Today marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide. On 07 April 1994, a vicious hunt and kill programme to destroy the Tutsi people of Rwanda begun.
The Start of the Genocide
In the evening of 06 April 1994, a plane was shot down as it came into land in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The plane was carrying a number of dignitaries, including the then president of Rwanda. The following morning, a well-organised scheme to erradicate Tutsis from Rwanda was unfurled. Roadblocks went up, teams of killers were dispatched and a coordinated plan was unleashed across the country.
In the span of 100 days, more than 800,000 people were killed by hand, machete, gun and grenade. Women, children and the elderly were not spared. Rape and HIV were used as weapons of war, with HIV infected men raping women so as to spread the disease. (Estimates of the numbers killed vary between 800,000 – 1,000,000+.)
The mass killing was brought to an end by the invasion of a rebel Rwandan army, led by the now president, Paul Kagame.
Since 15 July 1994, survivors of the genocide have been working to recover their lives, their dignity, their humanity, their sense of hope and of course, their capacity to care for themselves.
Survivors Fund (SURF)
In 1997, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, OBE, founded Survivors Fund (SURF), a charity dedicated to helping survivors of the Rwandan genocide. A native Rwandan, Mary grew up outside of her home country, forced to flee from previous political violence. Survivors Fund works to raise awareness of about the ongoing plight of survivors, to raise money to support survivor-led organisations and non-profits and to support those groups with capacity-building skills and training.
In 2003, Liam Dempsey was introduced to SURF. Liam was looking for a charity to support through gifts of in-kind donations of design services. It was clear to Liam from very early on that SURF was an amazing charity whose work was making a real difference to very real people who had suffered mind-boggling levels of violence.
In many ways, our work with SURF — which has been continuous from 2003 until today — has been a core feature of LBDesign. As a creative agency, we are committed to working with people and organisations that are making a difference in the world. Our introduction to Survivors Fund, through Liam’s volunteer work, opened our eyes to the very real needs of so many people in the world today.
Learn and Help
As the world now takes time to commemorate the loss of life and devastation that was the Rwandan genocide, we invite you to spend time learning about its history and to take an active step to do something to help survivors now, today.
Photo by Andrew Sutton, used with permission.