For more than twenty years, Rwanda has been a country in the midst of healing from its devastating mass genocide of 1994, a horrific episode in which Rwanda’s government sponsored the murder of approximately 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Hutu civilians carried out the majority of the attacks.
With this in mind, it is hard to imagine how to help people in Rwanda. And yet, the country has made remarkable progress in the years following the genocide, though there is still lots of work to be done. Here are five solutions that address how to help people in Rwanda:
- Support education
With two out of three Rwandan citizens under the age of 25, the country has turned its attention and its hopes to children still in school. Schools in Rwanda are making a clear effort to discourage divisive ethnic labels; rather than Hutu or Tutsi, students are taught to identify themselves and others as Rwandans, all working toward a greater unity. There are many ways to support this effort, such as sponsoring a student through Foundation Rwanda or supporting one of the many organizations — Rwanda Aid, Aid for Africa and the Rwanda Orphans Project, to name a few — whose goal it is to further education in Rwanda.
- Support and encourage skilled labor
While more Rwandan children are in school than ever before, there is a 40 percent unemployment rate among young people, and not enough Rwandans have skills necessary for the labor market. Part of this is because, while school attendance is very good, the quality of the schooling still needs improvement. One way to help is to support USAID’s work in Rwanda. USAID has been part of an effort to better students’ schooling and chances of finding a good job. Since 2011, USAID has helped equip 20,000 students with skills necessary to be employed, and 60 percent of those students have since gained new or better employment.
- Buy Rwandan coffee and tea
One of the main sources of income for Rwanda comes from its production of coffee and tea. Rwandan coffee, apart from benefiting its economy, is known for its delicately sweet, citrusy and delicious flavor, and Rwandan tea, whether green or black, is known for producing a bold, rich flavor.
- Support survivors of genocide, especially those living with HIV/AIDS
The genocide in 1994 also came alongside a horrifically large number of rapes, which resulted in many people in Rwanda becoming infected with HIV and AIDS. These people, along with the many, many others suffering from the trauma of the genocide, were and continue to be in need of both physical and mental help. Thankfully, many organizations continue to help people in Rwanda heal, such as Rwanda Gift for Life and the SURF Survivors Fund.
- Visit Rwanda
While being known in recent history mainly for its horrors, Rwanda is also home to breathtaking areas of natural beauty. Another one of Rwanda’s main sources of income is its tourist trade, as people from around the world come to see the country’s dense rainforests and the 1,000 mountain gorillas, some of the last surviving on Earth, that live within them.
This is just a brief exploration of how to help people in Rwanda move past a painful part of their history. While Rwandans are grateful for any help, it has also become increasingly important that Rwanda stand on its own two feet, with the knowledge in mind that it cannot survive on aid forever. In 2012, the Rwandan government launched a fund to attract investments into the country in the hopes of generating more internal revenue, and gave the fund a firmly hopeful name: Agaciro, which means “dignity.”
– Audrey Palzkill