Meet Chelsea Uwase, B2R Scholar and rising junior at the University of Chicago, who interned at University of Global Health-Equity in the Vice Chancellor’s Office. Chelsea spent the summer conducting a research project to study the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations, more specifically pregnant women and young kids in developing countries. 


“Working at the University of Global Health Equity, whose drive is to deliver care to the most vulnerable people in our communities, is a constant reminder that it is possible to think about systems where each and every one is included, even the ones that live in remote, under-resourced areas.”


She hopes that within the next five years she will be serving her community and contributing to solving the challenges that the health system in Rwanda is currently facing. 

Chelsea is pursuing a Global Studies major with a concentration on Governance and Affiliations, and Cultures At Work.

A rising senior at Georgetown University, Steven Mucyo interned with Dalberg Advisors this summer where he was exposed to different projects within his interests, including FinTech and financial inclusion. He is happy that his internship challenged him to use his academic knowledge and gave him confidence to believe in his ideas, despite his initial fears of making mistakes.


“I have learned that we are not expected to know everything, and we have to understand that growth takes time and deliberate effort. I also realized that being open to learning and asking questions could make work easier and more enjoyable.”


Steven is a Finance and Operations and Information Management (OPIM) double major and a French minor and hopes to run a business with his family in the future.

B2R Fellow, Emmanuel Bahizi, attended the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in Economics and Political Science. He graduated from Penn in May 2018 and recently returned home to Rwanda.

Bahizi was orphaned by the 1994 Genocide and was raised by his grandmother, a subsistence farmer in a rural village in Karongi District. Against all odds, he won a full ride scholarship to Penn, where he served on the Dean’s Advisory Board and various other student committees.

Bahizi presently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman and the CEO of Bank of Kigali, Rwanda’s largest bank.

After completing her freshman year at Samford University in Birmingham, Class 5 Scholar Joyeuse Yvette Senga has returned home for a summer internship at the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali.

As a health care administration and public health major, Joyeuse is working alongside UGHE’s academic team to help improve the university’s curriculum and find new ways to engage and involve students in the classroom.

“It’s a humbling experience for me because I am working with a lot of professionals,” Joyeuse said. “There are four interns total and the other three are all going into their senior year, so there is a big gap. My first day I thought, ‘How will I manage?’’ But I think being a Brideg2Rwanda Scholar has helped me acknowledge that I’m not only contributing, I’m also learning. I think that by the time I go back [to school] I will leave with more knowledge than my peers because I will have learned a lot from them.“

Joyeuse is currently working to develop new curriculum for the UGHE Master’s program, which will help students tackle a variety of controversial issues that come up within the healthcare sector. One of the challenges Joyeuse and the academic team face is overcoming Rwanda’s reserved classroom culture, which often prevents Rwandan students from actively engaging in controversial discussions and challenging others’ opinions.

Having gone through the B2R program, Joyeuse finds she has a unique perspective and helpful insights that set her apart from her peers.

“Going into the B2R gap-year, we weren’t used to raising our hand and discussing controversial issues or opposing someone’s views and I think that’s something that many of the students in the Master’s program might be facing. It’s a cultural thing where we are used to being more reserved and not being able to raise our hand and tell the professor, ‘I don’t think you’re right, but I think I can add something…’” she explained. “I think being at Bridge2Rwanda and learning [to engage others and have my own opinion] has helped me to think critically and have a different perspective in this internship.”

Through the summer internships, B2R hopes to not only provide the Scholars with professional experience, but also to show them practical ways they can use their skills and passions to develop their home country.

“When you’re in the gap-year program you of course have the idea that you will come back, but you don’t actually know what that will look like,” Joyeuse said. “I think it’s very important for students to come back to Rwanda, first of all, to see how much our country has progressed and then to figure out how we can contribute to that progress.”

