In October 2018, Mama One Africa, with friends from Ghana (Sonia & Byron Lye-Fook and Mama Zulu Kahemba Degolo), visited Rwanda for the first time. Mama One Africa (along with her husband Nana Okofo) are the founders of One Africa Health Resort, Resturaunt and tours, which was located in Ghana, West Africa for 30+ years. The business also features an African Cultural Historical Library and Museum. As the group traveled throughout Rwanda, they met the director of a Rwandan organization called Rich Hearts.
Rich Hearts was formed in 2003, in response to the children left without parents due to the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. The Group consists of young people who joined together and pooled their resources to support each other. They became the family they loss to genocide. As they grew and developed into responsible adults, they began to conduct activities that had a positive impact on themselves and the Rwandan society, through peace building, love, unity, and humanitarian projects.
Every year, Rich Hearts’ members conduct activities for the remembrance of the 1994 Tutsi genocide. They visit various memorial sites and meet some of the survivors whom they provide various forms of support. While visiting Rwanda, Rich Hearts took Mama One Africa and the group from Ghana, to visit a small reconciliation village called Rweru.
Rweru is one of six Reconciliation Villages created by the Rwandan Government in partnership with Prison Fellowship Rwanda (an NGO) in 2003. The land given for this village is in the Bugesera District, where perpetrators and survivors of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide have worked side-by-side to create and build a harmonious community. This Village is also an opportunity to reconstruct their lives together despite their horrific past. Brought together they have successfully defeated hatred and turned this Reconciliation Village into a peace-loving example of man’s ability to forgive and move forward for positive change.
During Mama One Africa and Rich Hearts' visit, they were impressed by the harmonious co-existence in the Village. They were also impacted by the need for improved living conditions, as well as the need for productive trade and income generating activities among the women who are 61% of the Head of Households. After a lengthy discussion with members of the Rweru Village to explore what kind of support would be beneficial to them, they expressed interest in local arts, specifically making and selling local products commonly referred to as “made in Rwanda” goods, as well as farming. This prompted the idea for a skills development project for the women and subsequently and educational sponsorship program for the children.
Mama IMAHKÜS (aka Mama One Africa) immediately felt very deeply by what she had heard and witnessed and was inspired to assist the women to become better equipped to provide for themselves, their families, and their community.
In May 2019, she returned to Rwanda and partnered with Rich Hearts to foster and build a “One Africa - Heart to Heart” relationship and, established the Rich Hearts/One Africa partnership, which is the umbrella organization and governing body for the newly created Rweru Women’s Economic Empowerment and Human Values Initiative.
In January 2020, Mama One Africa, once again, returned to Rwanda after successful fundraising effots to acquire manual and electric sewing machines, a Serger machine, tables, fabrics, pattern paper, needles, thread, and other necessary items. Additionally, an instructor was hired and began training the first ten women. The organization was also able to secure and renovate a small building for the Training Center.
Our story continues as we seek to raise funds in order to build a permanent learning and training center on recently acquired property in the village.
“For Tutsis who survived the Rwanda genocide or watched as their loved ones were slaughtered or raped, reconciling with the Hutu attackers once seemed unimaginable”. But today where victims and perpetrators are living together. It is a reality. “Unless there is forgiveness, we cannot move forward,” said an elder survivor.