She is an embodiment of passion and resilience. Her warm personality blends seamlessly with her work. Her life has been a journey of resilience and perseverance. For someone who lost her mother at a tender age and dropped out of school, she has defied the odds to make it in a field that is dominated by men.
When I met her on a chilly Sunday morning, she welcomed me with a warm smile and ushered me onto a cosy patio where she offered me a sit. She exuded traits of a person who has mastered her trade. Rose Muhumuza is a female tour guide who doubles as a safari driver.
The soft spoken 27-year-old tourism enthusiast recalls her journey with gestures of hope and contentment.
Muhumuza has unshackled herself from stereo types and the challenge of growing up without a mother to become an accomplished entrepreneur and pillar in her family.
“I love people and interacting with them, this is one of the traits that paved my path into tourism,” she says as she takes me down memory lane about her work in tourism.
She describes her days with tourists in the wildernesses as a calling that she enjoys. The beam on her face as she narrates this is testimony that she is into tourism for the passion.
After graduating from Akilah Institute with an advanced diploma in hospitality management, she worked with different tour companies before she qualified as a driver of Safari tour cars.
In 2015, she joined Rwanda Tour Guides Association and freelanced with a number of tour companies but her turning point was when she joined Eco safaris Rwanda.
“I had never seen any female driving the big tour safari cars, but I was determined to take up this challenge,” she says. She enrolled into a driving school and a year later came face to face with her long-yearned for moment of steering the four wheel safari car.
“I would look in the side mirror and wonder if it was really me driving it, it was really huge,” she recalls her first trip as a driver. “It was a bit scary at the beginning, but it’s all about practice and I came to learn that driving the safari car doesn’t need energy, but rather techniques. I practiced a lot and finally got used to it,” she recounts.
Muhumuza says her job is hectic but fulfilling. She notes that the trick to excel in tourism industry is commitment and hard work.
“I remember we could have trips to go to Volcanoes National Park. Since we had to depart from Kigali at 4:30 am, by 3:00 am I had to be ready to pick up the tourists, and at times I could just have two hours of sleep. And the terrain itself is rough at times especially when it rains. Yes, it can be challenging but I love what I do.”
Joining as a female driver was a test of its own with co-workers doubting her abilities, “I remember we could be in the field and some of them would wonder if I was serious. The challenges were many; it’s hard for people to trust you as a woman.”
What makes her adore her job nonetheless is the fact that she gets a chance to promote her culture and country’s treasures to foreigners.
“I love interacting with people, especially those who have come in the country for the first time. I love letting them know about my country, sharing its history. I really love tourism because talking to people is my passion,” she says.
Born and raised in Kyankwanzi, Uganda, Muhumuza encountered fate at a tender age when her mother passed on. She was just completing primary six when her mother died.
Her father, a cattle keeper, was not so keen on education; it was her uncle who supported her through high school, but he too later passed on and Muhumuza had to drop out of school in form two.
She never gave up because she was a bright kid in class and loved school. In 2008, her Aunt who had come to visit from Rwanda decided to come back home with her. She gave her a home and educated her.
Muhumuza took this chance with two hands and focused on accomplishing her dream in life.
“I was young, but I was mature enough to understand. I stayed focused on work, studies and supporting my family.”
Muhumuza believes that as long as one understands where they come from, it helps one keep focused.
“First of all you need to know who you are and the moment you understand where you came from and where you want to go, it’s easy. The reason as to why I didn’t deviate was because I knew I was like a bridge to my family, I took it upon myself to take care of my siblings. I knew the moment I lost focus I would not only be disappointing myself but I would be disappointing them too,” she says.
Through her resilience, Muhumuza now doubles as a driver with Eco Safaris and a human resource specialist with Marriott hotel, where she was retained after her internship this year.
From her work she has achieved a lot. She brought her father to Rwanda and built him a home and has also managed to find her young brother a job.
She is paying fees for her younger siblings with one completing high school and the last born is joining form five.
Asked about how she feels about her accomplishments, Muhumuza says, “I am proud of myself and I am thankful to God because without God I wouldn’t have made it, there are so many challenges one can face but when you’re determined and clearly set your goals, you make it.”
What people say about her
Evariste Ntambara, the boss at Eco Safaris describes Muhumuza as a responsible and a hard working young woman.
“I have known Rose since 2013, by then she was working as the front desk manager, later as a Guest relations manager and in March 2016, she joined Eco-Safaris Rwanda as the Tour manager and Operations till this year. She is hard working and flexible to work with,” Ntambara says.
He also describes Muhumuza as someone who has the ability to adapt to any situation, “she is trustworthy, sociable, responsible, and a team player.”
Aline Kabanda the Executive Director at Akilah Institute where Muhumuza attained her advanced diploma, describes her as a go-getter who doesn’t waste any opportunity.
“I saw Rose here at Akilah from the very beginning and she has performed above measure in just about everything, her personality and attitude. She is a go-getter and has taken part in so many events at campus, she was actually one of the Akilah ambassadors and was part of the Guild which is the student’s leadership,” Kabanda recalls.
She also calls her a very pleasant woman who can take up any task.
“You do not need to tell Rose something twice, she would just take it and get it done, and I think this is really what strikes me. While she is living her dream of being a jeep driver, she has also secured a job with Marriott Hotel, she is an accomplished woman and I am very proud of what she has become,” she adds.
Kabanda points out that it is inspiring seeing a student grow and take charge of their career by making things happen.
“Rose is that kind of person, she doesn’t waste opportunities that come her way, I think this is the kind of mind-set that we want our youth to have.”