Happy Valentine’s Day! A little brotherly love, from Rwanda.
Today is a great day to celebrate the power of love and the power of human dignity. Both are crucial in the fight against racism, AIDS, corruption, greed, jealousy – against anything that causes suffering and conflict in our world. We pass along one of our favourite passages used in our personal reflection time at peace camp, last November:
Evil is only overcome in one way – by the power of sacrificial goodness. Evil is not overcome by more evil. Evil begets evil. Violence more violence. Hatred more hatred. Only sacrificial goodness stops evil in its tracks…we overcome evil by speaking the truth, by blessing the enemy, enduring the suffering instead of inflicting the suffering…goodness that is willing to go all way way…sacrificial love. – Discipleship on the Edge
This past weekend, from Egypt to South Africa, there was a celebration of freedom, but also a reminder of the personal cost. We commemorate those who died in the protests in Egypt at the same time as remembering the anniversary of the release of Mandela after a lifetime spent in prison. His story encourages us to persevere, to pursue peace and justice not through violence and retaliation, but rather through love and mercy. It’s a difficult, but beautiful path – and really the only way to truly forgive, reconcile, and live as brothers and sisters in our world.
Next month our blog will feature the remarkable story of heroes in Rwanda. Pictured above: Phanuel visiting the tomb of one of his classmates, Chantal, who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace. Photo taken by our gafotozi.
So, this Valentine’s Day, we send love to all youth working for peace. You are the true heroes today. We love you. Keep up the good fight!
Join us! Instead of chocolates or flowers, how about giving seeds? Help plant more peace and love in Rwanda. Donate today for our next youth peace camp, November 2011.
p.s. “brotherly love” photo taken at a youth World AIDS Day event in Kigali sponsored by a peace of life…umutuzo mu buzima.
I have a dream…
Continuing on in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., youth at peace camp dedicated themselves to the nonviolent pursuit of peace and justice. Pictured: Gerard, one of the 48 youth peace camp participants, delivers his dream, a poem about sustainable peace, as part of our World AIDS Day youth event, held shortly after the camp.
“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” noted Martin Luther King Jr. some 48 years ago in his now infamous speech, I Have a Dream. His words set a revolution in motion, from America to around the world, a nonviolent war against racism, and any other injustice that destroys dignity, that divides and exploits.
The dream – and the fight – for peace, love and unity continues. Youth at peace camp reflected on the sayings and legacy of King and other heroes like Ghandi and Mandela, all of whom advocated the use of nonviolence to restore broken communities.
Some youth even created their own response. Watch Gerard’s performance and others.
At camp, youth shared some of the conflicts and injustice that they face today:
“I love a boy but we are from two different ethnic groups. I’m wondering how I can proceed to make my parents understand that I love him.”
“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”
Youth discussed solutions and then worked on dramas to be able to help open up more dialogue on these and other pressing issues. They also learned about the power of film and worked on scripts, one of which is currently in the works, to be made into a short film by Almond Tree Films Rwanda. See more photos and actvities from peace camp.
On our last night at camp, we created and signed a group commitment to peace:
We who participated in the peace camp,
We swear in God’s and men’s eyes
That we will be catalysts for peace in both good and bad times,
valuing everybody, mediating, resolving conflict without favouritism
helping to make informed and wise solutions
striving for peace and restorative justice
fighting any type of violence
guided by the word of God,
may God help us to achieve this noble commitment.
Shortly before King’s assassination, he delivered yet another impassioned speech, *A Time to Break Silence, advocating for “a genuine revolution of values…this call for worldwide fellowship that lifts neighbourly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation…a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men.”
That takes the highest, self-sacrificing kind of love, agape love, the love of God, at work in people’s hearts, noted King. He died for his beliefs.
But his dream continues…”a dream of a peace where all of our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of all human personality, and men will dare to live together as brothers – that is the dream.”
Share the dream. Help provide more peace-building activities for youth in Rwanda. Learn more.
*For these quotes and more on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. see, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World.
