Umwanya mu Mutima Wanjye [A place in My Heart]

My time in Rutsiro is coming to a close. I’m not quite sure how I’ll come to grips with that.

It’s difficult to imagine life without the sounds of a village waking up around me each morning. The cries of small babies, the playful joy of young children, the bleat of goats, the chatter of greetings and conversations echoing across the valleys.

No more saturday afternoon football matches the whole community comes out to watch. No more friday nights at the night club with 20 of my closest friends. No more mass at the outdoor pavilion high above the lake spreading out misty blue across the western horizon.

How quickly my clothes will dry without the afternoon rain and near constant mist that hangs over our town! But how sad to miss the quiet that descends with the fog and the rain, the power of the thunder and brilliant show of lightening that is among the most frequent and dangerous in the world.

Will I be able to replace the shops and markets – and more importantly, their owners – who always have just what I need, including a good conversation shared over a counter full of fruits and vegetables? I know I can’t replace my neighbors who cook for me when I’m ill, laugh with me in the sunshine, share with me over dinner, and teach me with a genuine care that will touch my heart for always.

I could try to be thankful for the end of moto rides on muddy or dusty or rock-strewn bumpy roads, but in that pre-departure haze, even these have become sacred. I’ll miss the children shouting out for discarded water bottles, that I wish, but never seem, to have. I’ll miss the emerald green vista of terraced hills rising up and down along side. I’ll miss that hair-pin turn where the kids race across the valley as quick as they can just so they can stand and wave to me on the other side. I’ll miss the cascading waterfall down stepped black rock, the new steel bridge that was once out of commission for over three months, the house where I took shelter from the rain on my very first moto ride and the kids still shout out greetings every time I pass.

I’ll miss coming around the bend in the road just where the wide, shallow river winding through the valley comes into view. I’ll miss the village where I made friends while the driver fixed a flat tire. I’ll miss going up the mountain to Murunda and knowing I helped lay the rocks that make the muddy pass a little more navigable. I’ll miss the waves and greetings from pedestrians carrying bundles of grass or sticks or produce for the market on their heads and their surprised faces when I wave and shout back a hearty “Komera!”

In honor of my departure (I’d like to think), the paving of the road is finally on the horizon. The trees have been cut to allow for widening, topographers are out in force to survey the land, and heavy machinery has made an appearance.

Though I’m happy for the development this will bring to Rutsiro, one of the last remaining areas of the country without a paved road, I’m also sad it will mean things will never quite be the same when I return. But I suppose the road alone won’t be the cause of that.

Life will continue in Rutsiro after I’m gone. Some people will leave, new shops will open. The fancy hotel may eventually be finished. The forest will one day attract tourists. I hope they will see even half the beauty I have found living in Rutsiro.

I suppose, in fact, that though I am physically preparing to leave this home of mine, this home, Rutsiro, will never in fact leave me. It’s written itself upon my heart and soul with friendships and laughter, joys and tears, overcoming fears and braving new endeavors, and lots and lots of dancing.

Umucyo mw’Abakorerabushake [Culture of Volunteers]

Ndi umukorerabushake. I’m a volunteer.

And I come from a country that values service. Service to our country, service to our community, our family, and service to the rest of the world.

So I thought I knew all about volunteerism before I joined the Peace Corps and came to serve in Rwanda. But I had more to learn.

The last saturday of every month in Rwanda is Umuganda – a community work day. All across the country people come together in their villages to do a community project. Over the past three years, I’ve done a lot of hoeing on umuganda. I’ve helped dig roadside ditches, carried stones to help build schools, pulled weeds in front of local government buildings, and helped with road improvement. Every month it’s a little different.

This month, we were assigned to haul dirt from a river in the valley up to a school at the top of a mountain. The heavy silt would serve in the foundation of new classrooms.

I followed my colleagues and friends down a treacherous goat path- one where it’s often better just to run because your momentum is more likely to keep you on your feet than trying to slowly pick out stable foot holds.

Once in the valley, men shoveled dirt into rice sacks – giving me a meager 7 kilos – which I carefully balanced on my head like all the Rwandans around me.

Then we began our ascent. We took a much longer, but slightly less treacherous path back up the mountain. I was sweaty, dusty, and very out of breath forty minutes later when I finally reached the school and dumped my tiny bit of dirt on the growing pile.

I hoped for a rest. Some shade. A sip of water. Instead we turned around and went back down.

