To build and equip Jessie’s Place Physiotherapy Center
- Our Work
The Rwandan genocide ended in 1994, but pockets of resistance still lingered for years. In 1999, a 15-year-old Rwandan boy, Frederick Ndabaramiye, was dragged from a bus and brutally attacked by Interahamwe rebels a few years after the genocide. When he refused to kill 18 fellow passengers the rebels hacked off Frederick’s hands with machetes and left him for dead. After a year in hospital, Frederick was placed in Imbabazi, an orphanage started by American Roseamond Carr in the aftermath of the genocide. Most of Frederick’s family had been slaughtered and his mother, who remained alive, did not have the resources to care for him after he lost his hands. Frederick met Zacharie Dusingizimana, a young teacher at the orphanage.
Not willing to remain captive to hate and anger, Frederick and Zacharie turned toward forgiveness and action. Feeling lucky to be alive, they wanted to help those like themselves. Partially because of the genocide, Rwanda has a disproportionate number of physically and mentally disabled people and most are street beggars. With the support of the Columbus Zoo’s Partners in Conservation and Jack Hanna, Frederick and Zacharie founded the Ubumwe Community Center as a place where these people are given an alternative, where they can be educated, learn skills and ultimately work, generating a sustainable living for themselves and their families. Today, Frederick and Zacharie speak internationally and are mentors to young people everywhere. They teach that a disability of spirit is far worse than one of the body. Frederick models his triumph over physical limitations through his painting, his love of life, and his fearlessness.
The Ubumwe Community Center serves more than 400 children and adults with counseling, primary education, vocational training, and workshop employment. The Center provides a meal for its students, they are taught literacy, computer skills, the deaf learn sign language, and all are trained to make a variety of crafts including dolls, jewelry, and souvenirs. The Center has now expanded to serve members of the non-disabled community, offering computer and literacy classes. Wildlife conservation is taught in cooperation with the Columbus Zoo. Gisenyi is close to Rwanda’s few remaining wild gorillas and the Center emphasizes the importance of keeping their habitat intact. The Center survives on the generosity of individual donors and the income derived from sales of its crafts. The goal is to become self-sustaining over time. Recent support to the UCC has led to the construction of a preschool and primary school that provides inclusive education for disabled students.
ABW is partnering with UCC to support children affected by physical and mental disabilities and epilepsy.