Peace and joy this Christmas, from Rwanda…
Pictured: Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, with Michel Nsengi (second from left, back row), one of our peace camp faciliators and our new volunteer consultant in Rwanda.
We were honoured to have some of these young filmmakers (Yves Montand, Musafili Kayambi, Clementime Dusabejambo, Jean Bosco Nshimiyimana and Richard Mugwaneza) at camp and have them talk about their passion for making social change through film. One of their most recent films, Maibobo, by Yves, powerfully portrays the life of street children, a very real, but often unpopular, issue in Rwanda.
We were able to show this film at camp and youth were very moved by the issue. Noted one youth in a survey on the first day of camp (before seeing the film): “people who dress poorly [those living on the street] are normally a thief or a crazy person.”
By the end of the camp, the same question got a different answer: “I realize that this person [poorly dressed] is the way he is and you can approach him and try to understand what he’s going through and maybe you can discover that he is traumatized or has other problems hurting him.”
Youth also strongly identified with Bamporiki’s film, Long Coat, which presents some of the issues faced in reconciliation today in Rwanda, as family and friends of both survivor and killer share the hillsides, attempt to live side by side.
During peace camp, filmmakers helped youth with scriptwriting and had them do a “creative pitch” to share their script with the group. A big surprise came when it was announced that one of their scripts will be made into a short film! We hope to have this film completed early in the new year. It deals with the crucial issue of orphans, more specifically, the kinds of mistreatment they suffer in homes/families that take them in.
See more of our photos from peace camp now on flickr.
A little bit of “glee” in Rwanda! Just uploaded: watch clips of youth performing their poems and songs including the popular amahoro song created at camp.
May you too have abundant peace and joy in your heart as we celebrate the birth of the one called the prince of peace!
Love 4 Life….youth at AEBR Kacyiru painted their own personal AIDS message of love and hope on t-shirts as part of World AIDS Day. Young women around the world continue to be among the most vulnerable. Youth shared their own challenges, from peer pressure to have sex to being coerced into prostitution when no other options seemed available to earn money for food or school. The day included frank discussion on how AIDS is transmitted, the ABCs of prevention, and the crucial issue of stigma that many still face.
Another highlight was the gafotozi display – pictures taken by orphans, two of whom did powerful photo essays on the personal impact of AIDS.
From fun and learning….our fun olypmpics (with sack races, water balloons, and other team challenges) and games on stigma (pictured below) reinforced unity, love and care for all people.
The day concluded with a song of hope, about God’s love for each person.
Meet the newest peace ambassadors in Rwanda…on our last day of peace camp we celebrated, danced, sang, prayed and said our good-byes…more photos and news about all of the events at camp will be posted shortly. It was a truly remarkable opportunity to bring 48 key youth representing 6 of the AEBR schools from across the country and we greatly thank all of our supporters for helping to make this happen.
Till our next posting, we leave you with one of the peace songs written and performed at camp.
p.s. Picture taken by one of the gafotozi, our “official camp photographers”
We had our first official showing of the gafotozi exhibit in Toronto the other night, along with the screening of Munyurangabo, an internationally acclaimed film which helped to launch the start of a young film-making company in Rwanda, Almond Tree Films Rwanda. We will be working with both our gafotozi (young/small photographer in kinyarwanda) and Almond Tree Films Rwanda, at our upcoming project, a youth peace camp, November in Nyange. Any donations, equipment or cash, greatly appreciated.
Like the photos? You can help send these talented young photographers to peace camp where we will be using the film, Munyurangabo, to create live, interactive dramas, to explore conflict and other issues presented in the film and create alternate endings and sequels to the story. Please consider making a donation today.
The gafotozi exhibit is on display all this week at Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto. Special thanks to Johnny Lam Photography and Merchants of Green Coffee for your interest and support of our film and photo night. Johnny, Morgan and Bria, you are fabulous.
We’d love to share the amazing work of these youth. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on booking your own showing.
“You have to see it to believe it.”
Perhaps that’s the best message a day like today offers, as people around the world celebrate International Day of Peace. A glimpse of what could be that captures the spirit and the imagination.