Many people lapped me. I could be ashamed of my slow progress but the truth is, I’m just not use to this kind of physical labor. And my neck hurt. Carrying things on your head is really a skill developed over a lifetime. But I kept going. I made friends along the way, refused to let old men add my burden to their own, and did my best to set tiny goals, one after another, until I’d finally reached the summit a second time.

In the end, I really didn’t accomplish very much. In nearly 3 hours, I’d carried maybe 20 kilos of dirt from the river to the school. But when my 20 kilos were added to that of every other community member, we had quite the mountain ready for use in construction.

I was asked many times throughout the morning if we have umuganda in the USA. I explained our own diverse culture of volunteerism but I had to admit there is real beauty in the consistency of Rwanda’s umuganda.

How easy it is to see the power of unity when so many gather to do one project, on one day. If I had been tasked alone to haul that dirt, not only would it have taken me days on end to achieve so much, but I likely would have given in easier to my physical exhaustion. But when we worked together, the work was faster – and more enjoyable.

Some people don’t think of umuganda as volunteerism because there has been a sense of compulsion behind the program in the past. But I’ve also seen people volunteer for many more selfish reasons, so who can truly judge? The end is the measure.

Not only does umuganda aid the physical development of Rwanda but it also serves to bring Rwandans together – to unite them for a common purpose. As a volunteer for an organization that believes physical development, as well as relationship building, are the roots to achieving lasting peace and friendship, I can honestly say that umuganda is one of the most beautiful traditions of service I’ve been honored to participate in.

No matter how dirty I get in the process.

It’s a service I’m proud to do each month in Rwanda and one I hope becomes a part of my personal culture wherever life takes me in the years ahead.

Sinshaka Ibihuha [I Don’t Want Rumours]

Gossip runs rampant in Rwanda – as it does everywhere in the world. As both a guest in the country, a young single female, and a leader – I have to be careful to avoid gossip and maintain a good reputation.

It’s widely believed here that a male and female alone likely means one thing = sex. This is so widely held that Peace Corps staff train us early to avoid ever being alone with a person of the opposite gender. If a man should come to my home to pay a visit – no matter how well intentioned or respected he may be – I’ve been directed to take a chair out on the porch and visit in the open where all my neighbors can clearly see there’s nothing inappropriate going on.

To help avoid even the semblance of bad behavior, I go on the offensive. When men ask if they can visit me, as they very often do, I reply with, “Ndi umukobwa mwiza. Sinshaka ibihuha. Niba uraza n’abandi, nta kibazo. Arika niba wowe uraza wanyine, ni bibe.” [I am a good girl. I don’t want rumours. If you come with other people, it’s no problem. But if you come alone, it’s bad.”

This gets me a lot of laughs. Some young men insist the culture is changing and there’s no problem. But their words are often said with a hopeful glint in their eye that reveals the mistruth. Older men are usually quick to say they’ll bring along their wife – no problem, karibu [welcome]! Older women love my response the most and go around repeating my words and telling the whole village what a good girl I am.

So this offensive approach has worked well for me.

But recently, I discovered a small problem with my strategy. The often confusing nature of the Rwandan language that has one word meaning MANY things (or the reverse – many versions of a word meaning only one thing), has lent an entirely different interpretation to my well-intentioned reply.

Ndi umukobwa mwiza, which I take to mean ‘I am a good girl’, can also mean, ‘I am a beautiful girl.’

Mwiza means both GOOD and BEAUTIFUL.

When a friend recently pointed this out, I was incredibly embarrassed to realize I’ve been going around attesting to my own beauty! Essentially saying, ‘I’m so beautiful that of course people will think you men want to sleep with me and so you can’t visit me alone!’

But in the end I guess it works out the same, doesn’t it?

Whether I’m good or beautiful (or both, thank you very much), my reputation is solid. Perhaps I seem a bit conceited but in the end, no one can say I’m loose.

Ndi Munini [I am Big]

We’d just begun a steep ascent when my moto driver yelled over the strain of the engine, “Elisabeth, how do you say: ‘umukobwa afite ibilo’ in English?”

“Umukobwa afite means ‘the girl has’ but I don’t know ibilo,” I shouted back. I thought I’d heard the word before but wasn’t sure of it’s meaning.

My driver helped, “like munini.”

Ah! “Big,” I said. “So umukobwa afite ibilo probably means ‘the girls has weight, the girl is fat.’ Like she has many kilos.”

