Meet Grace: How Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE is Changing Young Girls’ Lives

Co-Founders Harry Leibowitz and Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz are in Kigali, Rwanda, as part of the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide. Prior to the event, they met up with 2009 Youth Honoree Jessica Markowitz who founded Richard’s Rwanda IMPUHWE, a nonprofit that has been ensuring Rwandan girls complete their education and have the tools to succeed. The following post was written by Harry and Kay during their trip.

Nyamata school rwanda
Jessica Markowitz, Harry Leibowitz, and Grace
It turns out that Jessica Markowitz, 2009 Youth Honoree, is far more than just a sponsor and supporter to the girls of Nyamata, Rwanda. She is their role model and their hero.

On April 6, 2014, we spent the day with the girls and many of their parents. This experience will forever be emblazoned in my mind.

One of the girls, Grace, now a senior in high school, started out by telling us, “I am a strong woman now because of Jessica and Richard’s Rwanda.” Her English is near perfect and she is mature and intelligent beyond her years. Jessica has been and is her best friend and role model.

Richard’s Rwanda started supporting Grace through school in 2006, when, she says, “I was ready to leave school because my parents were killed in the genocide and my aunt could not afford to pay for me to go….” Today, Grace is aspiring to be a doctor and she WILL be successful. She is as determined as any young person I have ever met and is as studious and well read as any in the United States.

Jessica and her team brought Grace to the United States 2 years ago. When we asked her about her experience Grace said, “I went thinking that all Americans just had lots of money but I did not know how they got it. Then I saw the girls at the school in Seattle, [Washington], washing cars, baking and selling cookies, babysitting and cutting lawns to earn money to send us to school and I realized that they really had to work for the money just like we do.”

jessica markowitz in rwanda
Jessica Markowitz with some girls of Richard’s Rwanda in Nyamata.
“Jessica and Richard’s Rwanda are changing the lives of these girls, giving them hope when there was no hope, making them strong women, allowing them to dream of a future that was unimaginable.”
~Kay Isaacson Leibowitz

What is truly startling about Grace is that before she goes off to University she has decided to devote 6 months to staying in Nyamata teaching English to the other girls who are still struggling with the language because “I don’t want to leave them behind,” she said.

Six or seven of the parents of the girls at the school spoke to us with tears running down their faces in gratitude for helping their daughters be able to get an education so they can have a real future in a modern society. One father said “I used to think that my child had to be productive in the fields but now I understand that she can be more than that and I am so proud of her.” To Jessica he said, “God bless you for making my daughter a strong woman.”

All of this was conducted not 100 yards from a former Catholic church, which, during the genocide, was the site of a terrible massacre. Over 12,000 Tutsis who sought refuge in the church were not protected and were massacred in just 7 days of bloodletting. The church, now a memorial, retains the clothes of many of the dead and down stairs displays the skulls of many of the slaughtered in order to, as our guide explained, “Demonstrate the various methods with which they were murdered…some by machete, some by guns and some by being bashed against the walls.”

Nyamata is and was a basically Tutsi village so the opportunities offered to these 40 girls from Richard’s Rwanda is all that much more necessary and meaningful.

Read more about Jessica Markowitz and the Rwanda trip by clicking on the following links:

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