In early April of 2014, Co-Founders Harry Leibowitz and Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz traveled to Rwanda to visit 2009 Honoree Jessica Markowitz, attend the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, and visit Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a program inspired by 1998 Honoree Chaim Peri. Though the genocide is still a painful memory for many Rwandans, the country’s next generation has hope for the future. Harry and Kay had the chance to meet some of them and see how our Honorees have impacted their lives.
Here are a few highlights from their trip:
On the first day of their trip, Harry and Kay traveled to the small, rural town of Nyamata, Rwanda, to visit Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE, an educational program for Rwandan girls that was founded by Jessica Markowitz. There, they met 40 girls who have big dreams of becoming leaders in their community and country. Meet one of the girls >>
“Breaking down gender inequality and violence prevention is important and even more reason why it’s critical to educate girls,” said Jessica in a Q&A with us. “Girls have traditionally struggled in society even more than boys and historically been denied educational opportunities. In Rwanda, children head more than 100,000 Rwandan households; often it’s the girl’s responsibility to take care of their family.”
The idea of impuhwe (meaning “compassion” in Kinyarwanda, Rwandan’s national language) is central to Jessica’s work. The girls in her program are not only on track to complete primary and secondary school, but feel empowered and confident in their ability.
“I am a strong woman now because of Jessica and Richard’s Rwanda,” said Grace, one of the original students in Richard’s Rwanda’s program.
The next day, Harry, Kay and Jessica attended the 20th Anniversary Commemoration Event in Kigali to remember the lives of those who were lost during the horrific 1994 genocide. They joined international dignitaries, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at Amahoro Stadium where President Kagame spoke and Rwandans mourned together. Read Harry’s reflection of the event >>
On the last day of their trip, Harry and Kay visited Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a program inspired by Chaim Peri’s Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel. The village’s 144 acres are home to children who were orphaned by the 1994 genocide. Here, children can become healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged in rebuilding their nation.
“The result is an amazing haven in the middle of a terribly impoverished part of Rwanda,” Harry said. “Here, 500 teenagers live and learn together.” Read more about Agahozo-Shalom >>
You can learn more about Rwanda and the 1994 genocide by visiting worldofchildren.org/rwanda. To support heroes like Jessica, consider making a donation or joining our 12×12 Program.
Read more about our Co-Founders’ trip to Rwanda: