Telegraph-Journal photo

Rwanda exciting place to be, says SJHS graduate working as volunteer

by Lisa Banks & Sandra Davis - Thursday, January 22, 2009

This article is courtesy of SJHS & Telegraph-Journal

On Tuesday, January 13th, Emily Hayter made a presentation to Mr. Ogden's, Mr. McNiven's and Mr. Theobald's classes discussing the history and present situation of Rwanda. Hayter, a 2004 graduate of SJHS, took a year off after earning her double major in English and History in order to pursue her dream of living in Africa whilst also helping others.

Rwanda was previously a nation controlled by imperialism, particularly under Belgian rule which lead to a division of the Tutsis and the Hutus, preexisting social classes within the nation. Within this division, Tutsis were favoured by the Belgian imperialists as they were regarded as more 'European.' As imperialism fell out favour and Belgium abandoned the country, the Hutus began to gain more power. Tensions continued to rise, ultimately leading to a genocide in 1994 where Hutus murdered nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Since the end of the genocide, Rwanda has rebuilt itself under the guidance of the nation's president, Paul Kagame. Rwanda has recovered amazingly from the atrocious genocide found within the nation's history, and is now known as a safe nation with the highest rate of post-secondary enrollment in the region.

However, despite the advances made, Rwanda remains a nation experiencing the ravaging affects of war. Miss Hayter presented the staggering the statistic that in 2001, there were 613 000 orphans in Rwanda as a result of the genocide, as well the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Since her time in Rwanda, she has worked with two organizations: Orphans of Rwanda and the Rebero Orphans Centre. Orphans for Rwanda is a support program which provides university scholarships to gifted orphans and vulnerable young people. The Rebero Orphans Centre deals with similar children, and was founded by Emmanuel Ngabire and Leonce Mupene out of a mutual desire to help others.

Both organizations are in need of supplies such as university textbooks, calculators, USB sticks, children's book, educational games and toys, as well as sports equipment.

The remainder of this article is from the Telegraph Journal (Sandra Davis):

SAINT JOHN - Saint John High School alumna Emily Hayter's work with the five-year-old organization Orphans of Rwanda is allowing her to help mould that country's brightest youths into tomorrow's leaders.

"We want to be supporting people who will be going into really top posts," Hayter said.

The 2004 SJHS graduate visited her high school alma mater recently in an attempt to dispel myths about the country.

"I wanted to debunk the idea that Rwanda is messy and unsafe and catastrophic," she said.

"It's safer, there's lower corruption, it's moving forward faster and has higher primary and secondary school enrolment rates than any other country in the region.

"A lot of people think of it in terms of the genocide, but it's a great place to be, it's really exciting."

Orphans of Rwanda is a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting orphans and vulnerable young people who have been affected by the 1994 genocide and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Its main mission is financing university education and related training for young people who, against tremendous odds, have completed secondary school and scored highly on university entrance examinations. In addition to tuition, the group pays for health care and housing.

Hayter has been toiling as a volunteer with Orphans of Rwanda for the past four months.

On her return to Rwanda she will be working to make sure new students have the solid computer and language skills they need before going on to university, through a language support program she designed.

In a country where people can speak three to five languages, they just changed their official language to English, so there is a big focus on it, she said.

"Getting a good level of English is really a priority for development and education."

Hayter has also accepted a part-time paid position with the Ribero Orphans Centre, which deals with younger, vulnerable orphans who may be HIV positive or living in households run by children.

Orphans of Rwanda is the only organization of its kind in Rwanda, Hayter said.

"There are a huge number of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who fund kids through primary or secondary school so once they finish secondary school, there's very little for them in terms of scholarships for university. There are no student loans. The government has some scholarships but they're very limited in number. Unless you're independently wealthy, there's really no way to get to university."

Orphans of Rwanda is really simply supporting what the Rwandan government is doing, she said.

"It's really working on education. They have a great vision for their development and we're helping them out with that."

Hayter says she has always been interested in Africa, from both historical and human rights points of view.

It became a passion while she was studying African history and international relations at Oxford, specifically 20th century international politics. At the same time, she was serving as president of the school's Amnesty International group.

"Education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world," she said, quoting Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.

So, after completing a double hours in English literature and modern history, Hayter taught in Tanzania for a year, then went on to Rwanda. On her return, she will stay until July when she will leave to complete her master's degree at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies.

The students Hayter has met while in Rwanda are "incredibly inspirational," she said.

"They're really motivated, articulate, extremely clever and interesting.

"It's a really positive country that has come so far. The government is very committed and motivated. It has a very low corruption rate and it's a very safe country, very friendly. They're working so hard to rebuild their country and they're doing so well."

Hayter didn't visit her old school to ask for money for the organization she volunteers for, but she was given resources, such as books, to take back with her.

Meanwhile, she is living on savings from last year's teaching stint.

"I live very simply. I have no running water and I'm in a small apartment with limited electricity.

"Having a good standard of life is really not the priority for me. I'm happy to live like that."

Orphans of Rwanda is supporting 168 students at top universities in Rwanda.

It has public charity status in the U.S. and England/Wales and recently applied for similar recognition from Canada's Charity Commission.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.orphansofrwanda.org