A few months ago, a woman from England wrote to me about SURF, the Survivors Fund that represents and supports survivors of the Rwandan genocide. It’s not easy to want to read or remember anything about what happened 16 years ago in Rwanda — how can you stand the pain of it? But once I started to learn about this amazing small charity, founded by Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, a British citizen of Rwandan origin who lost 50 family members in the genocide, I was blown away by the beauty, resilience and hope of the survivors.
From April to July, 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were massacred by their countrymen; most of the victims were Tutsis killed by the Hutu majority. The reasons behind the slaughter are complex and debatable, but what is not open to debate is that the international community turned a blind eye to the catastrophic violence, which enabled the horror to continue unabated for three endless months.
Today, Rwanda has made great strides in rebuilding, but there are still an estimated 300,000 survivors living in this beautiful, fertile, landlocked country who have sustained unimaginable damage from the genocide. 50,000 are widows. Almost 30,000 orphans live in households headed by children. 40,000 are without shelter. 27,000 were disabled during the atrocities. And 2,500 women were raped and deliberately infected with HIV/AIDS.
SURF is the only international aid agency dedicated to supporting the survivors, and making sure the world does not forget the genocide. Despite the horror these people have lived through, Rwanda’s total budget for assisting them in recovery is about $35/person per year. SURF is at the forefront of providing the rest of the assistance, and most important, giving survivors hope that tomorrow can be a better day.
Founded in 1997, SURF works with survivors to improve their health, education, housing, and job opportunities. To date, they’ve provided 1000 coffee plants, 800 pigs, and 5 pepper farms for survivors to begin to farm again. 30 health workers have treated over 4,000 survivors. SURF has created 175 vocational courses and 350 school places and built 2 villages for children and 320 homes for widows raising orphans.
It’s not enough – but it is something. And you can help. By supporting SURF, you support survivors’ access to AIDS relief, the building of homes, health clinics, maternity wards, livestock programs, and education programs for children born of rape. Watch the videos. It’s not enough, it’s just something– a very little something– we can do to remember the survivors in Rwanda.
To donate, click here .