“Coming back not only reminds you of home, but it also helps you acknowledge the fact that when you are gone there are people here who are doing something. The development doesn’t stop. There are still people here working hard. I think it’s a good reminder to see where your country is – your culture, your values, and what defines you as a person.”

After several years of working in admissions at Vanderbilt University and as a college counselor at a private high school, Joy Beth Bodie felt an unmistakable calling to support African students in their journeys to college. In 2013, Joy Beth (an Alabama native!) made the move to Rwanda’s capital city to join our team as College Counselor and Student Advisor. Here she shares what is most rewarding about her job, what her life is like in Kigali, and what makes the Scholars exceptional.

What is your role?

I help students tell their stories through personal essays and apply to schools that I feel are the right fit. I also welcome university admissions counselors when they visit Rwanda and help them plan their visit. When I’m on the ground in Kigali, I live with the students in their house. This past fall, I taught a yoga class every Sunday night as well as a co-led a Bible study for the girls alongside Liz. I love being able to help when students are sick or stressed about standardized test scores. Living with them is an opportunity for me to get to know them in a different way.

When I’m in the U.S., I often travel to universities. Managing relationships with universities is a big part of college counseling. It’s important for the admissions officers at the schools where our students apply to trust me when I say that “this scholar is the best fit for your school for this reason.”

You’ve mentioned before that you felt called to move to Africa. How did you feel when you arrived?

When Anna presented the opportunity to do this full time, I said yes the next day and quit my job the following day. I had such a peace about the decision. When I arrived and Anna took me to the office, the students were so nice and welcoming but started drilling me with questions. I remember one student asked me, “What is your life mission statement?” Their questions certainly challenged me, especially in the midst of jet lag, but immediately I knew that I was going to enjoy working with such special students.

Getting to know my students’ stories, personalities, and dreams and then being able to represent them to universities keeps me going, as it is a true honor and privilege.

How did you like living in Kigali?

Kigali is an easy city to live in, especially due to how safe and clean it is. In the beginning, I bought a pink scooter, which I still drive around town. There’s good food as well as a decent gym that I visit frequently. Instead of going shopping, I get clothes made—that’s my little side hobby. I lead baking classes with the students and host girls’ nights and holiday parties. I’ve made some good friends from the program, too. Overall, I’ve never been happier in a job.

How do you match Scholars to schools?

I’m able to match the students through a mix of visiting the schools, talking to admissions counselors, getting to know the students in groups or one-on-one, and being ultra-sensitive to my discerning spirit. Sometimes it happens within a few weeks of knowing a student, and sometimes it happens a few days before the admissions deadline.

Why are schools attracted to B2R Scholars?

They are attracted to our overall mission and the fact that the students are committed to returning home after graduating. If schools are going to invest in the students, it’s reassuring that they will be returning and investing in their country—it’s not brain drain. There’s a greater benefit.

The first students at a particular school pave the way. When they start to get involved on campus, it’s hard not to notice and want more students like that. We have 20 to 25 schools who visit us in Rwanda per year, and our gap-year students share about Bridge2Rwanda and ask questions that are extremely thoughtful.

Also, our students go to college prepared because they’ve been through a gap year. They have experience writing research papers, they’ve learned about leadership, and also have a spirit of humility, which makes them attractive.

What is your relationship with the schools?

Most admissions offices have a person in charge of Africa. The longer I know an admissions officer, the more connected we are. They trust that I’m going to speak openly about a student’s application. If a student is deferred or denied, the admissions counselor can provide some insight. It’s about an honest relationship.

What value do Scholars offer schools?

Our students are innovative. Benon at Samford College is one of the co-founders of their African Student Organization. Emmanuel at Rochester University is starting an international student organization. They’re not afraid to bring new organizations to campus nor step into leadership roles. Some of our students serve as tour guides, orientation leaders, resident assistants, and peer mentors while others play club sports and are members of traditional dance troupes.

