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Ellie and Jessica in Nyamata .jpg

The Founding Story


The Founding 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.

Ellie Neilson

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.

Ani Schroeter

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.

Kiki Benirschke

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!

Taylor Danielson

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.



History and Objective

History and Objective

Richard Rwanda-IMPUHWE was founded by Jessica Markowitz when she was eleven years old to support educational opportunities for girls in Rwanda in the rural village of Nyamata. Jessica’s original inspiration stemmed from a Rwandan man named Richard Kananga, a representative from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in Rwanda. Richard stayed with her family in the United States, and he recounted many sad tales about the horrendous 1994 genocide. With his inspiration, Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE  reached out to 50 girls to help them achieve an education by supplying them with what they need in order to attend school.  Richard’s Rwanda IMPUHWE has established student chapters in several middle and high school across the Unites States working together to support Rwandan girls’ education. We provide financial support to low-income girls in the rural area of Nyamata to enable them to complete their primary education and 6 years of secondary school. Through the completion of their education, we hope to enhance their ability to earn income and become leaders in their community. 

Organizational Objectives:

  • Enable girls to finish primary school and attend 6 years of secondary school;
  • Reduce the gender discrimination that prevents girls from completing primary and secondary education.
  • Develop an on-going cross-cultural exchange program between students in Seattle, WA and primary and secondary girls in Rwanda.
  • Support the mentorship provided by girls from Fawe Girls School in the Rwandan capital Kigali, to low income girls in the rural district of Nyamata.
  • Collaborate with local NGOs in Rwanda to maintain the support for girls to complete their secondary education.
  • Students in Seattle will raise funds to support program activities through proposal writing and fund-raising activities.
  • Increase community awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding the Rwandan genocide by organizing speakers, remembrance events and community outreach activities.


  • Winner of New York University's Changemaker Challenge, receiving $10,000 in seed funds to turn ideas into reality
  • Raised nearly $250,000 to support girls in Rwanda to finish their primary and secondary education
  • Awarded a $25,000 matching grant from Paul Allen Foundation
  • Expansion from original chapter at Seattle Girls’ School to six additional high school chapters;
  • Developed a partnership with a local Rwandan girls’ school FAWE (Forum African Women Educationalist Girls School) 
  • World of Children $15,000 grant awarded 



The Imbuto Scholarship Program

The Imbuto Foundation contributes to national efforts within the fields of health, education and economic empowerment. This program was created as a result of children failing to pursue their secondary education due to lack of funding. The scholarship fund provides for tuition, uniform, transportation and other school requirements for the entire secondary school cycle of six years. The students are enrolled into the program based on predetermined criteria that includes:

  • Vulnerability
  • High disciplinary record
  • High performance grades
  • Enrollment in a public school

Seattle Girls' School

Seattle Girls’ School combats the trend of girls losing confidence before competence, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, with a transformative experience for girls in grades 5-8. At SGS, girls are challenged to discover who they are and who they want to become. 



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In the News

In the News


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August 23rd, 2011 – Heartofgoldgirls.com

June 9th, 2011 — MTV Act

February 13th, 2011 – World Vision Report

November 10th, 2010 – King 5 Evening Magazine

October 28, 2010 – iCUBED.us – intro article & interview

September 17, 2010 – Good News Now article about Jessica speaking at TEDx in Redmond, WA

September 13, 2010 – KUOW Public Radio interviewing Jessica Markowitz

June 23, 2010 – Jessica being honored at the White House as a member of 2010 Parade All-America High School Service Team

June 6, 2010 – Jessica on the front of PARADE Magazine with Matthew McConaughey – Seattle PI online

February 11, 2010 – See Jessica on CNN

December 24, 2009 – Education for all Op-Ed – Seattle PI

November 10, 2009 – “Jessica Markowitz, 14, Helps Heal the World” – I Heart Daily

Fall, 2009 – “Seattle to Rwanda: Every Child in School” – Results Advocate (page 5)

October 22, 2009 – “Seattle Teen Gives Rwandan Girls The Gift of Education” – Huffington Post

October 22, 2009 – “Garfield freshman’s charity begins at school”– Seattle Times

April 22, 2009 – “It’s time for a new chapter in the global illiteracy story – Queen” – Jordan Times

June 17, 2008 – “Kyle Taylor’s Road Trip America” – Positive Youth News

September 20, 2007 – “Seattle seventh-grader offers help to Rwandans” – Seattle PI

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Rwanda Trip – July 2011

Rwanda Trip – July 2010

Seeds of Compassion Video – 2008

How Girls Can Save the World – A program sponsored by Nike

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