“Yes!” my driver shouted, “Ibilo is many kilos! Wowe ufite ibilo.” You have many kilos.

“Yes,” I said succinctly, “I do.”


Constantly having your weight discussed might make some women pretty unhappy.

Everyone here in Rwanda feels free to comment on how big I’ve become, how much I must eat, or how heavy I am on the back of a motorcycle.

Sometimes American women say living in Africa, where ‘Bigger is Better,’ makes them feel more beautiful, more confident in their body than they ever did in the States.

Not me.

I’ve always been big, or curvy as I prefer to say. And for the most part, I’ve always been okay with that.

Oh I have days when I feel fat. When none of my clothes seem to fit and I feel particularly unattractive. But I like what Meghan Trainor says about curves in her popular song, All About That Bass: Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.

Living in Africa hasn’t made me more comfortable with my body because I was already comfortable with it.

What it has done, what constantly having my weight and size commented on has made me feel is, who cares? This is me. I’m beautiful in Rwanda where big is better. I’m beautiful in America where big is often obese. I’m beautiful because I’m me.

Whether you point it out or keep quiet out of social respect, your words won’t change my body or my mind.

Yes, I’m big. A bit fat even. Definitely curvy.

I won’t lie, I won’t prevaricate. This is my body and it’s my confidence in my body, more than anything, that makes me beautiful. In any culture.

That being said, I’m sorry Moto Driver but at least I pay you the muzungu rate!

Umuturanyi Mwiza [Good Neighbor]

First day in my new village, I hugged nearly 80 people.

The traditional Rwandan greeting does include a sort-of near-hug: you grasp each other’s shoulders or upper arms and lean in to touch temples three times.

But either because she likes hugging a lot herself, or because she has a son in the States who has told her Americans hug, my new neighbor just wouldn’t settle for a near-hug.

Only a full-body embrace with three strong temple taps would do.

I am not much of a hugger.

The upside? I have now warmly, and humorously been introduced to a good portion of my new village.

They know my name, my job, where I live, and that, apparently, I’ll hold evening English lessons at my neighbor’s house for anyone who wants to learn.

Umukecuru [Old Woman…though this is a title of respect in Rwanda, not an insult] is a good neighbor.

In addition to the hugging, she introduced me to half a dozen shopkeepers as her friend and warned them not to rip me off. She gave me water when I discovered my house had none, arranged for a boy to cut my grass, informed the neighborhood watch group to look after my house, and has shared food on multiple occasions.

I feel very well cared for.

I’ve met more people in a few days in my new home than I did in 6 months in my previous. That’s thanks to Umukecuru as well as 2 years experience living in Rwanda. Confidence in my communication skills helps too. Confidence period! Such a difference two years make.

My new home is bigger – both the village and my house. My work seems to have increased as well. I’m working with the District to train teachers – developing their English as well as methodology in preparation for a new competency-based curriculum to begin rollout next year. But I have a second office in Kigali, where I’ll support the Rwanda Education Board [REB] to develop a national plan and curriculum for teacher training.

I’m really not sure how I’ll have time to host evening English classes for the villagers but I can’t let my good neighbor down!

It’s a new year. I have a new home, new job, new friends and new neighbors. Rwanda is new, as well. Developing and growing more everyday. And though I don’t wish to be new myself (I rather like who I am), I do know I am growing and changing and stretching with new skills, new perspectives, new awareness, and new warmth.

I have good neighbors, a good home, good friends, and good work. I believe it will be a good year!

Ikiganiro Cyiza: Common Sense

(this post was first published in SOMA, the Peace Corps Rwanda magazine)

I will never understand when to go places in Rwanda.

I get invited to ceremonies all the time: wedding ceremonies, baby naming ceremonies, anniversaries, celebrations, memorials. I consider myself lucky if the invitation includes a start-time.

I shouldn’t.

It never means a thing.

I’ve tried everything. Showing up early. Arriving late. One hour. Three hours. I think, this will be the day I get it right!


I ask friends to give me a call or a text or a beep. Anything to let me know when they’ll be arriving so I can follow suit. Sometimes it helps. Other times I’m reminded that when a Rwandan says, “Ndajye,” (I’m coming), it can still take them an hour to arrive.

I was sitting with two friends recently and I asked them, “How do you always know when to arrive?”

They looked at me strangely. What an odd question, their looks seemed to say.

