17 Mar 2014
Young British people are highly engaged in supporting survivors of the Rwandan genocide thanks to the efforts of dedicated teachers. Sam Hunt, Deputy Head at the UK’s Sandhurst School and Chair of SURF, has been working with young people through the “Reaching Rwanda” programme. She reports on the highlights of the school’s recent trip in February.
After 2 years of waiting, saving and anticipation, 17 students, staff and adults connected with Sandhurst School finally embarked on the long-awaited visit to Rwanda along with 900 kilos of luggage – donations of clothes, toiletries, educational materials and toys for survivors. We first visited Gisimba orphanage in Kigali to distribute gifts. This orphanage has around 200 children from the age of 2 to 20.
Throughout the week we met many of the people who have directly benefitted from the Reaching Rwanda project which works in partnership with SURF Survivors Fund. It was great to see Naomi and Charonne who are doing so well at the school we pay for, to see Eric and Aline who are no longer homeless because our money has provided a safe home for them, and to meet Janvier and Emile who recently finished their studies. Support from the Reaching Rwanda project has given them the hope for a much brighter future. It was wonderful to see all our past beneficiaries looking so happy and healthy. We also had the chance to make many new friends. We found the Rwandese people incredibly friendly and curious about us.
The Reaching Rwanda project has now set up 15 businesses in Rwanda, employing over 70 people. It was fantastic to see how our businesses have transformed the life chances of so many people. We visited one of our sewing co-operatives and delivered a new knitting machine. We were present at the very moment when a person’s life changed because of the Reaching Rwanda project. We delivered a cow to a destitute survivor to improve the diet of the orphans she cares for. We set 3 women up in a new business making clothes and delivered all the equipment they needed to earn a living. And we met Claudine at the place where her whole family were slaughtered and told her that Sandhurst School would be paying for her education.
It was wonderful to meet Mugisha and Manzi and deliver letters from students at Sandhurst. Since receiving our support, Mugisha and Manzi’s house has been repaired and made safe, they are now able to go to school and we have provided pigs to enable their grandmother to earn a small income.
During our visit we also had the opportunity to teach in two different schools. When we arrived at the Kampanga school, 1200 children ran out to meet us. We divided into groups to deliver lessons we had prepared beforehand. We had to take all resources with us to do this. We taught Science, Art and English lessons, as well as organising a traditional primary school sports day, together with sack, egg and spoon, and 3-legged races.
In a week full of amazing experiences, one of the highlights for many of us was the day we spent providing new homes for two homeless families. Two adjoining houses had been renovated prior to our visit, paid for by donations from Sandhurst School students. When we arrived, these houses were empty, rough shells. We set about making them into cosy, comfortable homes before handing them over to two homeless families. Before we arrived, one family had been forced to sleep rough on the floor, on top of a filthy pile of rags. They and another family now have a decent, safe and clean home to live in, in a village full of other orphaned children.
Throughout our visit we experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. We were so proud to meet the many, many people who have benefitted from the Reaching Rwanda project and to see how the kindness of the students at Sandhurst School has completely changed their lives.
We also cried many tears when meeting the numerous people who still desperately need our help. But most of all, we felt such enormous happiness to experience this trip of a lifetime to such a beautiful country, which has moved from the depths of hell during the genocide of 1994 to the country of peace, reconciliation, security and hope that it is today.
Our visit and the entire Reaching Rwanda project would not have been possible without the support of SURF Survivors Fund. We have seen first-hand the amazing difference SURF has made to the life chances of so many survivors in Rwanda and as a school we are incredibly proud and privileged to be associated with such an amazing organisation.
Guest Post by Sam Hunt, Deputy Head teacher at Sandhurst Secondary School, “Teacher of the Year” Award for the South of England, Anne Frank Award for “Inspirational Educator of the Year” and Chair of Survivors Fund (SURF).
If you are a school wishing to know more about how to educate young people on Rwanda and how to get involved please contact Survivors Fund for more information.