David Kialo of World Vision Rwanda with children returning to Rwanda from refugee camps two years after the genocide. (Jacob Akol/World Vision 1996)
Soon after the bloodshed ceased, World Vision began relief operations in Rwanda, assisted by Antoine.
Immediately, World Vision focused on vulnerable children—an estimated 100,000 were separated from their parents. Heather MacLeod, a New Zealand nurse, worked in centers for unaccompanied children. “They weren’t playing much,” she says. “They weren’t acting like children. I have very clear memories in Nyamata of children sweeping blood out of buildings.”
In Andrew’s village, Onesphore Uwizeyimana began working with World Vision, taking care of the many orphans of the genocide. Some were babies left in the bush, hidden by their parents so that they wouldn’t be killed.
“The first thing we did was provide first aid to those children,” he says. “Some were sick because of spending hours and nights in the bushes. They were hungry. They had spent many days without any kind of food. If World Vision hadn’t helped them, many would have died.” After meeting the children’s basic needs, staff worked to locate parents or surviving relatives.
World Vision borrowed classrooms in Onesphore’s church to house the children. “They were very scared. They didn’t know what had happened to their parents,” says Onesphore, who today is the longest-serving staff member in World Vision’s Nyamagabe sponsorship program.
World Vision begins relief operations in Rwanda. American Randy Strash is sent to Kigali to establish an office and begin distributing relief supplies to survivors.
World Vision begins reconciliation and peacebuilding programs in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s first genocide trial opens under the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
U.S. President Bill Clinton delivers an apology in Rwanda, acknowledging the U.S.’s failure to respond to the genocide.
The U.N. Security Council announces that it did not do enough to prevent the genocide in Rwanda. It compares the genocide in Rwanda to the Holocaust in the 1940s.
Paul Kagame is elected president of Rwanda.
World Vision concentrates on long-term, child-focused, and community-based development in Rwanda.
World Vision begins the Nyamagabe development project, supported by U.S. sponsors. Today, U.S. supporters sponsor 26,637 children in Rwanda.
It was clear the children needed more than physical help. “Healing work started right in 1994, when children were showing signs of deep trauma,” says Josephine Munyeli, World Vision’s specialist for healing, peacebuilding, and reconciliation. “World Vision was assisting traumatized children who were affected by the loss of their parents.”
In 1996, when thousands of families began to return to their villages in Rwanda, World Vision started a reconciliation and peacebuilding department.
“Reconciliation was necessary and a foundation for every initiative,” says Josephine. “If we were to do development work straightaway when people had not yet dealt with their painful past, we would be heading nowhere. People carrying deep pain cannot be productive.”
World Vision developed a reconciliation model that endures today: a two-week program of sharing intensely personal memories of the genocide, learning new tools to manage deeply painful emotions, and embarking on a path to forgiveness. The approach was replicated all over the country and embraced by the new government.
“Thousands of people went through the process,” says Josephine. “More than 200 trainers were trained. Two thousand survivors and perpetrators went through healing training. And 2,000 youth went through PRAY—Promotion of Reconciliation Among Youth—which used dance, drama, poetry, and artwork to help traumatized children express their feelings.”