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Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!
August 9, 2010   Rwanda

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There! is the title of an acrylic painting by Nicole Wageck. The painting appears in the 2010 Peace Calendar which is pinned to the living room wall at the WE-ACTx house, where the beautiful people who organize the HIV+ children summer camp (Gia, Noam, and Sophie) are staying. Sarcasm is what we get from this title, and the fact that this title is displayed at the WE-ACTx house is entertaining, because these people almost never sit down, and always do something!

Last Sunday we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which includes a beautiful garden, a highly informative museum, including a section about other genocides in modern history, and mass graves of thousands of people.

Part of the garden in the Kigali Genocide Memorial
This section represents the unity, beauty and history of Rwanda

The genocide was orchestrated by the Rwandan government and army, but was largely executed by hundreds of thousands of the common people who were brainwashed and incensed against their own neighbors, friends and even family members who according to the propaganda belonged to a different ethnicity group. About 1 million Rwandans were murdered during the 100-days genocide by other Rwandans, while the international community stood and watched and did nothing to stop it; that was 1994. 

One of the several mass graves at the
Kigali Genocide Memorial

The memory of the genocide and its repercussions continue to be very palpable today, sixteen years later. According to a national trauma survey conducted by UNICEF in 1995 , 99.9% of the children who lived during the genocide and survived had witnessed violence; 79.6% experienced death in the family; 69.5% witnessed someone being killed or injured; 61.5% were threatened with death; 90.6% believed they would die; 57.7% witnessed killings or injuries with machete; 31.4% witnessed rape or sexual assault; and 87.5% saw dead bodies or parts of bodies. Today, it is estimated that almost 200,000 Rwandans live with HIV, many as a consequence of genocidal rape, or being born after the genocide to an HIV+ mother. Also, many men were intentionally cut and infected by HIV.

Working with HIV+ children at the WE-ACTx summer camp

Most of the time we forget that the children we work with have HIV. Then one of them falls and hurts his knee, and we must put on latex gloves to bandage the wound. For them, good nutrition and the medical care that WE-ACTx is providing are the things that keep them alive and healthy, but the love and support they get from their families, from the other children, from the youth leaders and the WE-ACTx and summer camp staff, and the theater and dance and music and laughter during the workshops, these are the things that give them a better childhood.

Working with WE-ACTx kids and mothers in Nyacunga, near Kigali
Music workshop in Nyacunga, near Kigali

 Some of our readers asked us how they can support this and similar projects. You can make a donation to Musicians without Borders, and for the musicians among you, check out Musicians4Musicians. Thank you!

Topics: Rwanda