They also dispel myths about their countries. We challenge them to educate their classmates, or else they’re going to be frustrated by people who don’t know much about Africa. For example, Pierrette at Lafayette College recently took a class on genocide around the world. The professor asked her to be in it because she wanted her to speak up in class about Rwanda’s history.

At TCU, during Rwanda’s memorial week, the students put up Rwandan flags in the main quad area. They have a commemoration service and invite everyone at TCU. When their classmates see excitement surrounding Rwanda or Africa, they ask our students to share with them.

The Bridge2Rwanda mission is to Build a bridge between the United States and Rwanda and transform lives at both ends. How has that applied to your life?

My life is forever changed. Rwanda will always be a part of it. One of my favorite phrases is “Ndi umunyarwanda kazi umutima” (I am Rwandan in my heart). Living among the students has taught me about community and supporting one another through the ups and the downs. Rwandans truly care for one another, and that has made an impact on me personally.

I see Rwanda as being a bright light within the continent of Africa, and I know that our students are going to play a big role in its continual development. They’re going to do big things in the years to come, and I can’t wait to watch it. I’ll be cheering them on! When Martin from South Sudan and Bienfait from Congo run for president, I’m ready to support them [laughs].

Thank you, Joy Beth!

Born-and-raised Texans Dub and Valerie Stocker live in Fort Worth and host Scholars who attend Abilene Christian University, Dub’s alma mater, and Texas Christian University. Dub also serves on the board of Bridge2Rwanda, they’ve both made several trips to Rwanda, and they have been instrumental in connecting B2R with donors and university partners.

Dub and Valerie have five children, three grandchildren and several Rwandan students who have become an important part of their family. Here, they talk about introducing the Scholars to new activities, how being a host family has impacted them, and how the Scholars change while studying abroad…


How did you learn about Bridge2Rwanda?

Dub: One morning in 2010, I went to hear Bishop John Rucyahana, an Anglican bishop from Rwanda who faced many hardships and risked his life during the 1994 genocide. The story quickly transformed to a story of reconciliation, forgiveness and restored hope. I was literally so moved that, just like an altar call, I walked down the aisle and said “I will come to your country.”

Valerie: I had wanted to go Africa, and we were planning to go to Kenya with a student group. When Dub walked in, he said “We are going to Rwanda” and I said “OK!”

Dub: At the end of that year, I met Bridge2Rwanda. Next thing I knew, my friend [and B2R Board Member] Tom Wilson sent me a Halftime book and introduced me to Dale Dawson, the founder of B2R, and we went to Rwanda. We fell in love with the people of Rwanda, and I recognized the potential of this small country. We became fast friends with B2R Country Director Tom Allen and next thing I knew, Dale and I were talking about the Scholars program and how he needed to raise money to buy computers. I walked to my desk and wrote him a check so he wouldn’t have to wait to get the program off the ground. The partnership we have with Dale is one of the most cherished in my life.


Tell us about the Scholars you host. Where do they go to college? What is your relationship like with them?

Dub: For the first class, we were the grandparents of them all. We were the official host family for two ACU Scholars, Mike and Nancy, but the third ACU Scholar, Emma, was here all the time. We also host Bright and Jonathan, juniors at ACU. And then we host a freshman at TCU, Manyiel, who’s at our house right now. We not only sponsor, but we’re kind of considered the grandfather and grandmother of the host families. That’s the part that we love: the family environment.

Valerie: They make me want to be a better person. When I’m hanging out them, they’re all very special. It’s moving to learn about the students and their hardships and hearing in-depth about what their lives were like growing up. They’re humble and hardworking, funny and smart, and they love the Lord. It makes me want to be with them. It’s such a blessing!


When do you spend time with them? What kind of activities do you do together?

Valerie: We’ve taken them to ride horses. Teaching them to swim was so funny. We’d take them to the IMAX. If they’d never seen movie, they really loved that.

