Giving solace, smiles … and pineapples. 

Rwanda is a small and beautiful, landlocked country in the heart of Africa.  It is only a little bigger than Munster in Ireland though it has a population of over 12 million compared to Munster’s 1.25m!

April 7th 2024 marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1994 Rwandan genocide when almost 1 million people were killed in 100 days.  In the 30 years since the 1994 genocide hundreds of thousands of survivors have had to reinvent themselves and go in search of ‘new’ families.  Child survivors were separated from their parents and orphaned with little or no knowledge of their family history.  Grandmothers lost all belonging to them, mothers were no longer mothers. A generation of families and their stories were lost.

This year, the 100 days are being marked by remembrance ceremonies being held to honour and respect all of those who lost their lives but also to help those who have not yet spoken to break their silence about the horrors they endured in their homes during those 100 days in 1994.  

Team Hope partner, Solace Ministries, has been offering support to victims of the genocide since 1995 by creating a space where survivors, in particular orphans and widows, can feel safe while also offering them the opportunity to rebuild their lives. While Solace was originally set up in 1995 to respond to the overwhelming need for trauma counselling, the team quickly realised that counselling alone was not going to allow survivors to lift themselves out of the situations they found themselves in post genocide.  Those who had been managing before were now poor.  Those who were poor before were destitute.

However, through a volunteer system of coordinators, Solace Ministries is reaching out to hundreds of survivors across Rwanda offering them not only counselling services but also guidance, training and the help they need to live purposeful and fulfilling lives.

One way in which people are being helped to rebuild their lives is by growing pineapples! 

Two years ago Team Hope supported one group of survivors to set up the Kabagali Pineapple Project.  The group of 178 farmers, 78% of whom are women, were given the knowledge, land and inputs to allow them plant a community pineapple farm while also planting pineapples in their own kitchen gardens at home.  The results have been amazing! The smiles were infectious.  712 households are now reaping the benefits of this project, both in terms of psychosocial support as well as improved nutrition and increased income from selling their harvests to support the basic needs of their families, including school fees.  As a result, the children in these households are growing up in an environment that is more holistically healthy in terms of their mental, emotional, intellectual and physical growth meaning that the cycle of trauma, both direct and intergenerational, is slowly but gradually coming to an end.   Families are rebuilding their stories and making new ones.  Survivors are not only smiling but helping others smile with them. 

And in the meantime Solace Ministries will continue to offer support to the victims of the 1994 genocide as long as it is needed … until the last person has broken their silence and receives the solace and support they greatly need and deserve so that they too can live in peace knowing they are not alone. 

To allow Team Hope to continue to support the work of Solace Ministries please consider supporting us with a one off or monthly donation.  Every little bit makes a difference.