Surviving the the Rwanda Genocide - the story of one Girl

 One Girl's story of the Rwanda Genocide

Surviving the Rwanda Genocide

One Girl's Story

Monie sat there almost stoic like. We had  met a few minutes earlier and were outside of Gisemba Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. The war of 1994, was over, 800,000 people had died in a most horrible genocide including the parents of Monie whose only crime was that they belonged to the wrong tribe.

I tried to make her feel at ease by giving her a Coke and a croissant I had taken with me as my lunch, but she sat there just frozen. Her eyes looked sad, her face sunken, her shoulders slumped. Monie did not want to talk. I could see the pain of her heart. Her soul had been scarred and wounded. She was still like a raw wound, hiding like an injured animal inside of herself.

Just a few weeks earlier she had seen her father beaten and shot, her mother and sisters raped and killed. She herself was thrown for dead into a pit of bodies where she remained until nightfall and then crawled up through the dead bodies and made her way back to Kigali. There she knew of Gisemba Orphanage, where she knocked and was able to find shelter even though the person running it was a Hutu and not a Tutsi like her. She remained in hiding for three weeks until the war was over and the Hutu soldiers had fled and the Tutsi rebels had won the conflict and saved lives, even though it was to late for her family.

Monie still sat there, she moved a few times and I thought as to how I could reach her soul, touch her heart, help her on her way to healing?

I understood what was going on inside of her. She did not trust me. Like with so many people when they meet, there was an absence of trust. This little girl of eight had seen so much, had been hurt so severely, that it was safer not to risk, safer not to trust, to reach out and take the hand of this white man.

My thoughts went to my own life and how I reacted to someone when I did not trust, when I was skeptical about their intent and motive. When words would flow from their lips, but my heart could not receive them.

I thought how trust was a sharing; a knowing that I will not be hurt will not be used, abused, thrown away. Trust means I can be open, honest, vulnerable, share myself knowing that I will not be rejected, but what I say, who I am will be taken to heart and held there ever so tightly.

Monie did not trust me. I looked at her into the eyes, took her small frail hand and led her down the path to town. We stopped at a little restaurant that had just recently reopened. Bullet holes, stains were everywhere. The owner came to us and I asked him to get us some ice cream. He looked at me like I was crazy. Ice cream in Rwanda, with no electricity, no ingredients, impossible.

I looked over to a taxi driver and asked him to come. I gave him 20 dollars and instructions to go to the Belgian Sabena Hotel and bring us some ice cream. He thought I was crazy. Mumbled something about those crazy Americans.

The voice of Bette Midler drifted through the hot, humid African Air, "From a distance." I thought how ironic. That was exactly my problem.

In the meantime we sat there. We had ordered some fries and chicken. I have moved a plate in front of her. She looked at it. I could see her mind churning. She grabbed the drumstick and ate like a person who had not eaten in days. The food at the orphanage was nothing like this.

I began to tell her about my daughter and told her some funny things. She never spoke but her eyes began to gain color and sparkle. I began to tell her stories of my youth in Germany, of the times I spend all alone not thinking anyone understood me. About my father leaving when I was young and never seeing him again. Not knowing whether he was dead or alive.

She listened and even nodded or shook her head at times. Monie was slowly coming alive. The sound of the taxi returning got both of our attention. The driver approached us with a big grin and a package.

Quickly we opened it, got some plates and ate Mango, Pineapple, and Passion Fruit Sorbet. Monie surprised me when she started to say a few things as to how it tasted and how she had some before like this with her Papa. She was coming out her cocoon; she was starting to trust this strange white man who made her laugh, who ordered ice cream via a taxi.

She began to unfold. I had made her feel good about herself. For a moment the pain was put on a shelf. I had affirmed her as Monie, simply by being with her. My hand reached out for hers. For a moment she hesitated, and then put her tiny brown hand into mine. We smiled.

There is a great landlocked ocean in everyone, potential not yet discovered; not yet dared to be let out. There are words floating around that have not found the substance they fit; the words are ourselves-as yet unsung. Trust is knowing that the other person near us wants those oceans to be without dams, boundaries, those potentials fully realized. I saw it happen with Monie, even without words, just as our hands met, our eyes looked at one another. She knew that I understood her.

