Rob and Nikki Wilson are currently travelling through Africa from Cape Town to Cairo, meeting Africa’s most inspirational social entrepreneurs as part of their new project, On the Up. On passing through Rwanda, they took the opportunity to learn further about the work of Survivors Fund (SURF) and the contribution of SURF’s Founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE.
They write on their portrait of Mary:
Working from her own front room with a donated computer, Mary set up Survivors Fund (SURF) in 1997. Its mission: to rebuild a sense of self and trust in humanity among the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Since inception, Mary has supported 14 out of the 16 survivor organisations working in Rwanda. With SURF’s support – both financial and non-financial – these organisations have responded to all the core needs of the estimated 300,000 very vulnerable survivors of genocide. From counseling to combat trauma, to HIV treatment for rape victims, to new housing for those lacking shelter, to scholastic support for orphans, to business loans for those seeking employment…the list could go on.
Though Rwanda is far from healed, Mary has seen a change in the survivors she set out to help. “When I first met the survivors, they just wanted to die… I said to myself, I want to see them fighting. When they start fighting for themselves, for their rights, it will be time for me to go.” Confident that she can now see people fighting for themselves, Mary decided to step down from SURF in 2009. Though she was left exhausted by her emotional journey, she has since written a book and retrained as a complimentary therapist. If you’re in need of some TLC and you’ve got a social conscience, we’d recommend you look up Mary Kayitesi Blewitt OBE. Her spirited personality is sure to mean your muscles will get a good pounding and more importantly, this is her latest social enterprise and profits from the session will be donated to survivors of genocide! For Mary, no matter where her career takes her, her work for survivors is sure to follow.