Maiden of Peace
It’s only fitting today to share the story of young *Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace in kinyarwanda) and her classmates at Nyange Secondary School in Rwanda. *not pictured
In 1997, three years after the official end of the genocide in Rwanda, militia rebels continued in their mission to wreak havoc. One night, they burst into a school classroom where students had just finished homework and evening prayers. They demanded that students separate into Hutu and Tutsi. Their intention was clear – to kill all the Tutsi students.
But Chantal refuses. “All of us are Rwandans here,” are her last words as she’s shot dead. Her courage and conviction inspire her fellow classmates, and they too refuse to separate. Rebels continue to fire and even use grenades. In another classroom, the same story, and the same brave response. All in all, 6 students lose their life, and 20 wounded, rather than betray their friends and classmates. I wonder what impact the selfless act of students had on the rebels, deep down inside?
Peace starts within
This incident highlights the deeply spiritual aspect to peace – for it involves the necessity to love and forgive at some point in order to break the spiraling cycle of evil, hate, revenge, guilt and shame.
The path to peace is not in what I do, but in what I believe; that affects what and how I do things. ”The transformation that we should seek should not only be the transformation of our society, but also the transformation of our spirit because the inner transformation inspires the outer work…there is an intimate connection between our inner state and what we do in our outer spheres. This consistency is the foundation of being a fully integrated person.” (Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace, by Centre for Peace Education)
”The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” notes Jean Vanier in his book, Living Gently in a Violent World. “The vision of Jesus was extraordinary… he entered into this world to love people as they are…saying to each one, “You are important. You are precious…There can be no peacemaking or social work or anything else to improve our world unless we are convinced that ’the other’ is important.”
Nyange in November
When we stumbled across the story of Chantal and her classmates, we knew we had found the perfect location to hold our first youth peace camp this November. It will be in Nyange, at a school just a few miles away from the original site. We will also have one of the school survivors on hand to share their story. We will learn about conflict transformation, share personal stories, and even plant a peace garden for a lasting memorium.
Join us. Help encourage and inspire youth who are committed to working for peace in Rwanda. Make a donation today.
Upcoming Special Events in Toronto:
Oct. 2 - Bowl-a-thon
2 – 4 pm, Newton Brook Bowl A Rama, 5837 Yonge St., Toronto
Join New Faith Youth Ministry in their sweet quest to have fun and raise funds to help youth at risk in Rwanda, including those courageously dealing with HIV/AIDS, go to peace camp, an inititiave of a peace of life and AEBR Youth.
Oct. 5 - a peace of life photo exhibit and film night
7:00-9:30 pm., Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto
Join us for the screening of Munyurangabo, a beautiful film that was also the first feature film to be produced in kinyarwanda (with English subtitles). It presents some of the issues youth face today in peace and reconciliation. Also on hand: gafotozi – photo exhibit from our village workshop last November with youth at risk in Rwanda.
Admission: suggested donation of $5, or pay what you can. We are very grateful for the generous support of Merchants of Green Coffee for providing the space for this event. Our evening will include an opportunity to make a donation for the youth peace camp in Rwanda. For more info, please email email@example.com.
Note: Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace) truly lived up to her name. You can learn more about her story and what happened at her school in Catherine Larson’s book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. Or check out the short film, “We are all Rwandans”.
Friday fun foto…the wash cyle. Water is a precious commodity – whatever you manage to carry back to the house – and used sparingly. Little Miss Independent (below) does a great job with what she has.
A little more about today’s featured photo and photographer: Claudine, one of our gafotozi, took this photo as part of learning about the use of patterns, sequences, colors and shapes in photography. It was one of her favourite shots and selected to be included in the village art exhibit held on the final day of class.
Special event: If you’re in the Toronto area, there will be a special showing of the gafotozi art exhibit along with a surprise film screening as part of International Day of Peace activities. More details posted next week.
Like what you see? Claudine would love to go to peace camp. You can help her realize this dream.
