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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 12:40 pm | Fair 67º


From San Marcos High to Rwanda: A Donation Heard Around the World

Rwandan genocide survivors visit the school to thank Kids Helping Kids for its generosity, and to share their personal experiences

It has often been said that it is through our actions that we are defined. To complement this sentiment, it has also been said that by living through our heart, we can truly utilize the power of our brain.

On Tuesday, Rwandan genocide survivors Frederick Ndabaramiye and Zachary Dusingizimana visited students at San Marcos High School to pay a visit to Kids Helping Kids, the nonprofit organization composed of seniors in the school’s Advanced Placement economics class.

A 10-year effort, Kids Helping Kids, under the guidance of teacher Jamie DeVries, has raised more than $500,000 — all of which has been donated to charity. Last year, Kids Helping Kids donated $5,000 to the Ubumwe Community Center in Gisenyi, Rwanda, for the purpose of laying the foundation for the center’s new preschool.

“It was inspiring to see what Kids Helping Kids did last year,” said Dana Zylstra, this year’s chief organizing officer of Kids Helping Kids. “Seeing the results has motivated us to do even more to help such a noble cause.”

In addition to thanking Kids Helping Kids and informing students of the Ubumwe Community Center, Ndabaramiye also shared personal experiences from the genocide, which took both of his hands at age 15 after refusing to shoot 18 fellow passengers on a bus.

Sadly, Ndabaramiye is not the only victim of such an atrocity. Over the course of three terrible months, killings rose well above the six-figure mark, climbing to a staggering precipice of 800,000 civilian fatalities. Apart from loss of life, tens of thousands of Rwandans were left physically dismembered; countless others were affected.

It was this tragedy that inspired Ndabaramiye and Dusingizimana — a former teacher at Ndabaramiye’s orphanage and the current program coordinator for the Ubumwe Community Center — to establish the center, which they did in 2005 under the power of their own resources.

“It helps when people understand where it happened; it makes the people know they are cared for,” Ndabaramiye said when asked how the Ubumwe Community Center has changed Rwandans’ lives for the better.  “It is important for people to be able to share what they are going through — it is a helpful way of recovering. When you go through certain hardships, and talk to people who have gone through similar things, it helps. Stay positive!”

In 2009, members of the local Congregation B’nai B’rith chose to support the Ubumwe Community Center. The CBB has helped the center financially by paying for a portion of the cost incurred from constructing a new community center and preschool.

“We would like to finish the preschool project before the end of next year, if possible,” Ndabaramiye said.

The center serves more than 130 children and adults in a variety of applicable ways, including teaching vocational skills, independent living skills for the disabled, free academic instruction to all students, instruction in sign language for the hearing impaired, jobs for the disabled, counseling for both personal and vocational issues, and workshops that include a wide range of crafts and creative skills. All of these resources available at the Ubumwe Community Center are aimed to advance the status of the disabled and to lend a helping hand in the creation of better lives.

This past summer, former San Marcos teacher and volleyball coach John Lee visited the Ubumwe Community Center. Lee had visited the center in 2009. While there, he was impressed by the game “sit volleyball,” a sport much like its “standing” counterpart. The only difference is that in sit volleyball, the players are disabled and have to sit on the concrete in order to play.

When he returned this summer, Lee donated several volleyball-related items to the center, including nets and balls. Also, the sit volleyball team fielded by the Ubumwe Community Center received distinction as the second-best team in Rwanda.

The Global Justice Committee at B’nai B’rith has played an integral role in coordinating to get more people involved in the effort to complete the Ubumwe Community Center — an action that will positively impact the lives of disabled Rwandans.

“We hear of so many people in need around the world, and we all try to help to the best of our ability, but when you meet people personally and hear their stories it takes on a whole new understanding,” said Randy Gross, a member of the committee along with co-chairs Ellen Hunter and Pam Gunther.

It doesn’t take a special name, title or entity to make a difference in someone’s life. In fact, ordinary people do it every day. If you would like to support the Ubumwe Community Center, call the Congregation B’nai B’rith at 805.964.7869, or click here to donate or help out.

“We are happy that kids are thinking of other kids on the other side of the world to partner with,” Dusingizimana said. “The name, Kids Helping Kids, says it all.”

— Michael Mead is a San Marcos High School student and a member of The King’s Page newspaper staff.

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