In October 2018, One Africa, with friends from Ghana (Sonia & Byron Lye-Fook and Mama Zulu Kahemba Degolo), visited Rwanda for the first time. One Africa, (created by IMAHKÜS Nzingah Okofu), has spent the last 30+ years in Ghana, West Africa, where she is the owner of a health and wellness resort, and the curator of an African Cultural Historical Library and Museum. As the group traveled throughout Rwanda, they met the director of a Rwanda 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 consist 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 give various forms of support. While visiting Rwanda, Rich Hearts took One Africa and the group from Ghana, to visit a small village called Rweru.
Rweru is one of six Reconciliation Villages created by the Rwandan Government in partnership with Prison Fellowship Rwanda (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 One Africa and Rich Hearts visit, they were impressed to see a 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 need for sponsorship.
IMAHKÜS immediately felt very deeply what she had heard and witnessed and became inspired to get involved and assist these women to become better equipped to care for themselves, their families, and their communities.
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 Empowerment and Human Values Initiative.
In January 2020, Mama IMAHKÜS, once again, returned to Rwanda after fundraising more than $15,000.00 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. They also secured and renovated a building for the Training Center.
“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.