For each student, the genocide is a part of their country’s history, but it no longer defines them, just as it no longer defines Rwanda.
[two_third_last]Twenty years on, a new story is being written in Rwanda …
2014 marks the twenty year anniversary of the devastating genocide that robbed Rwanda of as many as one million of its men, women and children, and over the past few months the world’s attention once again turned to the unbelievable horrors that took place there. A student at university in Scotland at the time, I knew little of the horrific events that were unfolding 4,000 miles away. Nor did I anticipate the ways in which my own story would one day intersect with the incredible story of this small, beautiful African nation.
During this time of remembrance, the people of Rwanda have taken time to reflect – they have remembered those who were lost, they have remembered the painful journey beyond 1994 – but this has also been an opportunity to reflect on the new story that is being written in their country. It is a story of healing, reconciliation, redemption … and incredible hope.
When I first visited Rwanda in 2004, as a graduate student from Vancouver, I experienced a country in mourning, a country whose identity was defined by the tragedy experienced only ten years before. There were seeds of hope everywhere, and I was constantly inspired by the joy and selfless love of many people I met there. Yet the sadness lingered, and the weight of the recent past hung heavily over the country.
In February 2014, I had the privilege of returning, but this time with a renewed sense of expectation and curiosity. So much has been written and spoken of Rwanda’s economic progress, of the development of infrastructure, that I was eager to see this change. What I had not anticipated was how the focus of the country’s energy and passion was shifting. There was a sense of hope, and of forward motion; a sense of a new identity being formed.
I returned to Rwanda as a staff member with The Wellspring Foundation for Education, a non-profit organization committed to empowering Rwanda’s next generation through quality education. Based in Kigali, with a support office here in BC, Wellspring staff work alongside school leaders, teachers and parents in 48 Rwandan public schools, equipping them to create a learning environment in which the 70,000+ children in these schools can thrive and fulfil their potential. For ten years now, Wellspring has had the privilege of seeing first-hand how education has the power to change lives, and change the direction of a nation.
As I walked into one of these 48 schools in February, the excitement and hope was tangible. For each student, the genocide is a part of their country’s history, but it no longer defines them, just as it no longer defines Rwanda. Once a tool used to create division, education is now providing children with a new way of understanding themselves, their neighbours and their country.
A new story is being written in Rwandan schools, and a new story is being written in lives across Rwanda. Towards the end of my trip, our team had the privilege of visiting The Village of Hope, a community of 35 homes outside Kigali built in 2005 for widows and orphans of the genocide. These women were given employment through the development of an agribusiness that produces high quality essential oils, as well as homes and a support structure in which to raise their families and rebuild their lives. As they shared with us about their experience over the past decade, I realized that they were no longer defined by their status as “widows.” Their experience of restored dignity, renewed purpose, and hope for the future echoed the longing and the journey of a nation.
It is my hope that Rwanda’s legacy will one day be of genuine transformation – of individual lives, communities, and of the nation as a whole. I dream with the courageous, hopeful people of Rwanda that one day the rest of the world would hear the country’s name and be inspired by the new story that is being written.
Be a part of Rwanda’s New Story