SURF Annual Report 2008

The SURF Annual Report 2008 is the first review of the work of Survivors Fund (SURF) written by the new SURF Director David Russell, who was appointed to succeed SURF Founder Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE in January 2009. To read the report click on the cover image below:

From the Director

“SURF is a gift from God,” the Vice-Mayor of Kamonyi District told me during a recent visit to Rwanda.

This sentiment I heard echoed time and again from partners on my first formal visit in my new role as Director of SURF. Though I knew that to be the case, from earlier tours around our programmes with SURF donors, it is only now do I have a sense of all that our organisation has achieved for survivors. For that, I have one person in particular to thank – our founder, and my predecessor as director, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt – who was recognised for her efforts in supporting survivors, at the start of the year with the award of an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

It is impossible to know how the situation of survivors in Rwanda today would differ without the support of SURF, and Mary, over the past fifteen years. In the immediate aftermath of the genocide in 1994 when she began work with the Ministry of Rehabilitation coordinating the registration of NGOs in Rwanda, to helping establish AVEGA (Association of Widows of the Genocide) in 1995 and then SURF in 1997, Mary has assumed the responsibility for promoting, fundraising and ultimately delivering support for the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. If she had not, then without doubt the 400,000 survivors of the genocide in Rwanda would be worse off today.

It is thus an honour to be given the opportunity to extend that work. However, I recognise too the challenge it will be to sustain the impact that SURF, through Mary, has delivered. That she has agreed to continue in a formal capacity as SURF’s Founder, will certainly make the mission to rebuild the lives of survivors more achievable. However, the work is hard and the need is great.

SURF to this day is the principal funder for the two primary survivor’s organisations in Rwanda, AVEGA and IBUKA (the umbrella body of survivor’s organisations). That this is the case is a cause for pride, but also concern.

The importance to sustain, and if possible extend, our funding is critical if survivors are continue to receive the support they so desperately require. However, our role to build the capacity of local survivor’s organisations, our partners, necessitates more work. Success for SURF will be when our partners are ultimately independent, and empowering and rebuilding the lives of the survivors that they represent. We are still some way from achieving that end.

However, what we have delivered for survivors, fifteen years on from the genocide, is not to be undervalued. Though no doubt you know already the statistics, they are worth repeating again. SURF has helped to give over 300,000 victims of the genocide a decent burial in over 50 memorial sites across Rwanda. We have built nearly 1,000 houses, giving shelter to around 5,000 survivors, in addition to rehabilitating 5,000 more homes. We have provided educational support for nearly 10,000 young survivors, 100 of which have, or are soon to, graduate from university. 2,500 HIV+ survivors currently receive antiretroviral treatment through the 5 clinics we have built. Tens of thousands of survivors benefit from the income generating activities that we have funded, as well as the psychosocial counselling we help facilitate.

This level of support has only been possible through your support. Particular donors must be given credit. Comic Relief has funded many of the houses and memorial sites we have constructed, and the Department for International Development continues to fund the clinics which provide healthcare. The Charities Advisory Trust through its Good Gifts catalogue has made possible many of the income generating activities, from beekeeping to livestock rearing. The Sigrid Rausing Trust funds the vital gender-based violence programme and Foundation Rwanda is now taking the lead in providing educational support. Network 4 Africa, The Tinsley Trust, Think Money, Jubilee Action, INSPIRE!africa and the Bliss Foundation are continuing to help us develop a new community and health centre for an underserved community of 3,000 survivors in Ntarama.

We also have some exceptional supporters too, that go over and above the call of duty. This includes Nick Twomey who began a world record bid to become the youngest person to run marathons across all seven continents and raise money for SURF in the process. In just nine months, Nick is running 12 marathons from Hawai’i to Antarctica, and even along the Great Wall of China. Nick’s connection to SURF extends back to his time as a volunteer whilst a student at London’s Oratory School, with whom we continue to have a connection – with over 20 students coming to the office each week to volunteer their time to help with everything from mail-outs to photocopying.

Every supporter – from volunteers to donors – makes a difference. SURF was created through an initial donation of £57 from a tea party. We are now working with schools through a new project developed by our trustee Sam Hunt, Reaching Rwanda, collecting sometimes even the smallest contributions. Each penny counts, more so today in this economic climate. That we can fund the health insurance of a household of survivors for £6 a year, demonstrates the impact that cumulatively donations can make.

In this annual report, we endeavour to give you a better sense of the programmes that we deliver, as well as an honest assessment of the challenges we, as an organisation, and survivors, face. In Rwanda, many do not believe that our office in London consists of just two persons – besides a director, we have just an administrator. This is testament to our founder’s belief that it is not size that matters, but impact. That principal is applied throughout our work to this day across our organisation.

I would like to acknowledge just some of the key individuals here. Liam Dempsey, our website developer, Drew Sutton, our videographer, Andy Lawrence, our education coordinator, Flavia Kirungi, our administrator, Benon Banya, our accountant, all deliver beyond the call of duty. Our Board give their time willingly – and often thanklessly – to provide critical governance. We have a number of tireless supporters, of particularly note Rebecca Tinsley and Joy Childs. And our office in Rwanda, led by the indefatigable Gabo Wilson, and ably supported by Joram Sebatware, Sam Munderere, and Godfrey Karanja, are vital as our staff in the field.

SURF is fortunate to receive such great support, and in this report we have highlighted some of the reasons why people are involved. For Mary the motive was the loss that she endured from her family being killed in the genocide. For me, it is a sense of duty “to care for the orphan and the widow” as my religion teaches and more fundamentally to do what I can, because I can.

Everyone has their own reason as to why they are involved with SURF; some simply because they were asked, others because they have been touched by the plight of survivors through media or in person. Whatever is your reason, we are truly thankful.

For five years I served Mary and SURF as a consultant. However it has only been over the past few months since assuming the position of Director have I truly grasped the volume of work involved to keep SURF on track to deliver the support we deem a bare minimum for survivors. The respect I have for Mary for having kept at it for fifteen years grows each day, as I continue to learn to navigate the challenging path.

It is on visits to Rwanda though that the reward is reaped, as one experiences first-hand SURF’s successes. Often we are not visible in the projects that our partners deliver; however, travelling across the country and meeting the survivors to hear how their lives have been transformed through education and entrepreneurship, housing and healthcare, it is clear to me that SURF is not just a gift from G-d, it is in fact a gift from you. For that, the survivors, and I, are truly indebted.

David Russell
Director, SURF