Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton, first met Rosalie Uzamukunda, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, in 2007.
Now, Thompson has started a crowdfunding campaign to help repair Uzamukunda’s home, part of which recently collapsed after experiencing severe flood damage.
According to Thompson, Uzamukunda’s story is personal. He was in Rwanda in 1996, two years after the end of Rwandan genocide, as a reporter with the Toronto Star.
“I came to realize in 1996, as so many others did, that I was completely oblivious to what was happening in Rwanda, and may have contributed to what happened because we ignored it,” Thompson said.
“As a journalist, I literally felt a sense of guilt, that I hadn’t done more personally to bring more attention to what was happening in 1994,” he added.
Thompson said this desire to bring more attention to the tragic events that rocked an entire country led him into Uzamukunda’s path.
Given the lack of foreign journalists covering the genocide at the time, there was virtually no footage of a killing taking place during the genocide, he said.
According to Thompson, that is the reason why he became so involved with the story.
“That is why I spent so much time researching the story and then decided that I would break every rule of journalism, and get involved with this family,” he said.
Since first meeting Uzamukunda during a trip to Rwanda in 2007, Thompson has remained in contact with her and her family. In addition to keeping in touch via Facebook, Thompson has also helped to support her youngest son, Isaac, in going to university.
Now, the family is once again in need. Following a flood which destroyed part of her home, city officials told Uzamukunda that she and her family needed to relocate, given that their home is built in a dangerous flood zone.
“The house is part of an informal settlement, on the side of a hill, in a part of Kigali called Gikondo, coincidentally, one of the places the killings first began when the genocide started,” Thompson said.
According to Thompson, the back part of Uzamukunda’s house has collapsed, while the other half experienced some water damage.
“They’re kind of patching it up a bit to keep it liveable but they’ve also been told by the local authorities that it isn’t safe, as it’s prone to flood damage,” he said.
These repairs were not only emotionally devastating, but potentially financially devastating for Uzamukunda and her family, according to Thompson.
“Financial security is a really big issue for a lot of people in Rwanda,” Thompson said. “This family, Rosalie is in her 50s and self-employed, she sells used clothing and most of her children have married and moved out, but her youngest son Isaac is still living with her and going to university. Her [income] is probably around a only a few hundred dollars a month.”
This money from the crowdfunding campaign, Thompson said, is geared towards funding minor repairs and providing a place for Uzamukunda to stay until something more permanent comes.
“My thought was whatever could be contributed by people who wanted to help, would at least help her in the transition process, [so that] she can afford to move to another place,” Thompson said.
As of publication, the total amount of donations received was $3,290.
Donations can be made at GoFundMe.com/RwandaRosalie.