Rwanda and Haiti share a lot in common. Both countries have gone through a difficult past, characterised by human loss, devastation, catastrophes and challenges that seemed insurmountable. On the other hand, the people of both countries have over the years continued to show the resilience to fight on, go against the odds and triumph amidst all those trials. That is according to Haitian-American author Joe E. Sully, who was recently in Rwanda as part of his African tour to promote his book ‘Surviving America: From the bench to the podium’ which recollects his personal journey from the Caribbean nation to the U.S, where he went on to establish himself as an entrepreneur and author. Sully, who spoke about his book at Kigali Public Library on January 10, says that he chose to come to Kigali to share his story mainly because Rwanda as a country has defied odds and achieved extraordinary feats. When he thought of sharing his book, which mainly focuses on the dynamic around immigration, Rwanda is the first country that came to his mind. The other countries he planned to visit were Tanzania, South Africa and Ghana. “Rwanda has always been my dream country to visit. It is my first time on the continent and definitely my first time in Rwanda. In 2005, I was working on a project at the US Embassy in Haiti and I had to do some research on reconciliation and conflict resolution,” “Rwanda was the first country I had to research about because of what this country and the people have gone through especially in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which took so many innocent lives,” Sully told The New Times. During that period, from 2005 to 2007, Sully says he was fascinated by Rwanda’s story, the recovery, the milestones in unity and reconciliation. When the opportunity to travel to the continent came, Rwanda was the first on the list. “When I finished the book and as soon as Covid-19 was over and I was ready to travel, the first place I wanted to go was Rwanda. This is actually not about the genocide alone,” “The whole Rwanda story, the leadership, the respect this country has gained at the global stage in general. What a turnaround! In just a short time, about a generation, you turned around the country and I wanted to see that for myself,” Inspiration to many Having been born in Haiti and endured difficult times, including surviving a 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220, 000 people, Sully, a former journalist, said his story and that of many Haitians relates to that of Rwandans. He also believes that his book would help demystify many issues around immigration, how some people believe that life comes sweet and easy when you relocate to western countries which make it difficult for people from less developed countries to get visas. It details the rigours of surviving in a foreign country, the pain of not being easily accepted but also touches on the opportunities available, which if well exploited, can turn your life around and move from nothing to something. Sully believes his story will not only inspire people but it will also show the good and ugly side of migration, which in most cases is never spoken about. “All my life I have always sought to contribute to people’s lives: To do good and be good. The good I wish to do by sharing my life’s story, hoping that it might be inspiring to anyone out there, particularly young folks, is to lift up my fellow men and women who may be facing situations like mine,” “My assumption is that I have been through life vicissitudes for a reason. I want to turn the projector on some of my life’s numerous obstacles to let you, the reader, grasp my scars and my healing,” an excerpt from the book reads. “They are the scars of an émigré who became fatherless and homeless at the young age of 14 years old,” he writes, detailing how he had to start over, from scratch, by going back to school, doing random jobs like most immigrants in this country do. It is a book that debunks the so-called American dream and brings to fore the underbelly of racism, rejection, feeling unwanted and empty but also shows that when you are determined, you overcome. The author of five books spent his first 30 years in his native Haiti, where he was born in the capital Port-au-Prince and worked as a journalist for 15 years. He covered most of the difficult stories that unfolded in Haiti over the years. The book sheds light on many misconceptions around immigrating to western countries -the expectations vs the reality, the opportunity and challenges. It also highlights how once can strive to define themselves in a foreign country, refuse to be second class citizens and explore one’s full potential, without letting the challenges stand in the way. Sully relocated to the U.S in 2011 after a tumultuous time in his home country, characterised by civil unrest, natural calamities, political instability and many other scandals, mainly externally influenced, which he came face to face with as a journalist. It is a good and easy read that shows how one’s resilience can determine the future, against all odds. The book can be found in different libraries including Kigali Public Library.