Struck by Lightning – Lavar Thomas, Rwanda 2014-2016


Photo from Lavar’s Story

Lavar Thomas’s Peace Corps Story

Where and when did you serve? What did you do?

I served in the Western Province of Rwanda, East Africa from 2014-2016. As a Community Health Volunteer, I worked at a local health center and conducted health assessments, as well, as outreach around maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS prevention, Malaria prevention and family planning. I trained mothers and health center staff on addressing malnutrition through community kitchen gardens and personal finance initiatives. In addition to this, I worked with students in secondary school and taught personal leadership and financial literacy.

What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?

One of my favorite memories in Peace Corps was working with students in our regional GLOW and BE Camp. GLOW stands for (Girls Leading Our World) and BE for (Boys Excelling). During the girls camp, I remember some of the students struggling with their self-esteem and self-worth. In group discussions, students mentioned not feeling beautiful, smart or good enough. During that week another volunteer and I discussed the role of media in influencing self-perception and personal worth. We wanted these young ladies to understand their power, value, and purpose, but more importantly, the light they represent in the world. At the end of the week, they shed tears of joy from the personal empowerment they had received. This is one of my favorite memories because it reminded me of my own purpose in my Peace Corps Service.

What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?

One of my least favorite memories in Peace Corps was getting struck by lightning. It was rainy season and my power was out for more than 12 hours. At this point, most of my electronics were dead, and my phone on the brink of dying as well. By this time there was an overcast and the rain had subsided. Suddenly, I noticed the light on my power strip return and I was relieved because my power was back on. I plugged in my phone to charge, and a few minutes later, thunder growled and lightning flashed and the rain returned. I then proceeded to plug my phone in to charge and with another flash of lightening my house was struck. A ball of light then flashed before my eyes, as I sat on my bed. It struck my phone and went up my right arm; the pain was quite unbearable. I ran out of my room and collapsed. Gladly, my friend was there and I was able to contact the Peace Corps and informed them of what happened. I was in the health unit for a month before returning to my site.

What do you miss about Peace Corps?

I miss the relationships I established with my local community. I never thought I would have established life-long relationships outside of the peace corps group. I also miss the beauty of my village overlooking the scenic view of Lake Kivu.

What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?

I’ve learned that the success of your service is not based on projects, but the on the lives touched through your service.

Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?

Komera Komera, Turi Kumwe: Be strong Be Strong, We are together.


Leaders of the Free World

Leaders of the Free World (LFW) is an international experience and leadership development program for young Black men. Their mission is to develop dynamic leaders who are globally-minded, self-aware, and service-driven.

The LFW program is a national program which provides international exposure to young men of color while expanding each participant’s leadership capacity. The LFW curriculum promotes consciousness and self-awareness while targeting social and psychological barriers to success. LFW’s goal is to create a network of leaders whose development impacts their own lives and their communities; grooming the next generation of changemakers, entrepreneurs, and mentors.

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