This was Elizabeth Dearborn Davis’s hope for the two girls when she met them a year ago when they were accepted into the Akilah Institute. “When you teach a woman, you empower a nation,” said Davis.
More than two years have passed since Davis moved to Rwanda. After the genocide she became inspired by the resilience and reconciliation she witnessed. She wanted to aid in their progress of those affected by the Genocide. Within 20 months her vision for a school that emphasized leadership, development, market-relevant training and entrepreneurial skills was realized. Within 20 months she has changed the lives of young Rwandan women like Allen and Noella.
“I have no siblings or parents, but I have hope for my future. I want to become an independent woman and start my own business. Akilah is giving me the skills to reach my goals,” said Noella.
When growing up in her community Allen recalled when she was taught that women should not have careers and those who did were not attractive to men. She grew up in Uganda to Hutu and Tutsi parents and was orphaned at an early age. When she returned to Rwanda in 1994 life was hard for her and those around her.
Noella was born in the Southern Province. As a survivor of the 1994 genocide where Hutu neighbors killed her father, she always knew she wanted to make a difference and take care of her family. She went on to graduate high school in 2005, but felt hopeless for the next five years. “I used to say I have no job, nothing to do.”
Noella found out about the Akilah Institute through a friend’s connection at the U.S. Embassy in 2010. She said, “When I heard about the school I rushed to get on the internet and found all the information I could and filled out an application.”
Upon arriving at the Akilah Institute Noella met many girls like her, and was happy to have a new family that believed that everything was possible. Allen said, “Once a week during class I and other girls would form a circle call Kanatopy, where we would share our experiences and ideas for how we could make our community a better place.”
As Allen got older she said she realized how many children where orphans with no one to care for them. Those who did have families where always living without both parents. She said when she went to fetch water and spoke to the children she was amazed by how smart and strong they were. She said the idea she always shared over and over was a plan to see, “children have someone who will give them love. Without care you never think about having a future, and you are always hopeless.”
In the future Allen hopes to open an orphanage, and like Akilah, she would like to help young people to grow up thinking positively about themselves and others. She also wants to possibly become apart of Akilah’s executive board.
Allen and Noella are now traveling with Akilah throughout the U.S. In Tampa they shared their story and promoted the Akilah Institute in hopes of raising money to fund a 90-acre campus on the shores of Lake Cyohoha. Their next stop is Chicago followed by Seattle, San Francisco and Santa Cruz.