•Governor Deval Patrick and First Lady Diana Patrick,
•US Fund for UNICEF President, Caryl Stern,
•Organisers of this event, Kaia Miller, Jonathan Goldstein, Kristen Mangelinkx and staff at UNICEF in Boston,
•The many friends of Rwanda here tonight,
This is a special night for me – it is not every day that I receive an award with a President. We are greatly honoured to receive the Children’s Champion Award, and dedicate this recognition to all Rwandans who are committed to paving the way for a brighter future for our children.
I would like to thank all the people who worked hard to make this event happen, as well as all who have joined us here tonight. This year marks 15 years after the genocide, and for Rwandans, signifies hope for a shared journey forward.
Tonight’s event coincides with the optimism we feel as a country, as we reflect on our past and work with determination towards a future of stability and prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to tell you a story about a remarkable young man whom I recently met. His name is Edward. During the genocide, Edward witnessed a horrific killing.
A man carrying a baby ran into the hospital where Edward, then 11 years old, was admitted. Chasing after this man were armed men, who in front of Edward and his mother, murdered the man and his baby.
As the killers walked out, Edward’s mother calmed him down by telling him, “Do not be afraid. They are not after us.” These words left an imprint on the eleven-year old boy, who never stopped questioning the basis of the genocide. He has told survivors, “your sorrow is my shame.”
Today, Edward is a film-maker. He tells stories that evoke compassion for survivors of the genocide. At the same time, these stories reach out to children whose families were perpetrators of the genocide, asking them to not be afraid, and instead work with their peers to forge a generation free of a divided and hate-filled past.
This terrible legacy has left behind many children survivors of the genocide, who need and deserve care and affection. As one youth once told us at an Imbuto Foundation forum for orphans and vulnerable children, “Sometimes all we want is someone to lean on – someone to read our school report cards. Simply, someone to listen to our dreams.”
For these children, the option they have chosen is to live – and live a dignified life. This is what strengthens our commitment at the Imbuto Foundation, to contribute to building a solid foundation for Rwanda’s children.
For those who do not know, the word Imbuto means seed. We know what happens when we plant a seed, water it and give it all the necessary care – it grows into a healthy plant, one that reaches high and stands tall.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is what Rwanda’s leadership wants for our country’s children. Against the backdrop of our complex history, and a present with numerous challenges, Rwanda is working to nurture a generation full of ability, hope, and openness - a generation that will succeed on the basis of merit, integrity, hard work and courage.
Rwanda’s children were once victims of bad leadership. As adults, we should be mindful of the future we are forging for them. In the words of UNICEF, it is our responsibility in Rwanda, together with our international partners – to ‘unite for children.’
Thank you all very much and have a pleasant evening