The Rwanda Healing Project: Connections And Documentation

During our spring 2007 visit to the Rugerero Survivors Village, dozens of families and hundreds of children shared their stories, dreams and aspirations through multiple workshops in painting, photography, a pen pal project, dance performances, sports, and video interviews. The creative outputs of both the local participants and international volunteers have been presented in a number of exhibitions across the United States to promote understanding of the impact of genocide and build support for the project.

Barefoot Artists volunteer, Terry Tempest Williams, recently published Finding Beauty in a Broken World. A nationally acclaimed author and activist, Terry went to Rwanda with Barefoot Artists in 2005 as scribe for The Rwanda Healing Project. The book shares Williams’ experience in Rwanda, Italy, and the American southwest.

A singular meditation on how the natural and human worlds both collide and connect in violence and beauty, this work constructs a narrative of hopeful acts by taking that which is broken and creating something whole.

The Rwanda Healing Project is a deeply moving 23 minute long documentary film created by Chris Landy, a Philadelphia-based photographer and filmmaker. He traveled to Rwanda with Barefoot Artists in the spring of 2007 to interview and film the completion, dedication and impact of the building of the Rugerero Genocide Memorial sponsored by Barefoot Artists. This monument is now the official memorial site of the whole Rubavu district in West Rwanda.

The Spark of Hope: Healing and Reconciliation in Modern Rwanda is a photo exhibition that celebrates the beauty and resilience of the children of the Rugerero District in Rwanda. Barefoot Artists photographers Chris Noble, Chris Landy, Komal Soin and Jennifer Heckman give an intimate view of the future of modern Rwanda through their compelling portraits of the daily lives of Rwandese children.

The exhibition was shown at the James A. Michener Art Museum, the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 and at Thomas Jefferson University as part of a campus-wide observance of World AIDS Day 2008. To rent this exhibit please contact jplumb8101@aol.com.

The Rwanda Healing Project, a documentary photo exhibition, was presented at the Dandelion School in Beijing, China in 2007. Photos and artwork from the Rwanda Healing Project were shared with students and faculty at the Dandelion School to inspire their creative process to transform the school environment with leadership from Lily Yeh.

Based on the Pen Pal project at the Rugerero Survivors Village, in April, 2008 Michele Hemenway launched an exhibition titled “Voices of Reason,” that included writing by the students at Frost Middle School, return correspondence from Rwanda, and documentary photos of The Rwanda Healing Project. The exhibition has traveled to several schools, organizations and cities to raise awareness and funds.

Rob Shetterly worked with the Consolidated School (K-8) in Blue Hill, Maine, where he and art teacher Margret Baldwin shared the exhibit pieces with the school and worked with the students to created t-shirts with English – Kinyarwanda “dictionaries” on them. Rob taught the students Kinyarwanda words which they then wrote and illustrated on t-shirts. The beautiful shirts have since been sent to Rugerero. The school also raised over $1,500 to support their peers in the Rugerero Survivors Village and the work of Barefoot Artists.

Students at Maple Shade High School in New Jersey hosted a Unity Day event on June 6th 2008. The keynote speaker, Ms. Susan Ekufu, an enthusiastic young speaker who had emigrated to America from Nigeria as a young child, presented on the subject of the Rwandan Genocide. She was followed by a presentation on The Rwanda Healing Project created and given by the school’s ESL students.

The students have also organized several small fundraising events to support The Rwanda Healing Project and have raised $1,000. Teachers at Maple Shade High School shared that the students’ learning about The Rwanda Healing Project has sparked increased interest in thinking and talking about world events and their impact on us all.

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