In my six years with Food for the Hungry (FH), I have traveled to 15-plus countries. Each country has threads of similarities, but ultimately, each makes its own unique fabric.
Rwanda was by far one of the most surprising countries I have visited. On my first visit to Kigali, Rwanda, I was there on study and spent six weeks learning about the genocide—a hard topic for an American student to study for that period of time.
We investigated the roles of the global community, influences, history, etc. And we heard stories. We heard tragic, graphic stories from people with tear-stained faces and hearts that still hurt as the words left their lips some 14 years later.
There are some stories that I’ve never retold, because I can’t bare to speak them out loud.
Almost everyone knows the story of the Rwandan genocide. Many of you have probably seen the movie Hotel Rwanda. It’s less and less hard to imagine Rwanda’s past.
My most surprising experience in Rwanda – was not the many stories of genocide - but the many stories of hope. I met countless young people, people my own age, telling me the stories of losing their entire family. Then, they proceeded to tell me about the work they started at a youth center or skills group.
A guy named Ezra became a close friend of mine in Rwanda. His make-shift family of musicians had opened a recording studio in Kigali.
They were quite skilled and had gained recognition throughout East Africa, drawing in clients from other countries. Their studio was funding a transitional house for street boys to rehabilitate, teach skills and disciple struggling youth.
This was just one of the many stories I heard. Sometimes it was as simple as Paul, age 19, making wood beads and teaching others how to make them to start a savings group and sell them at the market.
It seemed every 20-something-year-old orphan in Rwanda had a deep desire to look out for their peers, their new family, and lead the country by investing in each other. There is nothing like a bunch of incredibly inspiring people your own age to make you feel like you’re not doing enough with your life.
But really, they inspired me, too. No matter how humble we live, or how many life-altering things have happened to us, we can always chose hope and can always help another person.
FH walks with communities just like the places where Paul and Ezra live. FH is insuring that children have the resources they need to attend school and partnering with adults to increase their skills to earn income.
Rwanda has been labeled by the genocide, but Rwanda is more than its history. It’s a country of hope, and a country of entrepreneurs who invest in each other to grow.