If you saw the movie, Hotel Rwanda, you’ll remember its searing agony. The pain was almost palpable.

There was a deeper tragedy, though. A journalist in the movie captured it well. People, he said, would see the suffering ‘and say “That’s horrible” and then go on eating their dinners.’ He was right.. The Rwandan genocide, in 1994, saw 800,000 people killed while we, globally, largely turned our backs.  One of the worst aspects of war is that we get ‘used’ to it.

The pain of Rwanda’s refugees has continued from that day until now. So has the need for help. In 2004, some of our team happened upon Rwandan refugees living in Kenya. Although ten years had passed since the end of the war, they were still unable to go home. Today, many remain.

How can they survive? Many lost everything in the conflict: family, home and possessions. The one thing war could not take, though, was their tradition. So these enterprising Rwandans put their age-old skills to good work and created cards and crafts to sell, distributed through NGOs around the world. In Crossroads, we have sold their highly original work ever since we met them, helping generate income for them, on a fair trade basis. A big seller has been their fascinating Christmas sets, made with stunning character and ‘packaged’ in a gourd from their region.

We often say, at Crossroads, we invest ‘for life’.  It’s been a decade since these Rwandan refugees started selling through us and they continue to today. Ten years is not a long time in the aftermath of war.  

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When Rwanda suffered its inimitable ethnic fighting, the result was not simply war. It was genocide. In 100 days, the country saw 500,000 people killed. Bertrand Russel called it, “The most horrible and systematic human massacre we have had occasion to witness since the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis.”

The images of death from that period are searing. So is the legacy the country continues to battle as it tries to reconstruct, train its youth and equip them for a different future. The population averages US$1.57 per day. Good employment, and the training that enables it, are therefore critical.

A simple gift of tools can help. There are training centres in the country helping young people master employable skills. The equipment they need, however, may be beyond their reach.

Knowing the depth of need in many communities, Ian Wells (pictured), one of Crossroads’ long term community volunteers, offered a huge set of tools on Global Hand, our match-making website. They were snapped up by a Rwandan carpentry centre.

Tools - Ian

With drills, saws, vices, chisels, hammers, screwdrivers and more – a treasure trove for this impoverished area – the donation was collected from the UK and shipped to Rwanda.

“Rwanda is clinically dead as a nation,” said Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, at the time of the genocide.  As better quality employment opportunities open up, this country is, increasingly, able to give the next generation a greater chance at life.

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FEEDBACK: On the outskirts of a notoriously violent South African city, a community group has been working tirelessly to create pathways out...

read more ...

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read more ...

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Our Volunt-HERO programme is a series of special 'thank-you's to Crossroads' volunteers who go above and beyond to help us help...

read more ...

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