Exploring a dreamfly Opportunity in Rwanda

For some time now, Dreamfly has been in discussions to start a new project in an entirely different area of the world than the prior projects we have worked on (in Pakistan and Afghanistan).  Collaborating with Mary Neipold (a professor at Wake Forest University, and founder of the Nyanya Project), we are looking into building a primary school in a “Reconciliation Village” near the Rwandan capital city of Kigali.

Rwanda is a nation still recovering from the infamous 1994 genocide and ethnic fighting, primarily between the country’s Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups.  The Reconciliation Villages are an audacious healing experiment which have been described as “a test of how well the different ethnic groups can live together, [with] victims and perpetrators of the genocide… living side-by-side in a small community”.

The organization behind the Reconciliation Villages is Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR), whose chairman, Bishop John Ruchiyana, is a key adviser to Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame.  Bishop John was responsible for introducing Prof. Neipold to Pastor Deo Gashagaza, Executive Director of PFR, who in turn would be Dreamfly’s partner on the ground for our school if we choose to pursue this project.

Currently, we imagine a school at Mbo Reconciliation Village that would serve approximately 30 children and employ locals as teachers and staff.  Preliminary estimates of the cost of creating and launching the school come in at approximately $60,000, with an additional ongoing cost of operating the school at perhaps $5,000 a year (most of that spent on teacher salaries).

Along with the school, we are also exploring the possibility to support microfinance/micro-enterprise efforts, especially around livestock and farming, such that the local community can begin to become self-dependent and look to support the long-term sustainability of the school.

Dreamfy’s Umaimah Mendhro and Varun Bhartia arrived in Rwanda earlier this week to meet with our potential partners on the ground there and see Mbo Reconciliation Village for themselves.  The duo have been publishing updates from their trip via Dreamfly’s Facebook page and on Dreamfly’s new Twitter handle: www.twitter.com/thedreamfly.

Earlier today, they met an elderly Hutu man who told them he killed two Tutsis in the 1994 genocide; they also met a similarly-aged Tutsi woman who lost all her children but one. Yet out of such brutality and suffering, there is hope. Umaimah and Varun write that “today they both live as Rwandan neighbors, neither Hutu nor Tutsi, in the Mbo Reconciliation Village and look towards their prosperous future.”

Please follow Umaimah and Varun’s journey on Facebook and Twitter, and check back with this blog for more detailed updates on the progress of this exciting potential new opportunity for Dreamfly to expand our mission of “bringing together communities in conflict around common causes”!

Meanwhile, for further reading related to Rwanda and the organizations discussed above, please see these links:

  • Rwandan Genocide – Wikipedia article with good background on the political and historical factors leading to the 1994 atrocities
  • North Carolina woman blazes trail for senior social entrepreneurs” – news article highlighting Prof. Niepold’s motivation for Nyanya Project
  • Prison Fellowship Rwanda – official website of the organization led by Bishop John and Pastor Deo that has built the Reconciliation Villages