It’s friday fun foto again…Time to eat! Family supper by candlelight. Electricity can be hard to come by in Rwanda, either too expensive or unavailable, especially in rural areas. Food can be hard to come by also, especially when prices rise on basics like rice, beans and cooking oil.
A little more about today’s photo and photographer: Anthony, one of the gafotozi, took this photo as part of exploring his essay on “village life”.
Like what you see? Anthony, the photographer, would love to go to peace camp in November. You can help make that dream come true. Make a donation.
Welcome to Friday Fun Foto. Cowzilla??? You’ve heard of bridezilla (those difficult brides-to-be), while cows are the big deal in Rwandan nuptials, an important part of the bride price for all groom wanna be’s. How many cows you give or get indicates your wealth and/or status. In fact, cows are a big deal in general, greatly treasured and cared for. And like any other source of wealth and status in our world, cows can also cause conflict. Rwanda’s economy is mainly dependent on agriculture, so land scarcity becomes an important factor for social tensions and conflict.
Today’s photographer: Germaine, 15 years old, one of the gafotozi.
Today is bitter sweet. Let’s start with sweet.
August 23 is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, “an opportunity to pay tribute to the struggle led by the slaves themselves to recover their dignity and freedom,” reports UN News Service. “An uprising on the island of Santo Domingo on the night of 22-23 August 1791 led to Haiti’s independence – the first victory of slaves over their oppressors.”
But now for the bitter. August 23 , there are reports coming out of Democratic Republic of Congo of almost 200 women gang-raped by rebels, part of an ongoing campaign over the years to terrorize and intimidate thousands. It’s a tragic reminder that conflict in the region is far from over. It brings back haunting memories of the tens of thousands of women and young girls raped as a tactic in the Rwanda Genocide.
But sexual violence and exploitation is not just a tactic of warring rebels and genocidaires.
We hear stories of youth, male and female, who are being taken advantage of, often because they are orphans, living on their own, struggling to provide for their younger siblings. They lack a trusted adult presence, support and protection. When they do receive adult attention, it is often the wrong kind – offers of help or support in exchange for sexual favours. It’s such a common practice, there’s a name for it, shugar mami/shugar dadi, and it’s fueling the ongoing HIV crisis. Exploitation is one of the topics to be discussed at the peace camp. We will hear courageous stories from young women and young men who have somehow survived and risen above incredible challenges in their life.
That brings us back to the sweet.
Over 200 years ago, individual people acted, to stop slavery. It took a long time and included the efforts of those being oppressed and well as those benefitting in some way. It’s disturbing to know that somehow we support all kinds of injustice today in ways we can’t even imagine, through our global economy. But we can consider the actions of just a few of your average tea drinkers who started a simple act, to boycott sugar, as their small part to stop plantation owners and businesses and others who were participating in the inhumane practice of slavery. Their acts and commitment are inspiring. And eventually it helped bring change.
Today we have a very small, but similar opportunity. Take the One Sweet Challenge. Do one small thing or give up one small thing, and help us raise funds for a peace camp in Rwanda. Each act will make a difference because you will help to train, empower and encourage over 50 youth to be leaders among their peers in a region that struggles to rebuild not only from genocide, but also the silent devastation going on such as extreme poverty and AIDS. Learn more about the peace camp.
A little more about the featured photo and photographer: Claudine, one of our gafotozi, took this photo (see above) as part of her essay on sewing “because I wanted to show others that we can sew…we can do this and earn a good living.” The poster is near the sewing shop that she and several other youth have started by pooling their small savings together. They received skills and business training and support from Children of Hope, a remarkable program among child/youth-headed households, and one of their first contracts – to sew school uniforms for other orphans in the program.
It’s another Friday Fun Foto from Rwanda. Here’s looking at you, kid!
A little about the photographer: Olivier, one of our gafotozi, loves fixing things and wants to become a mechanic. He also loves his mom and baby niece who lives with them. Olivier’s mom says he has lots of courage. Perhaps that’s why he chose to explore the personal impact of HIV and AIDS on one family – his family – for his photo essay. Olivier lost his dad to this disease and now his mom is ill. He’s happy that she has access to antiretroviral treatment which can help her live a long time. Olivier says that his biggest hope is that life improves for his mom. Stigma is still difficult to deal with and that’s one reason why he wanted to focus on this issue.