“No, seriously!” I exclaimed, “That ceremony at school this week,
it started three hours late. AFTER the stated end time! I arrived one hour late, thinking I was finally the smart one, only to sit and wait, alone, in the hot salle while decorations were being put up. But you all arrived right on time. How’d you know?”

They both tilted their heads a bit, pondering this weird american girl and her strange confusion.

“It’s common sense,” one said.

Common Sense.

Registering the complete decisiveness in his voice, it hit me: Common sense is cultural.

It’s common sense to all Rwandans when you should arrive. There are secret rules embedded in the culture, taught to you in unspoken social cues from birth. Weddings start two hours late, memorials one. But if a VIP is coming you better be prepared. They may show up right on time, angry if you’re late, or they may be several hours past due and expect you to be ready when they are.

It’s common sense.

“It’s common sense to you,” I said. “It’s common confusion to me.”

But at least now I know. I’ve gained a lot of common sense in my life, but all based on the wrong culture for where I currently live. I’ll never arrive at the right time in Rwanda.

Some things just aren’t common around the globe.

Abakobwa Bakunda ICT! [Girls love ICT]

Sixteen Rwandans, twelve Americans, and two Koreans were standing in a circle…

Sound like the start of a bad joke to you?

It’s not.

Rather it was the start of Camp TechKobwa’s Training of Trainers. And while it did involve making goofy sour-lemon faces and passing a hoola-hoop around a circle of connected hands, it wasn’t bad at all. It was very, very fun.

Camp TechKobwa (“Kobwa”, pronounced kobga, is from the Kinyarwanda word for girl) was founded in 2013 by United States Peace Corps Volunteers and partners from Girls in ICT (Information Communication Technology), an organization committed to increasing the number of women in ICT sectors and altering the stereotype held by many young Rwandan girls that ICT is a man’s field.

The goal of the Camp is to provide young women with unhindered access to computers in order to develop their skills, confidence, and creativity through the use of technology. Through lessons covering everything from basic computer skills, to programming and robotics, the Camp encourages women that they can pursue careers in technology sectors.

Additional lessons in goal setting and self-esteem empower the young women to become active citizens and to start computer and media clubs at their schools.

This year, Camp TechKobwa has been organized by Peace Corps Volunteers, faculty and students from Michigan State University, professionals from IBM, and entrepreneurial experts from ELERwanda. Additional support has come from Girls in ICT, kLab, Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, KOICA (Korean International Cooperation Agency) and the U.S. Embassy in Kigali.

Hosted at G.S. Janja, a secondary school in Gakenke District, Camp TechKobwa began on Tuesday July 29th with a four-day Training of Trainers. Twelve ICT Teachers from all around Rwanda will spend this time being students so they are prepared not only to teach during the student camp that begins on August 2nd, but to also take these lessons and new skills back to their schools to share with even more teachers and students – exponentially increasing the reach of the Camp.

It’s officially Day Two of Camp TechKobwa and energy is high. The Teachers have already completed lessons including: Computer Lab Maintenance, Programming with Scratch, Touch Typing, how to teach Basic Computer Skills, and Teaching ICT without a Computer (a required skill in a country still developing its ICT infrastructure). The favored lesson thus far, though, has been Lego Robotics. With kits donated by IBM and MSU, the teachers have already learned to build and program a simple robot!

The Training of Trainers lasts another day and a half and then sixty young women will join us in Janja for seven-days of intense learning and energetic activities, all designed to teach them that they, too, can study and succeed with technology!

Ikiganiro Cyiza: Yaributse (She Remembers)

It’s common to greet abakecuru and abasaza as I move around the village. Unlike younger Rwandans who may nod their ‘yego’ in passing, the older generation always take the time to stop, shake hands, and make a formal greeting.

Often, after the muraho’s have been exchanged, the abakecuru (old women) and abasaza (old men) follow with a longer comment. But as they usually speak quickly and rarely repeat when I ask them to speak slower, I seldom know what they wish to impart and we say our komera’s and move on.

This whole exchange happened recently as I was walking with a few friends. I greeted an umukecuru, we shook hands, touched foreheads, and she spoke rapidly in Kinyarwanda for a minute before saying Komera (Be strong) and moving on.

As I joined my friends waiting a few steps ahead, they asked if I had understood.

“No,” I replied honestly.

They explained, “She said that when she was a young child, white people came to her village and helped her. They gave her family food and clothes. And she thanked you for helping our country.”

She has always remembered these people who helped her once, long ago.

