Good Cause: Generation Rwanda

Generation Rwanda

I spoke with Michelle Hamilton about Generation Rwanda, another great cause I wanted to highlight. More information is available online at www.generationrwanda.org, their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

What is Generation Rwanda?

Generation Rwanda, Inc. is dedicated to helping orphans and other socially vulnerable young people in Rwanda pursue a university education and ultimately become leaders in driving economic development and social reconciliation. The Generation Rwanda scholarship provides holistic support – including tuition, housing, healthcare and a range of supplemental training programs – to ensure that its students are prepared to excel.

Generation Rwanda was founded in 2004, and its focus on university education is unique in the region. Most international support for Rwandan education is directed toward primary and secondary schools, with little attention paid to increasing the availability of post-secondary education. University access is particularly difficult for women and poor students – two groups that have been historically underrepresented in Rwandan higher education.

Generation Rwanda aims to transform the pool of intellectual capital in Rwanda by dramatically increasing the number of university graduates and enhancing the social and gender diversity of the university population. The students we support have overcome extremely challenging obstacles on their paths to a university education, but would be unable to continue their studies without the financial support and other services that Generation Rwanda provides. These students attend leading universities across Rwanda and specialize in disciplines including business, health, law and engineering. Currently, Generation Rwanda supports 120 motivated and talented students.

What is the history of the organization?

Dai Ellis and Oliver Rothschild started Generation Rwanda –originally called Orphans of Rwanda, Inc. – in 2004 after spending time in Rwanda working on public health and development initiatives. While in the country, they discussed with orphanages (specifically Gisimba Memorial Center in Nyamirambo) about the greatest need for orphans and vulnerable students in Rwanda. Through these conversations, they learned that providing a university degree would be the best ticket to a brighter future and helping young people shift the trajectory of their life and ultimately assist in the development of the county by building leaders. With that in mind, they started a university scholarship organization aimed at giving talented orphans and other socially vulnerable young people access to higher education.

Who does Generation Rwanda help?

We support highly motivated orphans and socially vulnerable students from around the country.

Are there any success stories you’d like to share?

Absolutely. One of the most recent interesting stories comes from a 2011 graduate from NUR, Pascaline Umulisa. This December, she’ll graduate from the National University of Rwanda with a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism & Communications. Pascaline has just returned from a State Department funded trip to the US as a representative with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

While in the US, she was given the chance to meeting with United Nations delegates concerning women’s rights in Rwanda. They were so impressed with Pascaline that they extended her trip and invited her to present at the UN official observation of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Pascaline participated in a panel that discussed the theme of youth leadership in preventing and ending violence against women and girls , along with UN Secretary Generation Ban Ki Moon and UN Women Executive Michelle Bachelet. She discussed WAGGGS “Stop the violence. Speak out for girls’ rights” campaign, and what Girls Guides in Rwanda are doing to fight gender-based violence. She ended her speech by saying, “Only the sky is the limit of what we can do it we’re consulted, invested in, and prioritized.”

We are so proud of Pascaline’s achievements so far, and can’t wait to see what she what she accomplishes in the coming years.

For more information, please see the article on the WAGGGS website.

How is Generation Rwanda funded?

Currently, GR is mostly funded by private donors and some support from a few foundations. We even have some donors here in Kigali!

Is there any way for visitors to Kigali or expats to get involved in the organisation?

Yes for people living in Kigali. We have 4 full time volunteer positions (English Language Instructors, Career Development Associate, and Technology Associate) that we aim to fill on a yearly basis. Additionally, we could always use help with specific projects and trainings throughout the year. One of the biggest projects is our student selection process which requires as many hands as possible. We are always interested making career connections through professional mentors and internship opportunities with businesses in Rwanda.

What are some challenges of running Generation Rwanda?

In 2011, the biggest challenge we faced was the shift in academic calendar year combined with the significant increase in tuition fees at the universities. Some schools tripled their tuition fees and in 2011 we had to pay twice due to the calendar shift. It has also been difficult to sync up our program calendar with the school calendar considering our students attend 7 different universities in Rwanda and each school as implemented this change differently.

Marriage and a limited number of early pregnancies has made it difficult for female students to keep up with the demands of school and our program. We are addressing this issue by improving our Sexual and Reproductive (SRH) training program and women empowerment initiatives.

Running a comprehensive scholarship program with limited resources is a challenge. The bulk of our budget goes directly to the students’ education. We are maxing out our office space and barely have sufficient training facilities to accommodate the number of scholars and needs of our program.

What are the future goals for Generation Rwanda?

The main goal of Generation Rwanda is to build high capacity professionals and ultimately leaders who will drive economic growth. Through our growing Alumni Association, we hope that Generation Rwanda will eventually become self sustaining with a local donor base. Generation Rwanda also hopes to expand into other countries in Africa to continue supporting the growth of human capital.

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.