You can also help his mom. Learn more about Guardians of Hope, a remarkable grassroots program among families most impacted by HIV and AIDS. Olivier’s mom attends one of these support groups and is greatly encouraged.
It’s Friday Fun Photo. Market day in Rwanda. Enjoy!
About the photographer: Anthony, another one of our gafotozi, explored his photo essay on “village life” with a trip to market. He is a top student at school and wants to become an architect. He is also deeply spiritual: “It is God who protects us in our bad conditions…is with us all the time…even though the problems are there, we pray.”
A little of Anthony’s story: Anthony fled with his mom and sister to Tanzania during the genocide. But in the refugee camp, he and his sister were abandoned by their mom. They eventually managed to return home and rejoin their dad who had remarried. They still don’t know what happened to their mom. Tragedy struck again, when their dad and step mom became sick and tested positive for HIV. His dad died a few months later but his step mom is alive today because of ARV treatment. Stigma was one of the hardest things to overcome: “At beginning, it was hard, people wondering, when they saw someone sick they would stay away. But now it is seen as a common problem.”
Hello Friday. Hello Fun Photo. Welcome to our new column. Each Friday we’ll feature a fun shot. Today’s photo was taken by Germaine, one of our gafotozi, as part of her essay, “the environment and our relationship”. It’s also one of the photos in our new postcard series, a peace of life in rwanda. If you’ve got business or travel contacts, we’d love to connect. Enjoy the photo – and have some fun today! It’s Friday!
A little more about our featured photographer today: Germaine (15 years old) loves nature and gardening and school. Her favourite subjects are biology and chemistry. On holidays, she likes to cultivate bananas to sell to help her mom. She says that she wants to become a doctor because “I see lots of sickness like malaria, AIDS, and parasites.” She lost her father and young brother (he was one year older than her) in the genocide and now lives alone with her mom.
Imagine surviving a genocide only to face yet another deadly battle….AIDS. Both have left a wake of orphans and widows….and lingering fear and stigma.
Youth will be discussing AIDS and other sources of hardship and conflict at the peace camp, and working on creative presentations to share their learning and their personal stories.
We look forward to featuring the photo essays of our gafotozi, including 14 year-old Princesse. Pictured is her best shot - one of the people who are important in her life – her mom.
Princesse is a courageous young girl speaking out on the issue of HIV and AIDS. Her story offers hope but also a challenge.
After suffering much illness, and learning that her mom has the virus (HIV), Princesse was encouraged by community mentors to also get tested.
Tragically, they discovered that she too had the virus – another case of mother-to-child transmission that could have been prevented.
More awareness, education and access to medical care is needed. There are lots of “could have’s” in the fight against AIDS — and lots of complicating factors, like extreme poverty. We can (and must) do more in this global challenge.
While Princesse is one of the more fortunate ones to access treatment, she faces a whole new set of problems. Most daunting is the lack of nutritious food and increasing periods of drought. ”It is difficult for me to take my medicine without food,” she shares, “I always feel very tired.” Without food, especially protein, fruits and vegetables, her body cannot properly absorb the strong medicine nor ward off other diseases. She also travels (often walking) long distances for regular medical care.
Stigma is another challenge, but her community is slowly starting to talk about and better cope with HIV/AIDS in their midst largely as a result of the efforts of mentors and the involvement of youth.
We hope to have Princesse and the gafotozi on hand to personally share their photos and experience with other youth at the peace camp. You can make this happen. Please consider an online donation today.
And join the challenge….we’re just days away from something really sweet….if you dare…to help youth working for peace in Rwanda. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or check back next week to download your challenge!
Respond today. You can be actively involved in meeting the global challenge of HIV/AIDS when you Become a Guardian of Hope, one of the grassroots, church-based programs on the frontlines.
Congratulations to AEBR Youth, on your first small step on to the web. Keep dreamin’ big.
