Patrick Munyurangabo and Arielle Uwonkunda were both infants when the genocide occurred, but like all Rwandans their lives have been permanently altered as a result of it. Patrick’s mother survived the genocide, but his father, brother, uncles and aunts didn’t. His mother ended up raising 25 children. Today, half of Rwanda’s population is under 20 years old.
At the ceremony, we watched a video about the historical roots of the genocide, lit candles, and honoured the victims with a minute’s silence. Patrick shared his story with attendees because it’s too easy for people to detach from something that happened 20 years ago in another country. But we are all connected, he said, no matter where we live. The very least we can do is be aware of what’s going on in the rest of the world and make it our business.
Yes, the ceremony was desperately sad, but it was also enlightening and hopeful. While Judy, Arielle and Patrick don’t want anyone to forget the genocide – and for that reason will continue to mark its anniversary – they also encourage people to form some new associations when thinking about Rwanda.
Since her first visit to “the saddest place in the world” in 2006, Judy McLean has watched the country’s transformation. “Now, when I’m in a village in Rwanda, I see laughter and joy,” she says. “There is singing and dancing.”
Patrick graduated as top student from his school in rural Rwanda, where most of his classmates were orphans. He is now studying at UBC in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems as part of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at UBC. The program supports the further education of bright young Africans from economically disadvantaged areas, equipping them to return home and lead change in their communities. Patrick intends to return to Rwanda and apply new knowledge of sustainable ways to improve food security and nutrition. He will work with Judy in the International Nutrition program to achieve his goals.
Arielle is a top student at the Sauder School of Business and wants to be part of building Rwanda’s economy. She says she loves her country and feels safe there. There is little corruption. Education up to elementary level is free and people have access to healthcare. The justice and reconciliation process has been ambitious and pervasive. Arielle doesn’t know who is Tutsi and who is Hutu. “My home is magnificent,” she told us.