In late 2014, Hans and Mindy Thygeson were told an incredible story about some events that followed the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Refugee camps that were established in 1996 by the Rwandan government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are still in operation today. The camps are now home to around 80,000 Congolese refugees, most of whom are SDA. Refugees have been living in dire conditions for 20 years with little hope of a future. They are given $0.24 a day by the UNHCR which provides basically one meal per day per person. Education is provided through the UNHCR and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency of Rwanda (ADRA Rwanda), but only continues until the 9th grade. After grade nine there is no education provided for the refugees in the camps.
With a 9th grade education, there is no chance for a job. But, if a refugee could somehow support his or her family, they do not have to live in the refugee camps and remain in these unbearable conditions. As a result of these findings and a strong desire to send refugees to higher education, Impact Hope was born. A partnership with ADRA Rwanda was started in January 2016, in which ADRA Rwanda is the managing partner of the Impact Hope Project. Since February 2016, Impact Hope, with the help of ADRA Rwanda and funding from individuals has been able to send 411 young scholars to Adventist boarding academies throughout Rwanda between the grades 10-12.
Our students are so happy to be in school! They don’t have words to express their gratitude so they say they are “Happy, happy!” They are great kids who now have bright futures. They will tell you, “we were hopeless, but you have come to support us.” They are now HOPEFUL in a future through education!
Of the five Impact Hope graduates from the Adventist academies in 2016, all five are attending technical school.
Aline, one of the graduates, is studying to become a seamstress. She is full of joy as she realizes her potential to work for herself and eventually bring her family out of the dreadful camps.
In December 2017-January 2018, Impact Hope is starting a technical based training program at Gitwe Adventist College. This program, which runs during the summer holiday in Rwanda is intended to give the Impact Hope students technical skills while at the same time keeping them out of the refugee camps on their summer break and work to make a better future for their families. Even the 110 refugee students at Gakoni Adventist College see the value of education and are paying it forward! They, as a group, have sponsored their own refugee student from their camp! To earn enough money to sponsor their fellow refugee, they are growing onions and cabbage and selling them to the community and to the school, they have a canteen to sell soda and biscuits, and have even made liquid soap to sell. Talk about initiative!
The Congolese refugees in the Rwandan refugee camps are part of our global Adventist church family! All it takes is $50 a month per student to provide an Adventist education and true HOPE!