This act of kindness would have happened several decades ago, before the Genocide of ’94, based on her age. The white people who helped her may have been Belgian or French or the Red Cross. Or anyone. I have no way to know.

She wasn’t saying that I was them. Or even from the same country. She was simply making a connection that foreigners have helped. They helped her as a child and now I am here helping today.

I don’t always feel pride about the way foreigners have behaved toward Rwanda. I have good reason to feel shame on behalf of my country and the rest of the developed world. But this old woman was telling me, in her own way, not to focus on the bad but to remember that one small act of kindness can make a difference.

It made a difference for her. She still remembers the white people who helped her family decades ago. Maybe years from now, something I do today will be remembered the same.

One person can make a difference and everyone should try.
~ John F. Kennedy

Ni gute ntabwo wagusuye? [Why didn’t you visit me?]

Visiting is a fundamental aspect of Rwandan culture. I often avoid visiting, not because I tremendously dislike drinking overly-sweet tea while watching blaring music videos, but because of a slight cross-cultural barrier I consistently struggle to overcome.

To visit in Rwanda means to simply show up.

Unannounced, sometimes uninvited. You don’t set a date and time or call beforehand to confirm. You just go.

This is not my culture.

In the USA, visiting is pre-arranged. Planned in advance, marked on the calendar. It often happens not at your home but at some cooperatively chosen location. And on the rare occasion things are left vague or done last-minute, you always call ahead to confirm someone is home, dressed, and available.

Time after time, my friends have invited me to visit.

‘When?’ I always ask.

‘Anytime,’ the consistently reply.

Some live far away. Some travel on weekends or work odd hours. Some are men who I wouldn’t want to go visit unless I knew their wife was home.

So I wait. I wait for specifics. A day, a time, even directions on how to find their house. I wait.

Except they don’t know I’m waiting.

By their culture, the ball is in my court.

So I see them at the market or at work or in the canteen and they ask, ‘Why haven’t you come to visit me? I’m waiting for you.’

So now we’re both waiting.

I finally got over my fears long enough to visit the Catholic priests. After they’d chastised me multiple times, I realized this was one part of my culture I needed to let go. It helped that the priests live nearby and their home and office are one. They’re priests, so they receive visitors all the time. Nonetheless, it took me several attempts – in which I planned to go but chickened out – before I finally knocked on their door.

I’ve made small steps in my visiting since then, but it still feels very improper to simply show up at a person’s house.

So recently, when my friend Modeste asked why I still hadn’t come to visit him and his wife, I took action.

‘I’m ready,’ I told Modeste, whose permanent home is an hour away. ‘I’m going to Kigali just now, but will return on Sunday and will pass by your village.’

‘Good, you will come!’ Modeste said.

That was it. A start but still a bit vague for my tastes. I knew the name of the village but had no clue where his house was. And I could only assume that his reply meant he and his wife would actually be home on Sunday. An additional dilemma was that due to the distance and timing, my visit would likely have to extend overnight. Was that acceptable?

This was going to be a big leap for me.

Sunday morning came and I was prepared to leave Kigali. I was still uncertain about this whole visiting thing. Would they be there? Would there be a place for me to sleep? Would I even be able to find their home in a village I’d never before seen?

Then my phone vibrated with an SMS from Modeste:


Okay, it’s on.

I called him to inform him of my schedule and ask the moto price to the village. I finished my bus ride, flagged a moto, negotiated the correct price and was off…still not knowing precisely where I was going.

Once we left the main road and began winding up the mountain toward the village, I was completely lost.

Then it began to rain.

We came to the second string of storefronts just as the mist turned to a downpour and I told the driver to stop. We took cover in a small store and I called Modeste. I had no idea if we’d reached his village or passed it or were anywhere near it at all.

Turns out, we’d just passed his street.

The rain lightened, Modeste showed up with an umbrella and we slipped and slid down the road, past the curious villagers staring at the new muzungu in town, and reached the house just as the storm let loose again.

Alice greeted us at the door with flip flops and ushered me to a private bedroom to change out of my rain-drenched clothes. I had made it. I was officially a visitor.

We all chatted for a bit, then Alice disappeared to kill a chicken and Modeste put on christian music videos with English subtitles that we sang along to like karaoke. His twin brother came by to greet me, then we watched a Tanzanian film called, “The Best Wife” while we ate a delicious meal.

If I thought it was going to be awkward, this whole visiting thing, I was wrong. I drifted off under my mosquito net, in my friends’ home, knowing I was welcome and warmly received.

