Commemorating the Rwandan genocide
by Katie Carlson, Program Manager in Rwanda
Kwibuka 21: Remember, unite, renew. Kwibuka means “remember” in Kinyarwanda, the native language of this country. This week marks 21 years since the genocide against the Tutsi began in Rwanda in 1994. A mere 21 years since nearly one million Rwandans were slaughtered in their own streets and homes by neighbors, friends and even family members. This week and in the months to come, we remember all the innocent lives lost in 100 days of genocide. We honor their memory and we give our deepest respect and gratitude to those who fought to bring an end to the violence.
It is hard to imagine how severely such a horrific tragedy has forever impacted the lives of the millions who survived the massacre, as well as their families. But as much as the aftermath of such an event has the power to traumatize and discourage many, it has also in turn inspired many more to work harder, longer and more selflessly than ever to rebuild this beautiful nation, and to put the needs of the most disadvantaged citizens of Rwanda before their own. One such person is Isabelle Kamariza, the Founder of Solid Africa. Solid Africa is a Rwandan grassroots non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to support the most vulnerable patients in public hospitals. Every week, dozens of local volunteers from Solid Africa distribute food and other essential goods to the poorest patients in Rwanda’s hospitals. As an organization, they also offer financial aid to those patients that cannot afford to pay for their medicines or to cover the bill for their hospital stay. Solid Africa is funded nearly 75% by donations from within Rwanda, and was born out of the conviction of one woman that “just talking about the problem” was not enough – real action by regular people was needed to make a difference. And that alone should stand as a serious inspiration to many.
In early March, GEI hosted a delegation of students from Georgetown University that participated in a morning round of volunteering with Solid Africa at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, distributing breakfast to dozens of patients. As an organization with a developmental focus, we believe that involving visitors to Rwanda in hands-on activities that contribute to a larger positive goal is vital for the personal development and educational experience of those we host. We were incredibly happy and proud to contribute to the work of Solid Africa and we will continue to do so in the future.
Even as we honor the memory of those lives tragically lost in the genocide of 1994, we find meaningful hope and inspiration in the Rwanda of today, led by ordinary men and women like Isabelle Kamariza. As we remember, we also unite and renew, and in this spirit, we feel that the future of this breathtaking country is truly bright and promising.