildlife tourism and Conservation and gaining experience whenever possible by finding new hiking routes and guiding. Loel talked to Justin our entire first hike, entertained by Justin’s enthusiasm to share his knowledge about Rwanda while also being inquisitive to further his own learning. Justin helped us assimilate to Kigali by coordinating odd things we wanted to purchase like bamboo and tree stumps.

When Loel needed a Co-Pilot for a road trip from Kigali to Gaborone Botswana, Justin was eager. Within 5 days Justin secured a passport, immunizations, a few supplies and made his first trip outside Rwanda. On the way he helped navigate border crossings, learned about driving in difficult conditions, and was enjoyable company. This was a 2.5 week trip full of discovery for both Loel and Justin, finishing with Justin’s first airplane flight which he navigated alone back to Kigali.

Here is Justin’s story as we know it: Born 4 days before Genocide Against the Tutsi and lost his mother during the horrific time. He insisted, against all odds, to stay in school and found a sponsor to help pay. His marks earned him a spot in college, allowing him to leave the rural village of Kinigi. Over time, Justin slowly purchased family land in Kinigi from his siblings (he was the only one who went to school) and built a humble house. Justin now rents a room in Kigali, starting first as a freelance guide. We’ve watched him put the money he earns into starting a company registered with Rwanda Development Board, building a website, renting an office, finding employees, paying taxes, etc. He is now also teaching guides at a larger tour company and has interns from a college that he mentors. Justin continues to take night classes in his quest for a University Degree.

We frequently take Justin with us to explore Rwanda because our experiences with him feel genuine and he is always willing to try something new. Having a guide who speaks Kinyarwanda makes things much easier and you often get better experiences when your guide can navigate rural, cultural, and tourist activities. English is now the language school is taught in, but there is not yet fluency in areas outside Kigali. In between our outings with Justin, we are amazed at the experiences he is having with tourists…every trip builds his toolbox and his bag of stories. We hear local myths, about rural life, and about new places he has been. We hear his new English words, listen with him for birds calling, and answer questions he has about all sorts of things. We appreciate Justin, his never-ending smile, and our friendship.


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