Opportunity / Mission / Strategy
Bridge2Rwanda was formed in 2007 to help expand Rwanda’s global network of friends, to encourage foreign direct investment and to create opportunities for Rwandan students to study abroad. A few years later, President Paul Kagame asked B2R to develop a new scholars program to “burst the bottlenecks” that were preventing Rwanda’s best students from competing for international scholarships. The first class of Bridge2Rwanda Scholars was launched in 2011.
From Rwanda, Inc. by Bridge2Rwanda Vice Chairman Andrea Redmond and Patricia Crisafulli:
“If other comparable countries, particularly in East Asia, have turned dreams of economic development into reality, then why not Rwanda? ... There are those who undoubtedly will say Rwanda’s plans are commendable and its goals are inspiring, but then will add dismissively, 'This is Africa.' ... To the naysayers and disbelievers we would counter, 'This is Rwanda. Expect more.'"
Bridge2Rwanda is a Kingdom enterprise dedicated to building a bridge to Rwanda and transforming lives at both ends. We began building our bridge to Rwanda over 14 years ago:
2001 – Martha Vetter, a Little Rock children’s minister, teacher and nurse, moves to Rwanda to help Bishop John Rucyahana open Sonrise Primary School, a private boarding school for genocide orphans.
2002 – Dabbs & Mary Cavin, Dale & Judi Dawson and Scott & Dede Ford begin helping Bishop John build Sonrise High School.
2005 – Sonrise High School opens with its first Secondary 1 class (seventh graders). President Paul Kagame visits Little Rock to encourage the growing Friends of Rwanda. Dale Dawson helps Opportunity International develop plans for a new microfinance bank in Rwanda.
2006 – Dabbs & Mary Cavin and Todd & Jessica Brogdon move their families to Kigali to launch the new Opportunity International Bank of Rwanda (OIBR). They also join other expatriate families to establish the first English-language international school in Rwanda – Kigali International Community School.
2007 – Opportunity International, World Relief and Hope International merge OIBR and Urwego Community Bank to form Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda (UOB). With support from the Clinton Foundation, Hendrix College (led by Chairman David Knight and President Tim Cloyd) begins forming a consortium of eighteen U.S. universities to expand the Rwanda Presidential Scholars program in partnership with the Rwanda Ministry of Education. President Paul Kagame forms the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), an international group of friends who meet with him and other Rwandan leaders twice a year. The group includes Joe Ritchie, Scott Ford, Bishop John, Pastor Rick Warren, Michael Porter, Mike Fairbanks and Dale Dawson. Bridge2Rwanda, Inc. (B2R) is formed as a U.S. nonprofit corporation.
2009 – B2R helps Scott Ford launch Rwanda Trading Company (RTC), a mill and exporter of Rwandan coffee. President Kagame asks B2R to create a program to prepare Rwanda’s best students to compete for international scholarships.
2010 – B2R helps Tom Phillips of Memphis launch Ikiraro Farms, a commercial egg business, with technical support from Tyson Foods. B2R facilitates TOMS Shoes first distribution in Rwanda. At President Kagame’s request and with support from the SEVEN Fund and Michael Fairbanks, B2R launches ISOKO Institute, a free market think tank to promote private enterprise across Africa. Jay Hein agrees to serve as its Managing Director.
2011 – Anna Reed and B2R help the Starkey Foundation custom fit and deliver hearing aids to over 2200 hearing-impaired Rwandans. B2R opens its Training Center in Kigali and launches the first Bridge2Rwanda Scholars class, a rigorous gap-year program to prepare students to compete for university scholarships to study abroad. B2R offers the first financial analyst training class for Rwandan professionals with Training the Street, a top Wall Street training firm.
2012 – B2R forms B2R Services Ltd., a wholly owned Rwanda corporation, to offer revenue-generating services in Rwanda. The first B2R Scholars gap-year class is awarded scholarships worth over $2 million to attend 13 schools in the U.S., UK and France. From 350 applicants, 28 students are selected to begin the second B2R Scholars gap-year class. B2R Services launches a new business to provide outsourced accounting, tax compliance and administrative services to foreign-owned businesses and nonprofits. Authors Andrea Redmond (B2R Board of Directors) and Patricia Crisafulli release Rwanda, Inc.
2013 – B2R helps Tyson CEO, Donnie Smith, and the Africa Sustainable Agriculture Project Foundation (ASAP) begin construction of Zamura Feeds, a commercial feed mill in Rwanda. From 1200 applicants, 35 students are selected to begin the third B2R Scholars gap-year class. B2R Services spins off its accounting services into an independent firm, Acacia Accounting Associates. B2R Services becomes a Kaplan Certified Education Provider – the first in Africa.
2014 – From 1700 applicants, 34 students are selected to begin the fourth B2R Scholars gap-year class. For the first time, the class includes eight regional students from South Sudan, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo. The third class of B2R Scholars is awarded 26 international scholarships. B2R ends the year with 65 Scholars studying abroad at 40 universities in North America and Europe and 34 students participating in the gap-year class.
2015 – The fourth class of B2R Scholars is awarded 34 international scholarships. From over 2000 applicants, 43 are selected to begin the fifth B2R Scholars gap-year class, including students from Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Liberia and South Sudan. B2R expands its Summer Internship Program to encourage and enable every Scholar to return to Rwanda or their home country every summer while they are studying abroad. B2R’s career counseling team arranges over 60 summer internships.