The saying goes, “History is decided by the victors”, but there are some events in history where there are no winners, only survivors. The Rwandan genocide was a horrific event, but for many living in Rwanda, the struggle has not ended. Foundation Rwanda is a nonprofit that works to aid these survivors as well as ensuring that these events will not be forgotten.
Background and History
In 1994, 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda over a span of just 100 days. The genocide was the result of a conflict between Hutu extremists and the Tutsi minority that had been building up for decades. A number of atrocities were committed during the genocide in addition to murder, leaving few unscarred. However, the founders of Foundation Rwanda did not purposely set out to address this.
“In February of 2006, photojournalist Jonathan Torgovnik traveled to East Africa with then-Newsweek health editor Geoffrey Cowley to report on a story for Newsweek magazine about the 25th year anniversary of the inception of HIV/AIDS,” Rwandan program director Samuel Munderere told the Borgen Project. While in Rwanda, Torgovnik met and was moved by Margaret, a genocide survivor who had been raped and as a result gave birth to a child and contracted HIV. Munderere states that Torgovnik “began feeling incredible parallels between the Holocaust, in which his grandfather was murdered, and the Rwandan genocide”.
Torgovnik later returned to Rwanda with co-founder Jules Shell and discovered that an estimated 20,000 children were born as a result of rape during the genocide. Many of the mothers of these children also became HIV positive and were forced into poverty after becoming social pariahs within their own communities and families.
Most of these women are unable to afford to send their children to school, but Munderere says they have a “desire for their children to have a brighter future”. This is where Foundation Rwanda comes in. The organization works to help sponsor these children so that they may attend school and have the access to the uniforms and supplies they need. They have supported over 830 children in attending secondary school, and 500 of them have graduated.
Foundation Rwanda also works to help the mothers who lived through the atrocities of the genocide. They have helped 420 women to receive support through psychological counseling as a part of their community counseling initiative. In addition, they have partnered with Indego Africa, an organization that supports female artisans and entrepreneurs, to help these women create their own sources of income.
Needs for the Future
Foundation Rwanda has done incredible work for these survivors and their children, but their futures are vulnerable. “Due to funding challenges, we are unable to meet the needs of many of the people we support,” says Munderere. Co-founder Jules Shell states that “a minimal amount of $150,000 would complete our education program.” If Foundation Rwanda is to continue to make a difference in the lives of these Rwandan citizens who have already suffered so greatly, they must be supported.
– Megan Burtis