A Day of Broken Hearts, Hope, and Inspiration
James’ Rwanda Impact Tour Journal
Water for People Impact Tour Rwanda 2019
James Hoyt, P.E.
Today was the official start of the Water for People Impact Tour to Rwanda. The goal: get to know the group, and learn about Rwanda’s history, people and culture.
The day started with broken hearts. Our first stop was the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Visiting the memorial was an incredibly moving experience unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The Memorial features three exhibits which describe the Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsis, the history of genocidal violence around the world, and a special tribute to the children who lost their lives during the Rwandan Genocide. The memorial also serves as a burial site for more than 250,000 victims. As many as 1,000,000 people were brutally murdered during the Rwandan Genocide.
Each exhibit was powerful and moving. Learning of the senseless violence left me bewildered, angry, and heartbroken. It was the children’s room that I think will have the most lasting impact on me. The room serves as a tribute to the thousands of children who were killed during the genocide. The room features several child victims with exhibits that include a photograph, a short biography, and the means of their death. It was upon seeing the photograph of a young girl, the same age as my daughter, and reading of her death by machete that I succumbed to grief and 90 minutes of suppressed tears came all at once, unrelenting.
Hope & Inspiration
As difficult as it was to read of the brutal violence, see the horrific photographs, and hear the painful accounts of survivors, I am so grateful for the experience to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It is a place of learning – we must learn from the Rwandan genocide and never allow anything like this to happen again. It is a place of hope and inspiration – the genocide occurred only 25 years ago and Rwanda already has experienced a great deal of healing. Ethnicity has been removed from IDs and the Gacaca justice system allowed for communities to share information and resolve conflicts. This inclusive approach is credited with speeding up national unity and reconciliation following the genocide. Agaseke, also known as peace baskets, have become a symbol of reconciliation and unity after the genocide. The baskets are a nested set and feature a zig-zag like pattern which represent two women holding hands.
Following the memorial visit, we had a guided bus tour of Kigali. The tour included sightseeing, a history of the city, a visit to a local market, and a trip to the hills to see the city sprawled across the hillsides.
A highlight of the tour was Sunday brunch at the Hotel des Mille Collines. The hotel is also known as the “Hotel Rwanda” and as depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda, the hotel protected over 1,200 refugees during the Rwandan Genocide. Brunch also allowed for the tour group and served as an opportunity to get to know each other. We did introductions and discussed the individual goals of each tour member. The Rwanda Impact Tour consists of an inspiring group of people passionate about the water crisis and making a positive difference.
Next was a visit to a lively village market full of seamstresses making clothing to order, and seemingly endless rows of stalls packed with handicrafts, fresh fruit, supplies, and butchered meat. The chaotic scene was a bit overwhelming, but for those who love to haggle, there were deals to score.
Finally, we had the welcome dinner at a great French restaurant where we shared our experiences of day one. Each person shared their high point and low point of the day. The beer I ordered ended up being non-alcoholic, but even that couldn’t take away from a day I will never forget.
High & Low
High Point: Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial and learning of the resilience and forgiveness of the Rwandan
Low Point: As a father, the children’s room was very difficult to process.