Many came, many stood up to dance, some were overcome with emotion, different cultures and backgrounds and all were there to support orphan children of Africa. They were at a benefit program held at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union on June 10, 2006 to raise funds for Nibakure Children’s Village (NCV) in Rwanda. Nibakure, a Kinyarwanda (the spoken language in Rwanda) word, translates to “let them grow, give them hope”. NCV is the vision of Floriane Robins-Brown, a Rwandese immigrant and others who want to create an instrument of hope and love through social education, academics, and healthcare. At its completion it is hoped that the village will allow the orphans, homeless children of Rwanda to realize their destinies.
Performing on stage was Jean Paul Samputu, a prominent, world renowned African artist and cultural ambassador for Rwanda and a troupe of singers and dancers. Samputu, a 2003 Kora Award winner, is a survivor of the Rwanda genocide and brings to his audiences not only traditional singing, dancing and drumming, but also a message of peace and reconciliation.
Samputu takes audiences to the most positive place of humanity through his spirit and graciousness. He has shared his message and music at The National Civil Rights Museum for the 2005 Freedom Awards, where he performed in front of honorees Oprah Winfrey, Paul Rusesabagina, Ruby Dee and others. He was joined on stage by five dancers, four females and one male all native-born and bred Rwandese but currently residing in the US. Dressed in a mix of traditional dancing regalia and contemporary styles, they graced the audience with amazing routines and had people on their feet and even sometimes up on stage. Most of the songs were in Kinyarwanda and Swahili with the artists translating their meanings for the benefit of those not familiar with the languages. The overall message of the evening was of peace and creating bridges to overcome hindrances and hostilities to children achieving their destiny.
Rwanda has over one million orphans, an astoundingly large number for this comparatively small land-locked African nation. What NCV aims to achieve is a drop in the ocean says Floriane Robins-Brown. The 1994 genocide is responsible for the large number of orphans, as is AIDS, the pandemic afflicting all of Africa and the world. Speaking to the audience, Robins-Brown shared the story that inspired her and others to seek to alleviate the problem. “The best thing you can give a child is to let them grow up and fulfill their destiny.” Current government policy in Rwanda today does not support institutionalized forms of orphanages. This is mainly due to the fact that they [traditional type orphanages] do not nurture or address all of the children needs and requirements to function in society. For this specific reason the village concept was created to be housed on 23 acres of land donated by the Rwandan Government.
150 children of all backgrounds will be housed in homes clustered around the village. NCV will also accept Hutu and Tutsi children in the hope of fostering reconciliation between the two ethnic groups. Each home will have 10 children with two “mothers”. These “mothers” are part of the large widow population in Rwanda due to genocide and AIDS scourge. Children targeted are ages 8-18 as they are the ones most difficult to place for adoption and usually left to fend for themselves. Aside from the housing, there will also be a clinic, schools, a non-denominational chapel, and a guest house. The goal of NCV is to be self-sustaining so visitors could stay at the guest-house and bring in income. With this in mind, there will be a restaurant in the home-economics building as well as separate buildings/workshops for carpentry, auto-repair or other vocational trades being taught on-site.
Assisting NCV achieve its vision is MSAADA Architects, a Minneapolis based firm specializing in architecture, planning, engineering, and supervision of church sponsored programs worldwide. On hand at the event was the Executive Director of MSAADA as well as the designers of the village. Robins-Brown and fellow NCV Board Members are trying to raise funds in stages and plan starting on the village in phases working towards to the eventual completion of the concept.
According to Robins-Brown, “the concept of NCV is to focus on the whole child’s needs through on-site education, healthcare, counseling, spiritual development and career planning facilities. To build bridges for a unified and globalized Rwanda”. During the performance one of Samputu’s songs, Karame Mwana, drove the audience to tears. Sung in Kinyarwanda and English, the lyrics stated: “Cherish the children, children are the future, hold them high, don’t let them fall.”
Samputu’s words summed up the evening “Children are the hope of humanity. They are the ones who will change this world, what we do is give them a good example [to follow].”
You can learn more about the project at www.nibakure.org
Mshale Gallery has more images from this event.