Rwanda has a complex and dark history rooted back in colonial times. In 1935, Belgium established identity cards that labeled individuals as either Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. Ethnic tension increased between the minority Tutsi and majority Hutu people resulting in a civil war.
In April 1994, the situation escalated when the Hutu president, Juvénall Habyarimana, plane was shot down, and he was assassinated. This created a power vacuum and ignited mass killings against the Tutsi population, initially perpetrated by the presidential guard, military, police, and the Interahamwe (an unofficial militia group). The scale and brutality of the massacre increased as civilians began joining the killings, encouraged by radio propaganda and the Interahamwe. Most people were murdered by people they knew in extremely violent means, most commonly by machete. Large groups of Tutsi who sought shelter in churches and schools were locked inside, then burned alive. As the killings escalated to genocide, the International community did nothing to intervene.
Over one million Tutsi and Hutu moderates were slaughtered in less than 100 days.
After the genocide, Rwanda was shattered physically, mentally, and spiritually. Many fled from their homes and became refugees in other parts of the country and neighboring Uganda, Burundi, and the Congo. Homes were destroyed, families were separated, and lives were torn apart.
Twenty-six years later, Rwanda continues rebuilding its country and reconciling its society. For a population of people who witnessed and lived through an unthinkable tragedy, the Rwandan spirit shows its resilience through the importance of a strong sense of community—one of the many reasons our growing Inshuti community is so important. Our community extends past our house recipients to include our masons, workers, and of course, our donors. Slowly, we can see the impact this link between people has on all of us.
The houses we build provide more than just the basic need of shelter, they are the foundation for a better future giving families an opportunity to move forward towards independence. The lives of our house recipients change drastically and immediately. Children are cleaner, healthier and attend school. Families who were once separated by poor living conditions are reunited and are proud of the homes in which they now inhabit. Best explained by Bridgette, a genocide survivor and 2017 Inshuti house recipient, “Now that I have a home to keep my family safe, I can focus on finding work to pay for food, clothing and school fees.”