The SURF Annual Report 2007 is the final review of the work of Survivors Fund (SURF) written by the SURF Founder and outgoing Director Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE in January 2008. To read the report click on the cover image below:
From the Director:
Thank you for your unconditional support over the last 10 years.
While writing my 10th Annual Report, and preparing to step down as the Director of SURF to reflect on my work to date with survivors, the words that come to mind are ‘thank you’.
Ten years of work for SURF has taught me a great deal, but it has been a stressful and pressured existence at times. While I am no less committed to continuing to support survivors and SURF, I have decided that this is the right time for me to step back and consider the lessons learned and challenges ahead for survivors.
In many ways I know that none of SURF’s achievements would have been possible without the incredible public support that we have received over the past ten years, and that of SURF’s remarkable staff and trustees. SURF has with your support worked to ensure that the silent victims of the genocide have received a decent burial, that survivors have been given a voice, and that the memory of genocide has been preserved. We hope that the world too, through the work and the experience of the survivors, has learned to respect dignity and humanity. Though the achievements are great, there is still a great deal more to do.
14 years after the genocide, Rwanda has made significant progress in rebuilding internally, but the many scars remain fresh. The legacy of genocide touches almost every aspect of life for the survivors. In addition to recurring trauma suffered by many from their experiences, survivors of the genocide face multiple difficulties. Many are impoverished and face complex health problems, such as HIV and AIDS, as a direct result of the violence perpetrated against them during the genocide. Survivors are still threatened with violence, attacked or killed by former perpetrators, and for many a climate of fear persists. Rebuilding their lives alongside individuals responsible for murder and rape is a difficult reality faced by all survivors in Rwanda.
There is an estimated 300,000 very vulnerable survivors: widows, young orphans with no family or support network, lonely elderly, many with no shelter or capacity to sustain themselves, often still traumatised, physically and emotionally wounded. Those requiring specialist medical care do not have the funds to meet medical bills. Day after day, many are still dying. Many children live in households headed by other children with no financial support and no moral guidance. Therefore they are exposed to drugs, abuse, rape, and HIV infection. Many of them are rejected by the educational system because they understandably under-perform.
Besides support given to survivors through SURF over the last 10 years, the only other sustainable and significant funding for survivors has come from the Rwandan Government, which dedicates 5% of its budget for educational and healthcare needs. The support equates to an average of £20 per person per year. Thus, there is a real funding gap that must be bridged.
The lasting legacy of the genocide in Rwanda is still to be fully addressed. The importance of administering justice for survivors must be acknowledged. There is a need for collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of survivors at risk from the release of genocide perpetrators through gacaca are upheld. The challenges ahead are still great, especially in answering the call to protect the witnesses killed by prisoners given amnesty in the name of reconciliation.
But with your continuing support I have no doubt that together we will be able to restore and rebuild the lives of survivors. On behalf of all the survivors that have benefited from your support over the past ten years, thank you again.
May the years ahead be happy and healthy for all of us.
Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, OBE