Sunday, June 7, 2009
Maranyundo School Visit
Another incredible day at the site on Friday with a local architect, two Electrigas Representatives , and a wonderful women by the name of Joy who is interested in working with us to open the Akilah Institute. After a 90 minute site visit, we returned to Nyamata to see the Maranyundo School, named for the mountains in the distance. The Maranyundo Initiative was started in Boston at a chance meeting in 2000 between Sister Ann, who ran the Paraclete Center in South Boston, and Senator Aloisea Inyumba of Rwanda. They both attended a Women Waging Peace conference at Harvard.
The partnership took years to get off the ground. After saying yes to Inyumba, Sister Ann was stymied. She'd tell people about her plan for a school in Rwanda and they'd reply, "That's nice." It wasn't until November 2005, when she took her first group of women to Rwanda that the project moved beyond a promise. Over the next two years, the Maranyundo Initiative raised $1.8 million.
The original construction began four years ago on eight arid acres that were the former site of a concentration camp for the Tutsis. A little history on the Bugesera District in the country's east province…it was ground zero for the genocide, a killing field where no place - not the church or town hall, not even buried up to one's neck in a swamp - was safe. In one month, five of every six Tutsis here were hacked with machetes or bludgeoned with nail-studded clubs. Most of the women who weren't killed were left widows; many were HIV-infected through rape. Thousands of children were orphaned, many of them becoming heads of households before age 10. With so many Rwandan men killed, or in exile or prison, women are rebuilding the country.
It's a startling irony: The genocide killed their loved ones and shattered their country, but it gave women power they never had before. Discrimination was rampant and women had few rights and little to no education. But the government under Paul Kagame has made it clear that educating girls is crucial to the country's recovery.
The school is located on a beautiful oval-shaped campus of orange-brick buildings, including computer and science labs, dorms, dining room, library, and classrooms. New construction is underway and next year they will have 180 girls in grades 7-9.
The Akilah Institute is about 10 miles away from the Maranyundo School and will educate young women ages 18-24. It is another example of how educating women is an answer to a sustainable future.