With Andrew Sutton and Rachel Collingwood of Central Studios, we have been in Rwanda filming an array of the projects of Survivors Fund (SURF) and our partners over the course of the past week. We will be editing these over the months ahead, and releasing them in April 2019 over the period of the 25th Anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Over the course of the subsequent weeks, we will be publishing extracts from some of the remarkable survivors we have intereviewed. Below is an extract of our interview with Daphrose Mukangarambe, who we first interviewed back in 1999, and who has received support from SURF in partnership with AVEGA Agahozo since that time.
Before the genocide I lived in this neighbourhood, and we were very good friends with our neighbours, we would share food together, and did many things together. But genocide was like a wild fire which swept through the village. It killed our good relationship. But after the genocide, I decided that I had to live with my community, and I have had to make sacrifices, and it has been very difficult.
One of the recent issues which is most pressing for survivors today, is the issue of perpetrators who have not told survivors where they have buried the bodies of their relatives, the people who were killed. Most recently, the mass graves which have been discovered – which is almost 25 years after the genocide. I know many of my friends who do not yet know where the bodies of their relatives killed during the genocide are buried. It is disturbing to think that there are many others, where we do not yet know where they are buried. The perpetrators know where their remains lie, but they do not tell us, which is most disturbing.
One of the areas of specific support still required by survivors is the need for homes for the elderly and the need for social support to alleviate hardship. As you can see I was physically injured in the genocide, and ever since then my health has not been good. As we become older it is difficult for us to work around our home. For many elderly survivors who do not have relatives, it is very difficult. We get only a small monthly hardship support from FARG, but it is very little, and only supports us for a maximum of two weeks. If the harvest is not good, then we even go hungry. We need to do more to take care of elderly survivors.
The work of SURF is still important 25 years on from the genocide. I can say that SURF is like a parent for me, as it is from the work of SURF that I have got a house. SURF provides a space for me to enable me to speak to people if I have a problem. So many people like me have been supported through SURF. Because of the challenges I speak of over the coming years of ageing widows, and the need of hardship support, is why it is important for SURF to continue – as it enables us to have someone to speak to about our issues and to help provide support where possible.
What gives me strength in life is people who care, people who listen. I think that I have got a lot of strength from the people of SURF. Having people who listen and sympathise with you is so important, then you have a sense that life has a meaning. I do not think that I would have the strength if I did not have such people in my life who could listen to me.
The message that I have for the world about the genocide, is that genocide is about trust. It happens in a short time, but its consequences are lasting. I see so many survivors with mental health issues. I am lucky that I do not have any mental health issues. Considering that I saw how many relatives were killed, and considering what was done to me physically, that I am still alive I thank G-d. But the consequences that I still live with. To value humanity, and to fight genocide and genocide ideology to ensure that it does not happen anywhere. Because the consequences go on for a very, very long time.