Liberty University students are helping a country heal from genocide.
In 1994, 1 million men, women and children were killed in 100 days in Rwanda. Liberty’s involvement in the recovery first started in
March 2010 when university leaders went there to meet with spiritual leaders to assess the many needs that still existed a decade later. This trip laid the foundation for the first team of Liberty students to arrive there in March 2011. The team, 21 students from Liberty’s counseling and psychology departments, trained teachers and pastors to serve as lay counselors.
In November 2011, Liberty returned with 19 students on a 10-day mission trip where they traveled to different villages and counseled victims as well as perpetrators of the genocide.
After seeing pictures of the team on Facebook, Becki Falwell, wife of Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., immediately made contact with the students and soon learned that they had an even bigger goal: to change a village forever.
“I saw their passion and it touched me, and I said, ‘We can get the whole campus involved.’”
She called Johnnie Moore, vice president for executive projects, and asked for more information on the trips. (And, as it happened, she said it was God’s perfect timing because Moore was meeting with a Rwandan student at the time). They then planned a brainstorming meeting with staff from Liberty’s Center for Global Engagement, as well as students, and the Restore Rwanda campaign was born.
A Facebook page was created for the project, with pictures and a video. As announcements were made in Convocation, money began to pour in to help build a preschool building in the village.
“Not everyone can go on a weeklong mission trip,” Becki Falwell said, “so I wanted all Liberty students to feel connected to this village, that’s why we posted pictures and a video, to help them feel like they can personally help without making the trip. It’s the first time we have done something like this, adopted a whole village.”
In March 2012, five of the same Liberty students who made the trip that previous fall returned with the money that was raised and dedicated the site of the new building. The school opened this summer with 37 students.
Liberty students contributed most of the $24,000 raised between February and April 2012, which was used to construct the building, furnish it, provide school supplies and uniforms for the children, and pay for a teacher, teacher’s aid, and a representative of the village who will walk the children to school each day.
With news of Restore Rwanda’s impact, other ministries are signing up to help.
One counseling student has raised $16,000 through her church for the project.
Liberty has partnered with World Help, a faith-based humanitarian organization, for the trips. Its founder and president, Vernon Brewer, was the first graduate of Liberty.
Alumnus Cyrus Mad-Bondo (’06, M.B.A.), now Africa regional director for World Help, attended the first day of school in the new preschool building on July 2.
“Many of these mothers would never have been able to send their kids to school (if it weren’t for Liberty),” he said. “It is just an exciting experience to watch kids who have been unschooled for quite some time, and for the first time enter a classroom building.”
He said the dropout rate for older (previously) unschooled children is high and the new preschool will help them stay in school.
“When these children enter school very early, they are likely to stay in school. These children can make life-altering decisions very quickly.”
Moore said future trips to Rwanda are being planned for November 2012 and March 2013. More building projects are also being planned to meet the needs of children in nearby villages.
“Some of the little children have been peeking in windows of the new school, wondering when they will also have an opportunity for education, and Liberty wants to be there to give it to them,” Moore said.