I woke early in the morning, not knowing the family routine, and caught Alice and the umukozi unprepared. I felt bad that they had to rush to light the fire and heat water for my bath. Modeste slept in and I packed up my belongings while the women did womanly things – like prepare breakfast. Modeste rolled out of bed and the two of us drank our morning tea and ate eggs and bread laid out by his wife.

Then we all set off. They walked me through town, showing me the village and the school and the health center where Alice works. It was a half hour back to the main road where we waited on the first of the day’s buses to rumble to a stop. We all boarded and sat in a row, the other passengers tittering at the muzungu with her Rwandan friends, out for a morning journey. The tittered even more when Modeste and Alice disembarked without me at the District capital to take care of some paperwork.

I continued alone, but with a happy heart. I had succeeded wonderfully at this whole visiting thing, I thought.

Now if I can just get the courage to do it again.

Ikiganiro Cyiza: Definition

With visitors on their way and the Memorial period less than a month away, it’s no surprise that I recently found myself in a conversation with fellow PCVs about the appropriate way to handle introducing people to Rwanda’s past.

The dilemma we discussed is our mounting frustration that the first, and usually last, thing people associate with Rwanda is the Genocide. It’s all many people know about this small hilly country in the heart of Africa.

And when it’s the only thing a person knows, it can easily become the only thing a person sees. They may come to Rwanda to attempt to figure out why. To see the country where it happened, to fulfill their curiosity about the people, and to look around and be moved to tears or moved to action.

Rwanda has become defined by the Genocide of 1994.

When the tremendous rate of development in Rwanda is discussed it’s always said with a ‘despite the past’ signifier. As though Rwanda’s progress is only remarkable due to the past. As if being one of the fastest growing economies in the world isn’t impressive independent of
other factors.

Is Rwanda special because it has achieved so much in so short a time? Or because it has achieved so much after such atrocious brutality?

Is Rwanda the Genocide of 1994 or is it a country, like any other, trying to develop itself in a difficult world?

And if Rwanda truly is and should be more than the Genocide, when visitors arrive do you take them to the Memorial first? Last? Or not at all?

The National Memorial at Gisozi is one of the most impressive and moving memorials I have visited. Beyond reminding us of the history and circumstances that made 1994 possible, it raises awareness about Genocide around the world. To me, Gisozi demonstrates Rwandans’ commitment not just to never again seeing Genocide within their own borders, but never again around the world. It is a place to remember as well as to educate.

And that, more than anything else, has shaped my answer to the question of when and how much I should discuss the Genocide when I share about Rwanda.

As a child-abuse victim, I have learned that when people discover your tragic past, you fall victim, all too often, of it becoming the defining aspect of your identity. A survivor. Everything else about you is defined through that context.

But I am more than my past.

At the same time, I discovered that sharing my story helps others. Helps them heal or face their own past or that of someone they know and love. It helps people see a new part of the world, be more aware, more sensitive. It creates a commitment against victimization. It increases opportunities to fix the systems of neglect that perpetuate the violence and racism and sexism and hatred and ignorance that haunt our world.

I don’t only want to be seen as a survivor. Or to have that be the lens through which all my accomplishments are measured. But if sharing my story helps other people learn, or heal, or fight for justice in the world, then I will gladly be defined by it.

I will remember for myself and educate for others: To prevent child abuse, to encourage healing; to let my life, my story, be an opportunity for others to learn.

I cannot answer for the opinion of any Rwandan. I don’t know how they feel about being so completely identified around the world with their past. I don’t know if they want it discussed or would prefer burying it and moving on to a new day.

What I have personally seen is a people that did build a National Memorial committed to remembering as well as sharing. A country that does take 100 days every year to commemorate the past rather than hiding it in history books. Friends who do wear ‘Never Again’ bracelets every day of their lives. A reminder to themselves and all who see, that Rwandans do not want to see Genocide ever again; amidst their emerald green hills or anywhere in the world.

Rwanda is more than its past. But it is shaped by its past, as well. What I see tells me that it’s okay to connect the words ‘Rwanda’ and ‘Genocide’. Hopefully not as an end but as a beginning. 1994 was not the end of this country but the beginning of a brighter future for all Rwandans, and hopefully, through the sharing of their story, a brighter, more peaceful future for people around the world. Rwanda is largely defined by the Genocide but its story is just beginning and is about so much more.