Our History

SURF was founded by Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE, a British citizen of Rwandan origin. Mary lost over 50 members of her family in the genocide and helped establish the first survivors’ organisations in Rwanda working for the Rwandan Ministry of Rehabilitation from July 1994. On her return to the UK in 1995 she began to support survivors through establishing SURF, registering the organisation formally in 1997 in the UK as a charity (No. 1065705) and a company limited by guarantee (No. 03411565).

Since 1997, SURF has delivered nine projects for Comic Relief including a £1 million house building programme in 2006/7, constructing 362 homes to provide shelter for 1,810 orphans and widows of the genocide. 50 memorial sites across Rwanda have been erected to provide a decent burial for over 300,000 victims of the genocide through a £500,000 hearing and healing project. At the start 2010, it published an evaluation of twelve years of Comic Relief projects funded through SURF, concluding that ““the achievements of SURF as a catalyst and advocate on behalf of survivor organisations have been remarkable.”

In 2005 the UK Department for International Development (DfID) committed a grant of £4.25 million to support 2,500 HIV+ women survivors and their dependents on a five year antiretroviral treatment programme. The funding was channelled through an independent organisation which SURF managed. It has achieved much, enabling 3 of our partners to establish dedicated health clinics as well as develop the infrastructure to holistically care for beneficiaries (through income-generating activities, psychosocial counselling and hardship support). DFID funding ended in March 2010.