Surf over and post some love; post an encouraging comment.
Mark the date. July 16.
We’ve got something sweet coming your way. A fun, easy challenge that will help raise funds for the youth peace camp….hint: a little sugar goes a long way!
An inspiring Mother’s Day story from the streets of Kigali and Canada
Every Saturday, a group of street kids meet at a church near the open market where they live. They call themselves Amizero (“hope” in kinyarwanda). They lift their spirits and their hearts to God, earnestly praying for change. Many like Alexi (pictured) have lived most of their life alone on the street. When he was 7 years old, he travelled a long distance on his own, to get to the capital city of Kigail. He became caught up in the vicious cycle of stealing to earn a living and using drugs and alcohol to dull the pain and heartache.
“What gives you hope today?” we asked Alexi, during our visit to his house, a makeshift lean-to he built himself in an alleyway of the market.
“I have peace when I come here [to Amizero]; no one will beat me or put me in jail,” he answers with a smile. He counsels other kids living on the streets: ”You have to have some hope that God will provide.” And he has brought several of his friends, like Pelagie, to Amizero.
Pelagie’s early years are hazy. She doesn’t remember her parents. When she was 11 years old, she fled to Kigali after her mother (a woman who had taken her in) chased her away. “I walked to town…It took a whole week…I didn’t know anyone.”
Alone on the streets, she started to sell her body, often to other street kids, to earn money. “I made between $2 to $10 a day, depending on the market,” she quietly shares. Today she does small, odd jobs like sweeping and cleaning to earn money, but it pays even less.
“Do you have any hope today?” we asked her.
“Yes, I have hope…that God will keep me and provide.”
Alexi too is attempting to earn money in a new way. He gathers coal and does any other small jobs that he can find. “I don’t steal anymore, but make a lot less…about $1-2 a day.” He hopes to go to school one day, to take training in plumbing or carpentry.
Meet Mama Amizero, Epa (Epaphrodite) Nzungize, a young woman who decided to do something about the plight of street youth like Alexi and Pelagie. Though she herself struggles with poverty, including going without meals to put herself through school, she has a burden to help neglected and vulnerable kids living on the streets. ”I was one of the first to join her group,” says Alexi. “Sometimes I go to her place for food. She is like my mom now.”
During their Saturday meetings, Amizero are learning traditional dance, poetry and drama. Pelagie loves to dance. She hopes to go to school and learn sewing. All of the youth at Amizero look forward to using their new skills to earn a living, with more dignity.
We believe that all youth in Rwanda have an important role and contribution to make to society and building peace.
Amizero will be just one of many talented youth groups to partipate in the peace camp. In addition to raising funds for the camp, we have offered to help raise a small loan of $1,200 to help start their dance troupe. Money earned from their performances will go into a group savings account to help meet their most immediate needs like food and shelter. Once the loan is repaid, that money in turn will support another one of our youth peace media initiatives in Rwanda, the AEBR Youth Peace Studio.
Contact us for more info about these projects at email@example.com.
And from the streets of Canada….thanks, mom!
Amizero also have mamas in Canada, like Kathy Cheveldayoff (pictured), who care about them. Together with her husband Laurence, she is helping to raise funds for a peace of life, which includes projects like Amizero and the peace camp.
This past week, a peace of life held our first long distance fundraiser, compliments of skype. We thank “mama and papa” Chevy for all your effort and encouragement. We also thank the Women’s Association of First Baptist, Victoria for your time, interest and generous donations. You truly are mamas for peace!
Here’s an excerpt from their note of thanks:
“What a delightful afternoon…That was so cool
and worked so well. The ladies of the mission group were so touched by your story about the needs in Rwanda and the photos captured the heart…We will all be praying for you daily and for the families who have been so terribly traumatized in Rwanda. We will be in prayer that God will go before the Peace Camp and that His peace and strength will reign in the lives of these young people…”
Thank you so very much. With love, Nora
On behalf of the Women’s Association of First Baptist Victoria
In closing: A Mother’s Day prayer
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. ” (Hebrews 10:23-24; NLT version)
These are difficult days as Rwanda enters a time of commemoration. Crucial to remembrance is the sharing of stories in ways that can bring healing and build peace. We will be exploring storytelling, including the power of film, at our youth peace camp in November.