Like a flower that meets the morning sun she began to unfold, to talk to me, of her pain, of her heart. She trusted, she knew I understood. It was not the ice-cream, the food, it was that she knew I was not gong to harm her. She knew I was safe to be with, a place of refuge after a long storm.

She talked, I listened, and tears welled up in my eyes as I heard her story in childlike terms. I felt her heart, I felt her soul, felt her pain. It was as if I was experiencing it vicariously. She saw my tears, she felt my hand, she squeezed and we were in the same place.

Monie did now know it, she did not understand it all, but she was on her way to be healed to be opened, to be healed by sun, to be touched by light. Her wound could heal as it was exposed.

Strangely that night I thought about my own past, the wounds that were still there. The ache of heart of rejections, of feeling thrown away like a used Kleenex. I took my Swiss Army Knife and unfolded the small blade and squeezed it in my hand. I could feel the sharpness. The words let go came to me. I opened my hand and the knife dropped to floor. Symbolic of letting go of the pain of it all.

Monie will live with scars in her life, for all of her life. The miracle is that they do not hurt anymore. From time to time she will feel pain, but they will be fleeting reminders from her past. There will always be scars, they can always be seen, but she will know that there is light that heals the wounds and that the scars are reminders not so much of the wounds but of the healing light of trust.


Children of AfricaChildren of Africa: Stories, pictures that touch the heart and soul.  Accounts of the life of children in Africa.

Africa's Children-Struggling to SurviveAfrica's Children Struggling to Survive: Life anywhere can be a struggle - but here in Africa it is about survival.

Meet Monie and Leakey

A child's Survival of the Rwanda Genocide:  1 million people in 100 days were killed -one girl's story

A boy like mePeter - a boy just like me: A boy thrown away at the time of his birth -survives and thrives in spite of.

Life in a Kampala Neighborhood

Life in a Kampala Neighborhood: Life for the average Ugandan is simply tough.

A day in a Ugandan VillageA day in a Ugandan Village:   A typical day in an African Village in Uganda. It takes a villageIt takes a Village:  The African concept to pulling together - called Harambee makes a village work. Encounter with a Street Boy in Kenya:  Meeting a street boy under unique circumstance.
Life Saving Medicine - Soap and Water: Simple soap & water can save lives. Children born into slumsChildren born ino Slums: Born in a slum means no future - unless there is an education.

A day in a school in Africa - Kampala UgandaA day in a School in Africa: Students in Africa have it very different than the West.

Aids and the children of AfricaAids and the Children of Africa: Many children in Africa have been affected by AIDS.
Culture Patriarchal Ways and Education of Girls: Girls are often overlooked when it comes to an education. Born in Africa - Born in the USABorn in the USA and Born in Africa -Where you are born, determines how you live: Bugolobi Church for ChildrenThey just keep on coming: A church for children in Kampala - Uganda-a most unique approach. Impact your WorldImpact your World:  Volunteer  in Uganda.  One or two weeks that will change your life.

Child Sponsorship in Northern Uganda:  Giving a life to an orphaned child in Northern Uganda.

Children - Born into slums-The Solution=Education:ducation  The only doorway out of poverty is education.

Send a book to a child in AfricaSend a book to a Child in Africa: In Uganda you do not find many books for children in homes.

Start a Library in Africa for ChildrenStart a Library in Africa for Children: Most schools do not have a decent library in Uganda

The children of the LRAThe children of the LRA:  Kidnapped-brainwashed- turned into killers.

Make a difference in the life of a childMake a difference in the Life of a Child: Visit Africa and give yourself. The children of Africa in PicturesAfrican Children Photo Album:  The pictures of Africa's Children tell their story. What can I do?What can I do?  There are many ways you can help a child in Africa.


See  Africa's Children in Pictures on pages 1,2, 3, 4,5,6.

Page1  Page 2  Page3 Page4 Page5 Page6


sign up for African Insights Blog - Newsletter

Daily Uganda Life-Travel Tips-Cultural Insights-Updates on Facebook. 

Children of Africa - Two Children - Two Stories

Copyright 1996-2011 by Kabiza Wilderness Safaris. All material on this "" site is the exclusive property of Kabiza Wilderness Safaris. E-mail for permission to use material on this site.

Kabiza Wilderness Safaris