Dub: We’ve taken them to cattle drives and football games. We’ve taken them to dinner a lot. We’ve taken some to a ranch in south Texas.

Valerie: And we go to church! We try to teach them manners—holding the door open, putting your napkin in your lap, how to floss. I tell them “You don’t have to floss them all, just the ones you want to keep!” [laughs], just basic etiquette. They really listen and learn.

Dub: We treat them like our kids. We took them to the George Bush Library and ate lunch in Dallas and had a great time doing that. We’ve been to their graduations. We give them a lot of career advice. I call them son or daughter, and they’re just like our children.

Valerie: We joke with them a lot. And they keep their rooms so clean! I tell my daughters “Have you noticed their rooms?” They wash dishes without asking. I really appreciate it because there are lots of dishes when all the students are around!


Have your kids developed a relationship with the Scholars?

Valerie: Our kids love them. Our daughter Leah has been their driver from Abilene to Fort Worth for years! They have a great time. They’re close. Sometimes they even fight like brother and sister! They’re like siblings, it’s funny.

Dub: Valerie is an incredible nurturer. She loves the kids and she spoils them. I tell her “They’re no different than our kids,” and she says “No, they had it harder.”


How do the Scholars change while they’re studying abroad?

Valerie: When they’re freshman, they’re unsure of themselves and less confident. Even physically, they change so much. They definitely mature spiritually. We help them, but I think they just grow on their own. They learn the language better and learn what’s going on culturally. By the time they’re seniors, they are so impressive. We’re just so proud of them! Also, they reach out and find their own internships. They’re so diligent about working.

Dub: They become more sophisticated, in a good way. They are going to be great leaders and great pieces of the Lord’s body and his expanding kingdom. They will be great agents of improving the lives of the poor in Rwanda.


The Bridge2Rwanda vision is to Build a bridge between the United States and Rwanda and transform lives at both ends. How has that applied to your life?

Dub: These students have become part our our family. We will hopefully someday travel to Rwanda to celebrate with them when they get married and have kids. This has definitely been an affirmation of God’s providence.

We had eight students here last week, and we were having a discussion about how God knew what we were going to be doing way before we did, and I said “What are the odds that you guys would be sitting in Fort Worth, Texas, with us, tonight, together, discussing these important issues?” It’s beyond any statistical probability. It’s absolutely divine. I just feel affirmed that I’m using the gifts God gave me in a good way, and that He has blessed us with the loving relationships of these students.

Valerie: It’s definitely been realized in my life. We want them to be the light of Africa. We need to remember that these kids are going to change Rwanda, which in turn, will change Africa.

Thank you, Dub and Valerie!

Interested in being a host family? Email Anna Phillips at aphillips@bridge2rwanda.org for more information.

Jackson Karama was in the first class of B2R Scholars that graduated in May. He earned a scholarship to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he learned more than just physics and sailing. Today, he lives in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, and serves as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Rwanda Air Force. Here, he talks about his biggest inspirations and shares a funny story from when he arrived at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

What was your childhood like in Rwanda?

I was born in Uganda in the refugee camp in 1990. My family came back from Rwanda and lived in the Eastern Province, in Nyagatare, in 1994.

From 1994 to 1999, most of the schools were churches, so we went to a church school. We spent most of the time at my grandmother’s house hunting, herding cows, and sharing meals together. During school time, we’d stay with my uncle and auntie, whom I call my parents because they brought me up with six other siblings. That was the life until 2000, when we moved to Uganda and continued primary school, where we learned new languages. I later came back to Rwanda for secondary school in Kigali. After graduating in 2010, I worked as a teacher at the school I graduated from, and in 2011, I started at Bridge2Rwanda. I came to the U.S. in 2012.

How did Bridge2Rwanda prepare you to come to the U.S.?

