Varun and I travelled to Rwanda earlier this month to explore opportunities for our next thedreamfly project. (Thank you, Varun, for joining me in this special journey – it meant the world to me…). With dreamfly’s mission being bringing together communities in conflict around common causes, we knew we had to go to Rwanda, a living, breathing embodiment of overcoming a dreadful past in favor of a unified, prosperous, and audaciously ambitious future.
We were absolutely and deeply… moved. We met genocide orphans, perpetrators, and survivors – Hutu and Tutsi families living together in reconciliation villages with their killers, actively working on building a better future together. We met successful business leaders, like Eugene Nyagahene, who heads up Rwanda’s media conglomerate, and his cousin Pierre Munyura, who lost both of his parents and 15 family members in a village by the Congo border in the Rusizi district. Pierre went back and built a coffee plantation in this village so he could show his children, who lived through refugee camps during the genocide without any contact with their father, that he, and all of Rwandans, will actively work to create a better future. He sells his coffee at a ‘social premium,’ revenues that go towards developing the local community, today providing drinking water, tomorrow, perhaps a school with dreamfly.
We visited Pierre’s village and learnt that the children there have made a name for being the smartest in the district! One of them, trying to convince us he needs a better school building, said: “it’s shameful to think that the future Bill Gates (him : )) will come from this building!” As we tried to figure out what the village secret is – we came to learn that the parents in the village built the school with their hands, they have their children study through the year, no summer vacations, paying the teachers extra out-of-pocket, because they want to have their children get a chance at becoming the future leaders of a unified Rwanda.
We met Bishop John Rucyahana, who’s on President Paul Kagame’s advisory council, who encouraged us to “Invest in Transformation.” We met Pastor Deo who lived for months in anger and depression after finding his sister and her five children murdered mercilessly, who then went to see his sister’s murderer in the prison, looked him in the eyes, and told him he forgave him… because he knew of no other way to be able to continue to live. He then became a regular at the prison, praying for the killers, taking other survivors to meet with their murderers. Everyone needed love, and everyone needed to be loved, he told me, as his eyes teared up several times. And we met with the former Mufti of Rwanda and co-leader of Rwanda’s Inter-Faith effort, Sheikh Saleh Habimana, who shared with us his vision for unity amongst the east and the west, amongst those with crinkled and straight hair, and tall and short noses! Every Rwandan we met had us know there’s no Hutu nor Tutsi in Rwanda, there’s only one beautiful Rwanda.
One hundred days. One million lives denigrated, vilified, slandered, lost. The genocide in Rwanda happened in our life-times. Just seventeen years ago. Hearing first-hand stories of people who lost all their loved ones, saw their siblings being murdered, their children separated, it feels incomprehensible how someone could live through that. And it feels to be beyond human capacity to then forgive, reconcile, and love, and let be loved, to build a better future. It’s this living, breathing miracle that is Rwanda that dreamfly would love to take a small part in…
Our next steps are to evaluate the different options we explored on the ground – across two reconciliation villages across Rwanda, the coffee plantation village in Rusizi, interfaith efforts near Kigali, and more – to pursue our dreamfly effort that helps further Rwandan’s vision for their country. I look forward to all of our leadership, creative thinking, and committed action to help build something meaningful, impactful, sustainable, and as extraordinary as are the people of this country – within one year!