Children injured in the Rwandan genocide
Return to Rwanda
A tiny landlocked African country which was the scene of a violent genocide 15 years ago - Rwanda couldn't seem further from leafy Berkshire. But one Sandhurst teacher has been visiting Rwanda for several years to learn about its history.
Sam Hunt, an assistant head, has also raised money for Rwandan orphanages with help from pupils at Sandhurst Comprehensive. This year, Sam and her husband Jeff agreed to make an audio diary for BBC Radio Berkshire of their experiences in Rwanda.
Local Teacher Sam Hunt
Speaking to BBC Radio Berkshire's Clare Catford, Sam explained why she felt compelled to visit the genocide-scarred region.
"Leading up to the genocide, the Tutsis were told that they were vermin." Sam said. "They were told 'you don't deserve to live, and nobody in the world will care if you live or die.'
"We cannot take away the pain that they have experienced, but by going there we can show there are people out there in the world who care if they live or die."
"We want to give some practical support and help to survivors of the genocide, people who still continue to suffer so profoundly, but we also want to educate people in Great Britain, because if enough people stand up and do something positive, we can ensure that this never ever happens again."
The Rwandan genocide erupted on 7 April 1994. It only lasted 100 days but it resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 people. Families, partners and neighbours from the Hutu tribe turned on the minority Tutsi population in the culmination of years of racial hatred fuelled by Belgium colonisation.
Refugees from the Rwandan genocide
Prior to the colonisation of Rwanda, the Hutu and Tutsi tribes lived closely together. The two tribes speak the same language and follow the same traditions.
However, the Belgium colonisers decided the Tutsi tribe was superior, fuelling conflict between the two tribes.
The genocide left a generation of orphans, and many Rwandans suffer to this day from mental trauma and debilitating injuries.
Sam said that meeting survivors of the genocide had 'broken her heart'.
"The image for me was a girl called Solange." she said. "Solange was five during the genocide, and she was raped by over 15 men and infected with HIV/Aids.
"Solange today is in the last stages of an Aids infection and is dying. Looking into that woman's eyes I can only characterise it as she was a body that was just about living, but the person inside was absolutely dead. She's been living like that for 15 years.
"That broke my heart."
Jeff said that he had been moved by meeting a Rwandan woman. She had nine children before the genocide, only three of whom survived.
Rwandan refugees had to flee to Tanzania
He said: "I suppose one of the most moving things that we experienced this year was spending time with the mother of one of the students sponsored through Sam's school program, just sitting in a small room in their house.
"She had nine children and lost six of them in the genocide. Of the three that are left, one is very seriously mentally ill and one has left the country, and she's just left with one child."
Sam Hunt has been awarded the prestigious Anne Frank award, for her work taking pupils across to the Anne Frank museum and teaching them about the Nazi Holocaust.
She said "I take students from Sandhurst School to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
"When the students come back they want to change the world, and they often ask me, how can we help people from more recent genocides?"
Jeff said: "Sam's done a lot of work with the Holocaust Educational Trust. It's quite a conversation stopper if you say you're going on holiday to Rwanda for a couple of weeks. But people are very interested in what we are doing."
"It's 15 years after the genocide, but every year we go there we see progress."
To listen to Sam and Jeff Hunt's next installment of their audio diary from Rwanda, tune in to BBC Radio Berkshire's Clare Catford show on Sunday between 6am and 9am or use 'Listen again' on iPlayer.
last updated: 08/06/2009 at 16:27
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