I learned a lot, a lot of English. I tried doing the ACT and TOFEL before but my scores improved greatly when I came to Bridge2Rwanda. The leaders like Dale and Anna are very encouraging. They have inspiring stories about what they’ve done in life, but it was also humbling to hear how they came to Rwanda to take Rwandan kids and train them, to help them become better. That was mind-blowing to us! Our teachers did so much to prepare us and kept pushing us even when we thought we were going to fail. I learned that if we can work this hard, as they do, we can succeed as well.

I also learned that community service is an important tool for helping me discover what I want to do in life. Bridge2Rwanda helped us go to orphanages where kids would look up to us as inspiration, and that made me want to work hard so I can show them they can do it too, so they have this hope that they can do great things. That’s when I discovered I had to be in a place of leadership or service for the country to make an impact, and that’s why I joined the military.

By default, in the military, you’re given rank, so there are people below you who look to you for guidance. It’s good that I have experience with leadership. I’m still learning more so I can get more leadership responsibilities with the Air Force.

What was the U.S. Coast Guard Academy like? 

I went thinking I’d get a good education and come back but I was shocked by how much more the Coast Guard taught me. I got a mechanical engineering degree, but the most impact it had on me was changing my way of thinking, making me a leader, and impacting my work ethic.

People here in Rwanda want to get jobs, work for money and for some, want to get rich, but I feel like, after the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, if I had a job or didn’t have a job, I’ll still make a living. I’ve been equipped with so much, education and lifewise. I was challenged so much. Like swimming in oceans and lakes in cold places. I thought I would die if i did that! I’ve done things that made me think that I can do more than I thought I would and it’s made me excited about life because I realize I can make a change in the things I don’t like. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy definitely added more to me as a person. Education was just part of it. It’s more about the possibilities of working hard and thinking I can do anything.

When I first arrived at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I was punished for smiling a lot. I had to keep a serious face, so I had to be on a Smile Train for a whole week. A Smile Train is smiling for a whole week without stopping. You can stop when you’re sleeping, but if anyone’s watching you, you have to be smiling all the time. That was the punishment. After that, I didn’t smile anymore! 

Was the U.S. different than you expected? 

America was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. When I was younger, I thought America was paradise. Doing Bridge2Rwanda, they helped us watch movies on Friday Movie Nights and friends from the U.S. would tell us about it. College life was different at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy than at other places. So many people encouraged me so much. My host family took care of me like their own son. My teachers were amazing and encouraged me. My friends took me to their houses where I became like their brother. It was like a family. When I got there, I didn’t know I’d ever connect. I thought I was going to be a little lost. But it felt like home at the end of the four years. I wanted to come back to Rwanda because I knew I’d be more useful here, but the U.S. was still amazing.


The Bridge2Rwanda vision is to Build a bridge between here and Rwanda and transform lives at both ends. How has that applied to your life?

Bridge2Rwanda enables a young generation of Rwandans to get a college education. They don’t pay for us to go, but they equip us with something more expensive than money: the ability to earn scholarships, which is amazing and which no one has been able to do in Rwanda. Some are trying to fill that gap but they can’t. Bridge2Rwanda has filled that gap. Me and my friends who just got back are working in big positions, and not at small institutions. I’m doing things I can do because I’ve been to the U.S. and have been trained. I can do things that are useful because I’ve been taught. The bridge between people in the U.S. and Rwanda is incredible, so evident and so valuable to us.

If I didn’t go to school in the U.S., I don’t think I’d have this much education or this position. I couldn’t afford to go to university in Rwanda, so I’d be herding my mom’s cows or something, trying to be a man. There’s definitely a huge difference between what it could have been and now.

Thank you so much, Jackson!

1. Tell us a little about your experience when you first arrived in the US. The plane ride, settling into your dorm etc.

My first 24 hours in the US seemed to me too beautiful to be real. I was finally on the campus I had dreamed of for so long, but somehow I was not really appreciating the moment as I should have. My counselor showed me my room, and all I could think of was “Is this really happening?” But then, on the second day, I finally processed the fact that I was indeed at Yale. It was such an epiphany, the people were amazing and the campus stunning. I was overwhelmed with joy.

