How Imbuto Foundation’s mentorship programme helps genocide survivors

Participants of the Mentorship Meet organised by Imbuto Foundation, collaboration with AERG.

Alphonse Uwimpuhwe eagerly tells the story of how he worked his way up, from being a hopeless orphan in Nyamasheke District, to working as a househelp in Kigali, and how he went to school and graduated with a degree in disaster management.

Today, the 30-year-old genocide survivor works as a manager for a betting company in Nyamasheke and wants to be his own boss in the future as a successful entrepreneur.

If life as an orphan was tough, Uwimpuhwe has always wanted to improve it.

And, two years ago, he was recruited by Imbuto Foundation to be one of 200 young male genocide survivors in schools who were paired with successful entrepreneurs and professionals in different fields for a career and life skills mentorship programme.

He says the latter was a good initiative because his mentor taught him important things that are helping him to improve his life.

“My mentor taught me important life skills like saving money from the little I make, live well with other people, and always seek advice from other people. He also told me that I always need to think about moving from one level to another in life,” he said.

He spoke to the media on Saturday in Kigali as 100 mentors and 194 mentees in the programme met to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide, share their experiences, and resolve on what they want to do next to improve their lives.

The Director General of Imbuto Foundation, Sandrine Umutoni, said that the mentorship programme was extended to young men after realizing its positive results from a similar programme for young women in the past.

“The reason why we are here is to be able to celebrate life together and discuss how we can continue working to achieve our goals of living a dignified life,” Umutoni told the participants on Saturday.

Both mentors and mentees took part in exercises aimed at strengthening their relationships, providing mentees with neccessary guidance on life skills and career development, among others.

Under the theme of “Strong and Dignified”, young men between the ages of 22-27 are recruited in the mentorship programme.

Two main things are offered here; career guidance and personal development through constant counselling on a range of issues from mental health, life skills such as time management, and relationships among others.

Samuel Dusengiyumva, a Genocide survivor himself, shared his personal experiences and encouraged the young men present to value themselves and set life goals.

Guest Speaker, Emmanuel Bigenimana, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth commended mentees present for their efforts in seeking to be self-reliant and to reflect dignity in all that they do.

Pascal Ngendahimana, a mentor in the programme, says that his voluntary job is to support his mentee in daily life.

But it isn’t like the latter has no lessons to share.

“This programme is about sharing our experiences. It is a rewarding programme because it heals people’s hearts, increases their hope, and helps them to integrate into daily life,” he said.

As a 38-year old genocide survivor who is now a civil servant and has been working for ten years since he graduated from university, Ngendahimana is the typical mentor who is needed in the programme.

That’s because the mentorship initiative is expected to create a strong bond between the mentor and the mentee, which makes him a perfect candidate to inspire the young survivors like 25-year old Christian Ngombwa who graduated from a law school in Kigali six months ago.

“We learn a lot from mentors because they are senior to us and understand a lot about this life,” Ngombwa said.

The latter doesn’t have a job yet but he wants to contribute in the legal education area.

“I think many people get into trouble with the law and end up with a lot of problems because they don’t understand the laws,” he said.

Imbuto Foundation's Deputy Director General, Geraldine Umutesi, addressing mentees that took part in the Mentorship Meet.

Through group exercises, mentees present shared their resolutions on various goals aimed at ensuring they live exemplary lives.

Ngombwa, who is already enrolled in Imbuto’s mentorship programme for young men, lost both parents and three siblings during the Genocide.

“After surviving the Genocide and living through different challenges, we now see that life after the Genocide is possible and we get vivid examples in our mentors,” he said.

Through the programme, Imbuto Foundation hopes that the young men will be mentored and supported by inspirational members of the community, leaders and volunteers willing to help shape their future.