THE FOUNDING MEMBERS' STORY
Jessica Markowitz, Founder
I believe an investment in a girl’s education is one of the best ways to create hope for a better future and nurture a community. When a young woman achieves the opportunity to be educated she will pass on the gift of knowledge to those who come after and a life will be changed forever.
Since I was eleven years old I have organized bake sales, car washes and all different kinds of fundraisers to raise money for my sisters in Rwanda. With my own eyes I have watched the life of a young Rwandan girl transform through the gift of an education and my life will never be the same. Richard's Rwanda now over ten years strong is more than a bake sale, it's a way to create a smile and a future. There is no stronger bond then girl to girl/women to women. I remember when I first met Richard in my home in 2006 and from that moment on my life has been forever changed. I was introduced to this beautiful country and the amazing community of Nyamata which will always remain close to my heart.
In sixth grade, my best friend Jessica approached me with the difficult goal to help girls receive an education in Rwanda. At twelve years old, I was living in a personal American bubble, and I had never heard of the Rwandan genocide, let alone that Rwanda even existed, until she asked me. Despite this, I decided to join and after a few meetings, we formed Richard’s Rwanda. Since then, we have worked tirelessly to provide girls living in rural Nyamata with scholarships to attend school, a rare opportunity.
My summers in Rwanda have educated me in ways that books or classes never could – I’ve discovered so much more about myself and the world around me. Richard’s Rwanda introduced me to a variety of ideas, concepts, and stories that keep me actively processing and reflecting, and also finding alternative ways to bridge gaps, utilize developments in technology, and understand societal construct to eliminate a cultural divide.
When I first joined Richard’s Rwanda in the sixth grade I had little knowledge about what lied outside of my small bubble. As my years of membership progressed, I began to learn about the importance of girl empowerment and how no matter one’s location, building a girl to girl relationship is crucial to progress the development of global perspective. Richard’s Rwanda taught me that anyone can get involved and anyone can make a difference, no matter the scale. Traveling to Rwanda and meeting the girls we had been helping made me realize that even though we might all come from extremely different backgrounds, we are all still fourteen year old girls living our day to day lives. The values I gained from visiting Rwanda, have made an extreme imprint on who I am as a person and I have no one else to thank but my beautiful friends in Nyamata.
When I think of a personally defining experience in my life and something that has allowed me to get where I am today, I undoubtedly think of Richard’s Rwanda. This group has shown me how to grow as a leader, and more specifically as a woman. I have learned to be assertive and confident, use my education and intelligence to speak from my heart, to never be afraid of the things I can achieve when I put my heart into it. Whether it was traveling to and experiencing the beautifully lush and buzzing country of Rwanda, meeting the inspiring and compassionate young women in Nyamata, or back in Seattle where we were working to ensure these girls received the education they deserve. I have great pride for Richard’s Rwanda and will continue to think of the resilient girls of Nyamata every time I see the sunrise!
When I first joined Richard's Rwanda in seventh grade I had no idea the extent that it would impact me. While attending meetings, fundraising and writing letters to the girls added some excitement to the regular school day, the significance of our efforts truly became clear to me during the 2013 trip. Despite everything the country had been through, the amount of love and acceptance we were shown was incredible. I was barely a teenager at the time, hyper-aware of others perception of me. But it was dancing and singing outside of Nyamata Catholique that I formed the confidence and certainty that I now possess. After admiring the drive and determination of the young women from Nyamata, I worked hard to apply that to my own education. I am forever grateful for the skills and memories that I gained through Richard’s Rwanda and feel so lucky to have experienced it in such a formative time in my life.