Pictured: Edouard Bamporiki, one of Rwanda’s talented, young filmmakers, offers an interesting, fresh perspective on reconciliation with his new film, Long Coat, which was shown as part of the official commemoration at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali last year. The film also received honourable mention at Hillywood, Rwanda’s up-and-coming film festival held around the country.
We’re planning our own “Hillywood” event in Toronto to raise funds for the youth peace camp. Stay tuned for more details!!!
Special note of thanks: We are so thankful for the recent outpouring of support from two small groups on Vancouver Island (you know who you are!) and Chemainus Calvary Baptist Church. May your commitment encourage others to invest in youth working for peace in Rwanda. Donate today or post a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We leave you with a reflection: “The horror and brutality were extreme in Rwanda. That’s why when we talk about reconciliation, when we talk about forgiveness, we are not talking about an easy thing here. We are talking about shedding miles of tears before one is able to forgive. And to repent of such cruelty requires divine motivation and the divine presence just to attempt it. It cannot be done without God.” – John Rucyahana, The Bishop of Rwanda
A look ahead…
We’re hoping to hold a youth peace camp over school break, the end of November.
It will be near a significant site - a school at Nyange where students refused to separate. 13 were killed. More details to be posted shortly.
Email us at email@example.com if you’re interested in helping with fundraising or becoming one of our partners in peace. We’re looking for schools, camps and church groups interested in having a unique partnership with a school in Rwanda.
Pictured: Some of the members of Amizero (Hope), a street kids ministry in Kigali started by one young woman, Epaprodite Nzunpize. They are learning traditional dance, drama and poetry and hope to be able to earn money with their new skills. Look for them to be one of the groups to perform at the camp!
a peace of life workshop wrapped up with a village exhibit to showcase our students’ best shots…each photographer got a chance to talk about their photo essay and share more about their experience
over 100 people in the community including the village chief and government official, were on hand to celebrate…many were emotionally moved by the photos
Explaining his choice for best pic was one of our guest judges, Dominique Habimana, AEBR Youth President, with the photographer, Germaine. Her photo essay was on the environment.
We look forward to collaborating with AEBR Youth Committee on future projects including a youth peace camp in November 2o10. We hope to have some of our young photographers also participate in this event.
Coming soon…a website featuring the young photographers and their photo essays. Here’s a sneak peek posted by Johnny Lam, professional photographer.
Help us raise funds for more youth media projects including a peace camp. Post a comment or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the road by 4 am…we treated our young photographers to a surprise field trip, a safari through Akagera National Park. The journey starts with a prayer for safety – much needed as we twisted up and down dark mountain roads in thick, early morning fog.
The field trip was a great way to conclude our workshop. We wanted to reward our ”gafotozi” for their remarkable work and expose them to some of the incredible and diverse beauty of their country. Rwanda is quickly becoming known as an eco-tourism destination.
Our new photojournalists hang out the windows to get the perfect shot…we were amazed by the wildlife we saw…everything from antelope to zebra. It was a day that we will all fondly remember. As one student put it, “I am so happy. So very, very happy.”
We spent much of the last two nights preparing for our photo exhibit to be held in the village. As a group, we voted on which 5 photos from each photographer would be featured. Thanks to one of our supporters (the Soucys, CBM field staff in Rwanda), we were able to print out the photos with a portable printer.
See our next blog posting for what happens on the day of the exhibit!
We spent the rest of the week with our 5 young photographers. Each was given a digital camera (thanks to generous donors in Canada) and a challenge: “Take as many pictures as possible, at all times of the day, to develop your proposed theme.”
Each photographer came up with their own idea for a photo documentary. Pictured left to right: Olivier wanted to create more awareness of HIV and AIDS; Princess, to present profiles of people who are important in her life; Claudine, to highlight sewing (a skill she recently learned through the Children of Hope program); Anthony, to feature village life; and Germaine, to focus on the the environment.
