Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Genocide Orphans

Yesterday morning, despite my illness, I dragged myself out. We were to visit the transit center an hour from Gisenyi, which we manage with MINALOC and the World Food Programme. On the way, we stopped at the Imbubazi (Compassion) Orphanage, a site made famous by Rosamond Halsey Carr, an American woman who has spent a large part of her life here in Rwanda.

In 1994, she had been living an hour from Gisenyi, in a little house by herself. When the genocide began, she was evacuated with all of the other Americans; however, she followed the events closely from the U.S., and begged the Ambassador to let her return in August, despite continued insecurity and constant interahamwe attacks. She had seen the orphans of the genocide on TV, and wanted to help them.

The Ambassador finally agreed, and she returned in September 1994. She was 82.

We met with Rose, and she welcomed us into her European-style cottage, which was enveloped in ivy, and surrounded by exquisitely kept floral gardens. She served us tea and told us her story.

She was childless herself, she said, but at the age of 82, she had 40 children. She founded the orphanage in her old house, which had been completely ransacked and emptied by the interahamwe. She cared for the children in the farmhouse adjoining her cottage.

The children had nowhere to go, and if they were found walking about, they would surely be slaughtered. Most were babies, the oldest were 5 or 6. She struggled to keep them well-fed and to protect them from the constant interahamwe attacks.

The insecurity became too much, and she moved her orphanage to Gisenyi, where it remained until last month, when the landowners raised the rent to $700 a month. With help from UNHCR, the Red Cross, Save the Children, other organizations and private donors, she reopened a new, expanded orphanage next to her original cottage. The old, bombed-out farmhouse is still there. She now hosts 120 children, some genocide orphans, some who have been left behind by their asylum-seeking parents, some without parents. She is 94.

It's enough to make you cry.

She said this: "I never knew the generosity of people until I opened this orphanage."

But really, she is astonishingly modest. I believe that we are all, fundamentally, cowards. We all want to do good, but no one actually does anything. It takes an exceptional individual, like Rose Carr, to take that first step, and undertake the hard work--and then the rest of us follow, giving her money to support the cause. We congratulate ourselves for having done something good, when all we did was give a couple of dollars.

So when Rose said she couldn't believe the generosity of people, I couldn't help but tear up at the thought that she passed on the credit that she deserves to others.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"BONjour"......."KssKssKss" ......."SssSsssSsss" .......

Now that's more like it! Your system will adjust to the food and you'll forget the unwanted attention in no time. Enjoy the job - and the experience ;-)

J.Charles

2/01/2006 11:49 AM  
Blogger casper the friendly ghost said...

What was this American woman doing in Rwanda before the genocide evacuated her?

2/01/2006 2:24 PM  
Blogger Morgan C. said...

As a P.S. to this post, I forgot to mention that they grow all their own food. In addition, each of the children has their own chicken. It's theirs, they can take care of it, and it's essentially their money; if they ever find that they desperately need money, they can take it to market. But many regard them as pets. I thought that was a great idea.

J.Charles, I'm going to force feed you bananas in tomato sauce someday. BTW, apparently Gen. Eikenberry presented or mentioned or something the Afghanistan report in a breakfast this morning with President Karzai. Yay us!

Casper, I'm not sure. I asked her, but she never really answered--not to be evasive, but probably she has bad hearing, and after repeating myself twice in French and once in English, I gave up. I think her British husband was a colonialist in Uganda. I think she just moved to Rwanda after his death because she loved the country. She apparently wrote a book about her life...it's probably on Amazon.

2/02/2006 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rosamond Carr wrote her biography called "Land of a Thousand Hills" with her niece's assistance. It is an amazing book which will have you laughing on one page and crying on the next. She and her "adventurer" husband moved to Africa soon after they married.
When Ros was divorced she started a pyrethrum plantation near Ruhengeri. She loved Rwanda with a passion and her orphanage, Imbabazi, has saved many young souls. She lived in Rwanda for over 50 years. (My dear friend Cathy Emmerson worked with Ms. Carr for a year and is now running her own little school and looking after the people in her community.)This book is truly one of the best I have ever read and I highly recommend it! You will know what a truly special lady Ros was and why she is considered a hero in Rwanda.

7/25/2010 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morgan C,
I am a Rwandan and I think you made a mistake in your blog. The first paragraph in " Genocide Orphans", the name of the orphanage is "Imbabazi" not "Imbubazi" because there is no such word as Imbubazi.
Thanks!

1/18/2011 8:54 PM  

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