“World Dance for Humanity Visits Rwanda,” from Justin Covington and Linda Sturesson of Noozhawk.

Less than 20 years ago, Rwanda endured a genocide that left more than 500,000 people dead. Today, many Rwandans live with high hopes for the future of their country.

Earlier this summer, 15 women from the Santa Barbara nonprofit organization, World Dance for Humanity, visited cooperatives they have helped support for about a year. Justin Covington, a Noozhawk video journalism intern, accompanied them on the trip.

“As soon as we arrived … we immediately plunged into their midst, and we were dancing and singing and drumming, and that’s how we communicated,“ said Janet Reineck, instructor and founder of World Dance. “It was just heart to heart, all the way.”

Project director Justin Bisengimana runs the World Dance operation in Rwanda.

“They’re providing a huge support to our cooperatives,” he said.

High school student Mutoni is one of about 50 students sponsored through World Dance. She is one of 1,200 students in her school and the only blind person in a class of 15 people.

“I had no hope … but now I can see the brighter future in me, because of the scholarship I’m getting from (World Dance),” she said.

Her ultimate goal and biggest dream is to work in the field of communications. She wants to become a journalist.

“If she can just tell her stories about what it’s like to live in the village, what it’s like living as a visually impaired person,” World Dance board member Sherry Robin said. “I think that would be of interest to Rwanda as a whole and definitely to other countries.”

Each time someone participates in a dance lesson at the Santa Barbara Dance Center located at 127 W. Canon Perdido downtown, the $10 spent per class goes straight to assisting struggling communities around the world, such as the cooperative in Rwanda.

The two-week trip to Rwanda is the first, but far from the last for the year-old nonprofit organization, which hopes to raise $50,000 for 2013.

“In the future … maybe we can really teach this dance and have everyone get up together and do it together,” Robin said. “I think that would be a really great activity.”

While the dark past is behind them, Rwandans say they will never forget and that they’re trying to move on.

“Things happened, but we can’t be taken by it,” Bisengimana said. “We need to focus on our future, the reconstruction of ourselves, the construction of our country.”

Click here for more information on World Dance for Humanity, or call 805.966.5439. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk intern Linda Sturesson can be reached at lsturesson@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.