Friday, 1 November 2013

Survivors see more hope as affiliation body turns 17

1383347124people-Members of AERG, an association of student survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and their alumni will today meet to celebrate 17 years since the founding of the body.

AERG is a French acronym for Association des Etudiants et √Čleves Rescap√©s du Genocide (Genocide Survivors Students Association).

First Lady Jeannette Kagame is expected to preside over the function that will take place at the Petit Stade in Remera, Kigali. It is expected to attract former beneficiaries, many of whom have since graduated from school and are working.

Mutual understanding

Imbuto Foundation, of which Mrs Kagame is patron, has been a strong advocate for various forms of support to Genocide survivors and orphans.

AERG members contend that their own mutual understanding, coupled with political will to support survivors, gives them hope.

“We are celebrating hope of life; we started from scratch when our voice could barely be heard. We are now becoming heroes and heroines in

a country with the political will to support us,” Vincent Ntaganira, one of the 12 founders of AERG, said.

Ntaganira and his schoolmates started AERG on October 20, 1996, while at the then National University of Rwanda–now College of Arts and Humanities under the University of Rwanda– and the association has since grown to the current 40,000 members.

Entrepreneurship spirit

According to the members, they have over the years come to understand that self reliance is key in rehabilitating the orphans, adding that they had achieved a lot in restoring hope for the future and improving their living conditions.

They pool money on a regular basis, depending on everybody’s capability, and have since injected the funds in income generating projects.

Methode Ruzimbana, the national deputy coordinator of AERG, said they have so far managed to acquire 130 hectares of land in Nyagatare District, where they rear around 30 cows. They also keep 270 goats.

“We are even planning to start an institution of higher learning. It’s a big project, but we are allowed to dream big,” he said yesterday.

According to Ruzimbana, to overcome loneliness, they have established a mechanism where students in the same school try to create a family set-up where every 25 students become a family.

Every ‘family’ has mother and father figures and amongst themselves, they discuss school challenges, social needs and the way out, he said.

“This model has been crucial in our healing process because we feel we have family support. We even get parents’ rebuke in this family when one errs,” said Gilbert Kayitare, the executive secretary of the AERG alumni commonly known by its French acronym GAERG .

The ‘families’ stick together even after graduation.

One-Dollar Complex

AERG officials said they are optimistic the One-Dollar Complex will soon be completed to shelter those in need.

The complex, which is in its final phase, was built at a cost of Rwf1.5 billion that came from proceeds of the One-Dollar campaign, which was initiated in 2009 by Rwandans living in the Diaspora and later embraced by the country and friends of Rwanda.

The One-Dollar Complex, a four storey building, is situated in Kinyinya Sector in Gasabo District and will accommodate more than 190 students. The building is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Ruzimbana decried the case where some people are accused of grabbing properties of Genocide survivors left by murdered parents, saying this remains one of the biggest challenges for survivors.

Survivors see more hope as affiliation body turns 17


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