Calgary author Will Ferguson says Rwanda is focus of his new book
The Inspire Africa Foundation held its sixth annual fundraiser Thursday, Nov. 15 at Webster Galleries. The event, Faces of Rwanda, focused on the widows and orphans of Rwanda, who were affected by the genocide.
The Rwandan genocide was a 100-day period in 1994 where nearly one-million people were slaughtered. This left thousands of children orphaned, and thousands of spouses widowed.
The fundraiser drew in a crowd of over 200 people, who came to show their support for the cause.
The goal was to beat last year's total of $76,000, but the final amount for this fundraiser is still being counted. The event included both blind and silent auctions, African-inspired cuisine and personal stories from volunteers who travelled to Rwanda.
The fundraiser brought many people together, from all ages and allbackgrounds, in order to support this one cause. Jean-Claude Munyezamu, a Rwandan native, has attended the annual fundraiser on four occasions and spoke at last year's event.
He said the Inspire Africa Foundation is effective because they take initiative. "They teach the adults English, like how to read and how to write, that's very good," he said.
Munyezamu left Rwanda in 1998 and currently resides in Calgary.
Will Ferguson, author and long-time friend of Munyezamu, said he wants to write his next novel on the future of Rwanda.
His inspiration for writing this novel comes from the stories he has heard from Munyezamu. "He lost so much of his family," Ferguson said. "And yet he still remains upbeat and positive."
Diane Altwasser, a volunteer for the foundation, said it's different from many other charities because 100 per cent of the donations received go straight to the projects.
Co-founder Margaret McQuiston became interested in starting this foundation after a trip to Rwanda in 2006. She said it's important to raise awareness on the impact the genocide has had on the Rwandan people.
"Even though it's been many years, there are still significant effects from the genocide that people are living with," she said.
After discussing the issue with her friend, co-founder Alix MacDonald, they both decided to start fundraising for the people of Rwanda. Since then, the Inspire Africa Foundation has currently raised well over $400,000.
All funds raised help the people of Rwanda in three main projects. One of these projects involves purchasing livestock for widows, which includes beehives, goats and cows.
Their second project focuses on the learning centre, where they can help support orphans of the genocide, who are now young adults.
They offer them free education and teach them English, business and computer-skills. The third project is to improve the wellness of those affected by the genocide, by offering them medical health services, such as trauma counseling.
McQuiston has visited Rwanda four times now and is amazed at how appreciative the people are there. "The Rwandan people are just so grateful for what we're doing," she said.
The fundraisers auctions included a wide range of items, from Rwandan crafts and artwork to ski-trips and a hot-air balloon ride.
Rhea Dallaire, a local artist, donated two of her pieces for the fundraisers auction. "(Rwanda) is a country that I think has a lot of potential, but it has to be re-built, so I'll do anything I can to help them," she said.
"I think everyone can rise to the challenge and do something about it. And that way we can make a difference."
- By MEAGAN GILL