Guest post from David Russell, Director of Survivors Fund (SURF).
In my post as Director of Survivors Fund (SURF), I travel to Rwanda three times a year. Each summer, I accompany the UK Conservative Party on Project Umubano, which is progressing as well as ever this year – and we are looking forward to an array of exciting proposals to be be pitched by our partner organisations on how they plan to mark the 20th Anniversary of the genocide – as well as business plans which have been developed by students in membership of AERG, as part of the scale up of our youth entrepreneurship programme.
There is no such thing as a typical day in Rwanda. Sometimes I am travelling around on field visits to see and learn first-hand about the progress of the work of the partner organsiations that we fund, as well as their projects funded other donors. On Saturday, we drove out to Rwamagana in the Eastern Province, and heard from AVEGA members which have received training and support from Send a Cow. It was great to hear more about their model of development and to see how their expertise in livestock training is supplementing our livelihood development work in the region.
That afternoon, our Legal Advocacy Coordinator, Albert Gasake, and I met with Phil Clark, the foremost research on gacaca to discuss the legacy of the courts and in particular the unresolved issue of awards of compensation made to survivors which have yet to be enforced. This is an issue that effects tens of thousands of survivors, and SURF is working on conducting its own research to determine the perspectives of both survivors and perpetrators to the importance of enabling these compensation awards to be enforced.
The importance of research is becoming ever more prevalent in Rwanda, as there is an increasingly greater focus on evidence-based policymaking. As such we have agreed to match fund a new report on the socio-economic status of older genocide widows to be commissioned by AVEGA, to develop recommendations to government and donors of the importance of targeting support to this vulnerable and marginalised group.
One practical means of support for older widows we hope will come from a new project which we are piloting through support from the Charities Advisory Trust – which will enable us to distribute solar cookers, solar lights and water pumps to survivors in need. This is made possible through the generous donations made through the Good Gifts Catalogue, and will enable older widows who otherwise may not be able to afford or travel to collect firewood, or to afford kerosene, to cook in their homes, and light them as well. In addition, it will have great environmental and health benefits too.
We are also preparing for a bike build project with Foundation Rwanda, which will enable students on our education programme to travel to secondary school more easily. Instead of having to travel on two legs for several hours in some cases, they will now be able to get there in in under an hour on two wheels.
Alongside this work, we are currently in the final phases of our recruitment process, on which we hope to make an announcement soon. We were fortunate to receive a number of strong applications, and thus it has been a difficult decision for the trustees. But I am confident the decision that will be made will ensure that the leadership of SURF will be in good hands for our work ahead.