2. What has been one of the most pleasant surprises of your experience so far? Any funny or special  moments you can share?

The best highlight of my time so far was my birthday on October 5th. Like almost all my Mondays, I had a lot of work for my classes; at midnight October 5th, I was literally immersed in my homework for Italian class. But then, first surprise of the day, Chaste posted a wish on my Facebook wall which literally made my day. And later, in the evening, I came back to my room from a walk with Chaste around campus, and found that my friends had prepared a surprise party. It was one of those moments that are simply perfect.

 

3. What have been some of the challenges you have faced so far?

The first few weeks were really hard because I did not feel like talking to people. As surprising as it sounds, I felt we would not bond given that I am so much older. I hung out with Chaste all the time. Over time, I realized that it was just an excuse I gave to myself not to face that fear. I decided to change, and made amazing friends since then. Up to now, I still have such moments of doubts, but I learned to cope with it and move on.

4. Tell me about your favorite class and why you like it?

My favorite class so far is Introduction to Music Theory. I was in choir for very long but never actually learned how to read music notes. Every day in class is so much fun. I am also taking the class because I am also interested in DJ-ing and music production. The class is a perfect combination of fun and pursuit of a passion.

5. What do you look forward to as your time in the US and at Yale continues?

My time here made me realize how much I value my relationships with people. I feel like every person on campus is exceptional; the Yale community is simply wonderful. I am really looking forward meeting more and more amazing people and learning about their stories.

This article was written and featured in The New Times Rwanda, a daily national newspaper based in Kigali, Rwanda.

In May 2011, Rosine Ndayishimiye and 10 schoolmates initiated the first ever entrepreneurship club at their school, Lycee de Kigali.

“We wanted it to be a practical tool to the Entrepreneurship course that was by then taught in theory,” she said and added: “With the help of our senior advisor and teacher, Mitesh Patel, we launched the club. Four months later, we started a business of selling fruits—avocadoes and bananas. We started with an initial capital of Rwf28, 000 (approximately $43 USD), and scaled to profits of more than a million a year (approximately $1550). EWe started by doing it ourselves, but as it grew, we employed someone.”

Just before this venture, Ndayishimiye had attended the Babson Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy (BELA), an event she credits for setting her entrepreneurial mindset in motion.“Our school was given an invitation and I was lucky to be one of the six students selected to represent Lycee de Kigali high school in the BELA 2011,” she notes.

Upon return from that week-long entrepreneurship workshop, she and 10 other like-minded students immediately got down to work. “We did a mini market research among students by giving them questionnaires to answer. Our research revealed that students needed healthy and cheap appetizers with which to supplement the school food. We then asked for permission from the school administration, pooled resources and started the business.”

Each member came up with an initial contribution of at least Rwf2, 000 (approximately $3), and together, they managed to raise a total of Rwf 28.000 ($43). “At the beginning, we used to sell between 16-30 avocadoes per day. Now the club sells at least 200 avocadoes. That is profit of Rwf 1 million RWF per month,” she says.

Ndayishimiye notes the venture was (and still is) not just about the money: “Our club also had a social aspect, for instance, we were able to organise an anti-smoking week at the school last year, with the help of the World Health Organization. This was still in line with our vision to help people live a more healthy life, which is why we went into the fruit business in the first place. We also made visits to established businesses like Bralirwa and Bourbon Coffee, just to get mentorship from their staff.”

She notes that the club has since grown from the initial 11 pioneer members to 50. “It’s serving very many people with a bias for entrepreneurship, not just the initial members.”

Thanks to her efforts exhibited through the school entrepreneurship club, Ndayishimiye was selected from more than 1,200 applicants to be one of 23 Bridge2Rwanda Scholars. And through her hard work and perseverance, she has now managed to secure a full scholarship to Babson College in the US, for which she leaves next year.