They quickly and fondly became known as “gafotozi” – “small photographer” in Kinyarwanda – by people in the village as they wandered around taking photos.
Every morning we met to look at and discuss all photos taken the previous day. This peer review became a fun, interactive and popular way to learn and share key basics of photography and it helped us get to know and trust each other. It was combined with training in some more advanced concepts. The workshop was facilitated by Johnny Lam (pictured right), a professional photographer from Canada who has a passion for working with disadvantaged youth. He generously volunteered his time to work on this project. Drop by his blog for more photos!
“Decaying before your eyes” is the phrase that first comes to mind about our classroom, a poor, one-room church with no adornments save one simple drawing etched in the mud wall; red dirt floors that kicked up large dust clouds when kids danced their welcome; and a sliver of a tin roof pockmarked with rusting holes which together with the crumbling walls intermittently let in rays of sun and showers of rain.
But for us, it was the perfect spot. For the next few days, this rural church became our home base. It is located in a remote village in the southeast region (near Kibungo) and lacks not only basic infrastructure (sorry, no electricity, but water is a short walk away) but also opportunities for youth.
A group of orphans and other vulnerable children, including our student photographers, meet regularly with the pastor and other community mentors at the church for encouragement and support. They have started to call themselves Future Hope and are part of an international program called Children of Hope (COH). Esperance Niyigena, COH manager in Rwanda, is loved by the children and is a good mentor and advocate. She was a crucial presence and participant in our workshop, and became our translator, event coordinator/fixer, and good friend.
Pictured left to right: laurena, a peace of life co-founder with members of a youth-headed family and Esperance, children of hope manager, rwanda.
Together we spent the afternoons visiting homes in the community. It was a privilege to visit not only with our student photographers, their family, friends and neighbours, but also to meet some of the others living in child/youth-headed households. They shared their stories with us – heartbreaking yet hopeful accounts of how they are courageously coping with everything from the after effects of genocide (especially the lingering trauma), to the continuing rampage of poverty and disease like HIV and AIDS.
We thank our students, their families, children of hope, the pastor and the community for opening their lives to us. We hope the creative work of these youth will raise more awareness about the issues they face and lead to more opportunities for youth in Rwanda and other countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
We also thank our supporters in Canada. You are so crucial to the continuing success of this project to encourage, empower and equip youth to work for peace through communications and the arts. Thanks so much for your generousity.
God bless each of you. Have a very Merry Christmas!
Check in over the holidays for our next posting, news of the surprising turn of events on the last two days of the workshop.
p.s. Nearly 600 kids living in child/youth-headed households are supported by COH in this region. It’s one of three pilot projects launched by CBM, one of our sponsors, and the AEBR, our host partner. Learn more about this innovative program at www.cbmin.org
Our first a peace of life workshop in Rwanda was all about fun. Many songs and dances by children and youth living in child-headed households officially opened this special event held the last week of November in a remote village in the Kibungo region.
Expecting around 160 children and youth, over 270 showed up, some walking long distances to participate in this special event. Group games helped create lots of laughter and team spirit. Afterwards, working in teams, youth created and presented poignant skits and dramas on what causes conflict in their community. Coming soon to this blog: video clips featuring their presentations.
The day concluded with 5 youth selected to participate in an intensive photography workshop for the rest of the week. More about this event in our next posting – but what resulted after five days was simply astounding, so stay tuned for photos and video clips from this exciting time.
Home Alone – in Rwanda. This photo was taken by Laura, a friend who has been working on a unique project among orphans.
An alarmingly high number of children are living on the streets and in child/youth-headed households in Rwanda. It’s estimated that at least 20% (some propose as high as 30%) of all of the children in Rwanda are orphans. These courageous children and youth have a story to share. Next month we will be visiting with some of them and helping them to share a little of what their life is like through photography and art and dance. We hope this will help focus more attention on this crucial issue as well as help launch the next phase in our great lakes africa youth media intiative – a youth peace camp now scheduled for 2010.