The Power of Dreams and Inspiration
A Message from the Foundation Raïssi
When I was a kid, I dreamed of travelling and discovering the rest of the world. I was born in a small town by Lake Kivu in Northern Rwanda, and in those days, the rest of the world for me was limited to only one country: our neighbour Congo (formerly known as Zaire). I would spend hours sitting on rocks by the lakeshore, scrutinising the water and the islands I could see on the horizon, extremely curious about life on the other side. On market days, merchants in pirogues would cross over with all sorts of goods to sell: bananas, goats, fish. It was a feast for the eyes and the senses. I was rapt with wonder at the sight of these foreign people speaking tongues I didn’t understand, people who made me even more impatient to discover the rest of world.
As I was growing up and becoming more aware of the social divisions that mined the Rwandese society, I started feeling like a foreigner in my own land. That feeling only grew stronger when those divisions led us to war and genocide. The little boy sitting on the rocks by Lake Kivu didn’t know that his country would open its doors to the worst evil known to mankind, not once, but so many times we lost count. He did not know that brothers could destroy brothers for no rational reason, that one could reject people of the same ascendance, hunt them down and slaughter them. He did not know that ethnic identity would be something we would erase in shame from our discourse, a refusal to acknowledge that who we are individually, regardless of our different lineage, diverging opinions or inclinations is intricately part of who we are as a people.
It is sad to say that my feeling of estrangement became even stronger after the war when the ethnic-blind idealist that I am, found himself in the traps of post-genocide divisive politics.
When I was a kid, dreams were a place of wonderment, not a place to escape my world, but a place to complete it. As a teen and young adult, dreams became a place to escape the evil around me, even if just in my mind.
As a mature man, I made a conscious decision that dreams would not be a place to evade my reality but a reality I was to build, a place to look forward to.
But dreams are not the only thing that sustained me in my darkest hours. I drew my strength from so many people around me, people without whom I would have never survived any of the things life threw at me. Amongst those were strangers, who in so many ways were my kindred, accompanying me every day through my ordeals and victories. They helped me to know that there isn’t anything one can’t survive if one believes in themselves, that even the worst storms or dark times are always followed by sunshine and brightness.
UMURAGE is my way of giving back to the people who inspired so many of us and of feeding the dreams of everyone, who like me feel the urge to build something to enable them to move forward. A tribute to the public personalities, community leaders, inventors, courageous mothers and sons, inspirational figures, some of whom we’ve met, others whom we heard of but never crossed paths with. We see our dreams in their dreams, our story in their stories. Their journeys mirror ours in ways only God knows how to design.
People who live a life of integrity not expecting any recognition, stay humble amongst the praises. Their strength fortifies us, and their intelligence enlightens us. Their generosity compels us to be more compassionate, and their milestones give us units by which to measure the greatness of humankind.
Let’s make UMURAGE a place where legacy makers can find strength and encouragement to carry on their journey and continue inspiring us. Let’s make it a place where those going through tough times or self-doubt will find the inspiration to conquer their lives and build their own inspirational legacies.
And most of all, let’s make UMURAGE the gateway to the collective legacy of our motherland.
This is what I want future generations to know of this moment in time.
About Um’Khonde Patrick Habamenshi, UMURAGE Founder
The quest to set his own legacy right became central to his adult life after he was almost left broken by the war and genocide in the nineties that claimed so many of his loved ones and almost decimated his native Rwanda, and the divisive politics of post-genocide Rwanda that almost claimed his freedom.
His memoirs, Rwanda Where Souls Turn to Dust: My Journey from Exile to Legacy, published in 2009, showed the author and poet the importance of sharing his story with the world if he wanted to truly reclaim his legacy.
Sharing his story with the Canadian public, especially young students and pupils, as a member of the Historica Canada “Passages to Canada” speakers bureau, earned him a Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, in recognition for his contributions to diversity education and community service in his adopted country.
In 2006, Um’Khonde realised a lifelong dream to become an international development expert. In the last 12 years, his work has taken him across the whole continent, from Swaziland, Malawi and South Africa in the south to the Congo and Cameroun in Central Africa and Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry in the west, just to name a few. This has been an amazing opportunity to serve his continent, learn more of its diverse history and culture and meet people who are making a difference in all those wonderful countries.