Ndayishimiye received the good news about her scholarship on December 3, and had this to say: “Today, I got an admission and a full scholarship from Babson College, ranked number one university in the world in Business and Entrepreneurship!”

She went on: “It is an exciting opportunity not only for me but also for my country. I plan to study Entrepreneurship and Environmental Sustainability. At the end of my education at Babson, I want to come back and help my country in helping youth create businesses that are profitable and environmentally friendly.”

After her secondary education at Lycee de Kigali, Ndayishimiye enrolled for the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program. Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program is a gap year program that helps the best-performing Rwandan students win scholarships in top tertiary institutions in the US, Canada and in Europe. 

“When I was done with high school, I heard of Bridge2Rwanda applications from the Babson Rwanda Entrepreneurship Center, and I immediately applied since it looked like a great opportunity for me. In March this year, I was privileged to be one of 30 students selected from 1200+ applicants,” she says excitedly. 

She has also been active on other fronts: “For two years , I have participated in Rwanda Global Entrepreneurship Week activities as a co-organizer of GEW at Lycee De Kigali and as a trainer. We trained secondary school students in business idea generation and organized rocket pitch competitions. Some of our trainees have already begun the process of starting their own businesses. The whole idea is really to inspire persons from all walks of life to see the hidden potential in entrepreneurship, and also to realize that it is always possible to begin from somewhere, with or without money. In our case, we started our school entrepreneurship club with a net capital of Rwf28, 000.”

After she has attained her degree, she hopes to build on the entrepreneurial foundation already set with the school entrepreneurship club. She reckons that being one’s own boss comes with a host of benefits: “Being self-employed gives one the independence and flexibility in his decision making. Though it might be challenging, it gives one employment and other people too. It is not just one person to benefit, but the whole country; it reduces unemployment and hence other people’s suffering is eliminated or reduced.”

She is acutely aware too of some of the negative sentiments that such a career move is bound to attract, and drawing from her own experience says: “For someone who did science in A-Levels, it is hard to understand how I can settle for Entrepreneurship and business. Some people think that I should study and do medicine. For instance, people, especially students, consider that selling avocadoes is a dirty job that I and my friends should have left. But I believe that there is no dirty job or business as long as it serves people and gives profits.”

Who does she look to for motivation? “Jesus inspires me very much. He undertook His great mission selflessly for the wellbeing of others. I emulate Him by doing all my best for others, not for recognition, but for the fact that they deserve to be treated well. Nelson Mandela, Mitesh Patel, and my parents also are my great role models. Every day that I wake up, I take some time to pray, think about what God has done for me, and plan for the day. I read an article or a book. I prepare myself and then go to school. When I go back home, I greet everyone and ask about how he or she feels; I feel that it is important for me to relate well with my people. I exercise and then have super. I pray with my family, read the Bible and go to sleep.”

Currently, she is also involved in community work with the Christian Youth Organization for Physical and Spiritual Development (CYOPSD), a non-profit organization that helps improve the financial plight of Christian youths and students by furnishing them with entrepreneurial mentorship and business trainings.

Ange graduated first in her high school class, having consistently held the top position in her class throughout Secondary school.  When Ange joined the B2R Scholars Program in 2012, her English skills were weaker than most other students because she had been in a rural area, but we immediately recognized a unique spirit and spark about her.  She worked extremely hard and became one of the highest scorers in the class on the standardized exams.  Consequently, she won a full scholarship to Marist College in New York where she is currently in her Freshman year.  Below, Ange shares about some of the challenges she faced growing up in Rwanda and how she overcame those struggles to get to where she is today.  Ange has an incredibly giving heart, and she had a great passion to return to Rwanda to help her people.  We are proud to be a part of her journey!  

