Honoree Spotlight

Jessica Markowitz: IMPUHWE Means Compassion

Jessica Markowitz was 11 years old when she first heard about the thousands of Rwandan children living without their parents, one of the many devastating consequences of the 1994 genocide.

Richard Kananga, a representative from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in Rwanda, recounted what he had seen during the genocide while he stayed with Jessica’s family in the United States. Jessica was so moved by these stories that she told Richard to let her know how she could help. Richard connected her with 22 orphaned Rwandan girls who couldn’t afford an education.

On the Ground
Jessica Markowitz – 2009 Youth Award Honoree

Impact to date:

$130,000 raised to support the education of 40 girls.


To provide financial support to low-income girls in Nyamata to enable them to complete their education.

Words of Wisdom:

“It’s a gift to be able to make a difference – it is very rewarding and feeds my soul.”

Teaming up with fellow classmates, Jessica started a club at her middle school to raise money to send these girls to school. In honor of Richard, she named the club Richard’s Rwanda – IMPUHWE, using the Kinyarwanda word of “impuhwe” for compassion.

“I truly just want to make a difference and hope I can make the world a better place,” said Jessica in an interview with The Inspired Philanthropist. “It’s a gift to be able to make a difference– it is very rewarding and feeds my soul.”

The following summer, Jessica went to Rwanda to meet the girls that IMPUHWE supported. There, she visited the Forum of African Women Educationalist Girls School (FAWE), an all girls boarding school in Kigali, where she became friends with one of the students. The student, who had also lost family to the genocide, was inspired by Jessica’s mission and decided to start her own Richard’s Rwanda chapter at FAWE. The chapter adopted the Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE program as a community service mentoring project, which today involves more than 80 FAWE students.

To date, Richard’s Rwanda has raised nearly $130,000 to support the education of 40 girls in the rural town of Nyamata. The lives of these girls have been dramatically impacted by the organization’s support; scholarships have given them the opportunity to attend primary and secondary school as well as the ability to purchase their own schoolbooks.

In 2009, the World of Children honored Jessica’s dedication to the children in Rwanda with a Youth Award. Since then, Richard’s Rwanda has started chapters at six other high schools and sends team members on an annual cross-cultural trip to teach English and connect with the Rwandan students in person.

Now a student at Garfield High School in Seattle, Jessica has traveled to Rwanda five times and seen the girls in Rwanda grow.

“The girls are developing and maturing into outstanding female leaders,” said Jessica on The Inspired Philanthropist. “It has been incredible to see first-hand how effective education has been on their lives, communities and families.”

Through all of her hard work, Jessica has learned that the passion and leadership of one young person can create dramatic change. She hopes that her work will inspire other youth to make a small difference in the world.

“Youth are part of the solution and we can make a difference,” said Jessica on The Inspired Philanthropist. “It’s empowering for a young person to be a philanthropist. One should never doubt themselves and the power they have to create positive change.”

  • Impact Delivered to Your Inbox

    Sign up to receive stories and updates from around the world.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.