Alumni Honors

2015 Alumni Honors: Jessica Markowitz Kindles Next Generation of Leaders in Rwanda

On April 30 at the 2015 Alumni Honors, we will honor three past World of Children Honorees who leveraged their Award and funding to empower children around the world. Since receiving our 2009 Youth Award, Jessica Markowitz has made enormous strides to inspire and educate girls in Rwanda. Now, they are on track to becoming strong, compassionate leaders who have the power to rebuild a country devastated by genocide.

jessica markowitz
Jessica Markowitz shares a moment with her long-time friend and Richard’s Rwanda student.

One year ago, Founders Harry and Kay traveled to Rwanda for Kwibuka20, a series of worldwide events that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the country’s horrific 1994 genocide. There, they saw glimmers of hope replacing devastation, bright futures replacing dark pasts. They saw this through the boundless compassion of 2009 Youth Honoree Jessica Markowitz.

“The genocide in Rwanda was truly horrific, killing as many as a million people by the end, and leaving countless children as orphans,” Jessica said. “The war left a generation of children at risk, particularly female children, who society often overlooks.”

A tireless advocate of global education and a spokesperson for social justice, Jessica founded Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE when she was only 11 years old to ensure girls in the rural area of Nyamata, Rwanda, could go to school.

richard's rwanda
Inside the classroom in Nyamata

“I was inspired and determined to find my own way to reach out to Rwandan girls my age,” Jessica said.

Since receiving our Award in 2009, Jessica has made extraordinary strides to expand the impact of her work, including adding new girls to the program and leading service learning trips to Rwanda with U.S. students.

“By receiving the World of Children Youth Award, I became more confident and knew my age could not stop me from being successful,” Jessica said. “The award provided media coverage, which allowed me to fundraise and grow the organization in a sustainable way.”

Today, the same group of girls whose primary education was funded by Richard’s Rwanda in 2006 are on track to graduate. Jessica has no doubt that they will make a lasting, positive impact in their community and country, and plans to provide post-secondary opportunities for them to attend university or become entrepreneurs.

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Jessica goofs off with some of the girls in the program.

“I’m inspired by the girls in Rwanda and their incredible strength to work hard and become leaders in their community despite the many difficulties they face on a daily basis,” Jessica said. “I met the girls when I was 12 years old and I’ve watched them become leaders in their own right. They have all told me their stories and after seven years of growing up together they have become my sisters.”

Grace, one of the original students supported by Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE, is a testament to Jessica’s work. Grace was separated from her parents during the genocide and now lives in a simple mud hut with her aunt. Before she was connected to Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE, Grace was often chased out of school because her aunt couldn’t afford to pay the fees. Now, Grace is excelling in school, scoring at the top of her class, and is about to continue her education at one of the best girls’ schools in Rwanda.

“My life has certainly been full of hardships, but I know there are young people out there making a positive impact through their loving hearts,” Grace said. “Jessica was there, she impacted my life in a way I will never be able to fully describe […] She empowered and inspired me to be a strong leader.”

Our 2015 funding will add more girls to the program and help Richard’s Rwanda fund their school fees, health insurance, school supplies and tutoring. Learn more at

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