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Thursday, December 24, 2009
It's interesting timing: I had the opportunity to do such good in another country during the holiday season - although you didn't see elaborate holiday decorations in Kigali, the spirit of giving, humility and happiness was omnipresent. It's a bit surreal to think about everything Elizabeth and I were doing in Rwanda. First, facts of the genocide: In 1994, 800,000 - 1,000,000 Rwandanese were killed in a period of about 4-5 months (more were killed before and after): One group of Rwandanese were called on to kill the other. It was one of the most horrific incidents on record: Read "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with our Families" for the real story. Out of respect, I won't talk specifics about ethnicities, because the Rwandans don't do it now - they think of themselves as one people now. If you think about it, many adults we worked with were there at that time and directly affected by this event. If you do some basic math, if they are 30 now, they were likely 15 then...they may have stayed (and been the few to survive)...or they may have fled with their families (and returned to rebuild)... unfortunately, and equally as likely, they may have been on the killing side (or a part of it). It's shocking to think about this as a visitor, but even more staggering is that they live with this knowledge every day - well, actually, many have chosen not to - they just can't think of it that way, or they couldn't move on as a collective people. How do you overcome such atrocity? Families killing neighbor families, friends killing friends, and much, much worse. Yes they had to move on....and they have. This commitment to focus on the future, to "think and feel forward" is the strength that runs through the Rwandan culture. It is also the force that enables and drives their current development. The people are so kind, so friendly, that you almost forget about the genocide...almost... and then you see a government building filled with holes from the war, and you hear someone talk about "the way it is now..." and "....after the "war"... and describe how they want Rwanda defined. I could type and talk about this for hours on end. It is a complicated and deep topic, but it is amazing, inspiring and humbling to be around the Rwandanese, their culture, land and to see and hear their hopes, beauty and dreams. If you have the chance to go to Rwanda - go - I hope to one day buy land there and be a part of the support and investment in their growth. Elizabeth Dewberry, American Novelist, will be coaching and mentoring Miss Rwanda 2009 all throughout 2010, I will post updates from their experiences as I get them, and I look forward to seeing her compete in Miss World 2010. That will be one of the biggest (and most positive) global events in which Rwanda has participated in over 2 decades. Bless the Rwandan people and their strength - I hope to continue to share their story and be a part of the great mark they will no doubt leave on the world.