Story From Rwanda: I Shed A Tear

Today I shed tears of both joy and sorrow. The tears of sorrow came from our visit to the Nyamata Church in Kinazi, Rwanda about 30 Kilometers south of Kigali.  Nyamata Church is one of the places where Tutsi men, women and children sought refuge from the horrific attacks that occurred during the 1994 genocide.  The people were betrayed by the church clergy who alerted the Interahamwe they were hiding.  The people were brutally attacked and killed in the church.  To this day, the church is in much the same condition as it was in 1994.  The markings and broken doors from the grenade blasts, the victims’ clothes, IDs, and other belongings are all on display inside the church. Today, thousands of skulls and bones were also on display because they are excavating the mass grave. I took only a couple of steps, stood just inside the door for a few moments before being overcome with emotion and unable to complete the tour. Some 50,000 people who were brutally killed in the genocide are buried there. The tour guide himself was 11years old at the time of the genocide and lost over 45 family members. The tears of joy came also from Kinazi, Rwanda.  As we arrived to our meeting space built by African Development Promise (ADP) on property owned by the Women’s Cooperative, the women gave an incredibly warm welcome to Monica Brown, Executive Director of ADP and to those of us visiting from the US.  As we entered the space we were greeted with clapping and singing and the warmest smiles.  The women shared their stories of how being members of the cooperative has changed their lives.  They are now able to contribute to their households in more significant ways including purchasing school uniforms for their children, health insurance for their families and even something as seemingly insignificant as getting their hair done to help them feel good about themselves. The women’s stories of triumph, strength, ambition, gratitude for how ADP has helped them, the success of their farms, their smiles, and the kick that some of them got out of taking selfies with me touched my heart in a completely different way than the church. While most of people that I told about my trip to Rwanda only knew about “the sad movie”, Hotel Rwanda, there is so much more to know about the country.  Rwanda and her people will never forget what happened but they have made incredible strides to rebuild the country, cultivate peace, and bring about healing.  Here are some other interesting facts to know about Rwanda: Kigali, Rwanda is one of the cleanest and safest cities in all of Africa; It is considered rude to ask someone which ethnic group they belong to; Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills; Plastic bags are not permitted or used in country; Walking on the grass is frowned upon; Rwanda is the leader in gorilla tourism; Flip flops are discouraged in the city center; Many Rwandans speak up to four languages (French, English, Swahili, and Kinyarwandan). They just completed the largest conference center in all of Africa in 2016 and it is indeed impressive. Africa Development Promise is changing women’s and therefore their families’ lives, impacting entire communities in Rwanda and Uganda. They put together an amazing experience for those of us visiting having a lifetime impact on us as well. ​-Shay-La Romney

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