My mother’s character has led to my determination and made me the person I am today. In April 1994, it was the time when genocide took place in Rwanda. On the first day of the genocide, April 7th, my father was shot and killed. My mother was pregnant and I was about one year and a half old. My mother and I had to flee to the stadium in the middle of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where numerous people were gathered. We stayed there until the end of April, when my mother gave birth to my brother. At that time, she couldn’t find enough porridge, or anyone to support her in these hardships, yet she persisted. Many parents were separated from their children during the genocide, but she refused to leave us. For two months, she hid us and searched for food. I was too young to help her, but she did this until the end of the genocide. Her persistence played an important role in our survival, which is a great credit to her. 

After the genocide ended, my mother took us to return where we lived before. But when we arrived there, she found that a soldier had appropriated our house. She asked him to leave, and he intimidated her and said that if she continued to insist, he would kill her. Therefore, my mother took a resolution of hiding my brother and me in another place that was far from our neighborhood. After that, she went fearlessly to the soldier’s captain and reported the problem. After seeing the determination my mother had to return, the captain resolved the problem and we returned back to reside in our home. It was due to my mother’s great resolution that we were able to live there again. 

My mother was unable to attend high school, but she values education so much. She always pushed my brother and me to study, which taught us the value of education. She made it possible for us to do well at school, even if there were many hardships in our lives. We didn’t have electricity at home and we had much domestic work to do, but she borrowed a room with electricity from a neighbor so that I could study comfortably. Her motivation gave me a strong reason to work hard. We had no valuable resources and not enough land for an inheritance. But her daily and precious advice allowed me to study as hard as I could, so as to build my own inheritance. She also inspired me along the way, by how she joined a school that taught women how to make traditional jewelry. Her willingness to study, regardless of her age at that time, encouraged me to study diligently as well. Thereafter, I became eager and committed on my studies in order to achieve a better future, which is my dream. At home, my first responsibility was to study, but I had other household duties after school such as cleaning the house, fetching water and washing dishes. I managed to perform well in class and later won a scholarship to attend secondary school.

At high school, I had to alternate my classes with activities like the students’ commission, the Anti-AIDS club and others. The key to succeeding in this was respect, and my mother taught me this habit. For my mother, respect was a great thing to value. As a woman with little education, she kept in mind that for someone to be respected, she has to respect herself first. She used to tell me that respect does not come from what one has but from who she is. She was always occupied making jewelry, respected everyone and she didn’t waste her time going to the bar, as an uncommitted person would do. My mother taught me to respect myself. As a result, I tried to be exemplary at school, especially when I was in secondary. Being one of the student representatives, I respected myself and others by fulfilling my responsibilities and being punctual, as she taught me. The one tool that guided me through was the persistence I adopted from my mother.

The key to success in everything that I am involved in is the persistence, respect and determination that my mother taught me. Now that I am no longer a kid, I see that I bear fruits that my mother sowed in me since I was a child and this is the foundation of who I am and what I do. What I learned from her improved my credibility and success in life. The fact that I like to learn and do research is the result of her influence. As a Bridge2Rwanda Scholar, I have worked hard to get into a top University in the US. I respect what I do and who I am, and I respect others and their beliefs. I intend to apply all I have learned from my mother, and to share what she taught me to help bring positive changes to my community. She is more than a mother to me. She is my hero.

Danny Biz, B2R scholar and student at Gordon College, told his inspiring personal story during chapel last week.

Danny was 4 years old during the 1994 genocide. He was separated from his parents for three years, believing they were dead, before being reunited when he was 7. To further his education, Danny taught himself how to speak English and use computers before someone recommended him to the B2R Scholars program.

Watch the video below to hear the rest of Danny’s incredible story!

Cadet Jackson Karama, sophomore at the US Coast Guard Academy, catches a foul ball this summer at his first major league baseball game cheering on the Red Sox.  But that is not even the amazing part of the story. Click here to read the rest of Jackson’s heartwarming foul ball story.