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An Update on the SURF Helpline

Prior to the establishment of the Helpline, counselling and legal support was not often available to young survivors, as many were isolated in rural areas and unable to afford to travel to Kigali.  But the need was still there as research has found that at least 50% of young genocide survivors suffer from trauma and depression.  In addition, over 70% reported having outstanding legal issues such as reclaiming their family’s property from the perpetrators of the genocide.

The Helpline has evolved from a small telephone-based support program to  an all-encompassing legal and counselling program. Through generous donations from INSPIRE!africa, our Rwanda partners, SURF have been able to expand the legal and counselling support available. They have hired another lawyer to travel around the country to help young survivors enforce their rights and resolve outstanding legal disputes.

Increased funding has also enabled the counsellor to become a full time position. To date, the helpline has resolved 75 legal cases, a majority of which are for land claims that had been misappropriated by others during the genocide. The value of the land reclamation cases is estimated at (CDN$652,000). This money can be used for the students to start small businesses or care for other family members.

Since its launch in August 2013, the helpline has received over 1,500 calls and supported 338 clients. While the majority of clients call initially for legal support, it has been observed that most of them are also suffering from the effects of trauma or are showing signs of mental health problems such as depression. National sensitization efforts have reached 23,310 individuals; this initiative helps survivors learn more about the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, as well as their legal rights.

Calgary’s Rwandan Genocide Memorial Ceremony

It has been 21 years since the genocide in Rwanda; the horrific events that took place in 1994 will forever leave a scar on both the people and the country of Rwanda. This year’s Genocide Memorial Ceremony took place on April 11th and was attended by over 200 members of Calgary’s Rwandan community and their supporters.

A highlight from this year’s event was a speech given by Dr. Chantal Kalisa. Dr. Kalisa is the Director of Women’s Gender Studies Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well as a Rwandan living in North America.   She spoke on the role of women in post conflict Rwanda.

Dr. Kalisa discussed the importance of gender as “Rwanda has emerged as a particularly successful model of integrating women and gender issues into rebuilding the country”. She emphasized that understanding the value of education, for both girls and boys, is what is going to strengthen a society.

If you would like to read more about Dr. Kalisa, check out the following interview that ran in the Calgary Herald:

The anniversary of the genocide and services of commemoration is a time when  survivors were more likely to fall into a state of depression or post-traumatic stress is triggered. During this time, the helpline, becomes all the more crucial, during the month of April, as it provides vulnerable young survivors with counselling services.

2015 recipient of the Calgary Peace Prize – Roméo Dallaire

As mentioned in the last newsletter, INSPIRE!africa was very pleased to hear that the Calgary Centre for Global Community announced the 2015 recipient of the Calgary Peace Prize as retired Lieutenant-General the Honourable Roméo Dallaire. Lt-General Dallaire was the Force Commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), where he witnessed the atrocities and chaos of the Rwandan genocide.

The Calgary Peace Prize ceremony took place on April 9th and several INSPIRE!africa supporters were in attendance to see Lt-General Dallaire presented with his award. Prior to the ceremony, there was a reception where guests had the opportunity to speak with Lt-General Dallaire as well as take photos. He was very receptive to all, and showed genuine interest in hearing about the work INSPIRE!africa does and our continued support to those affected by the genocide.

During the ceremony, Lt-General Dallaire shared his experience in Rwanda including the results of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on him personally. He was very open about his continuous struggle and the effects that haunt him daily. He is a great advocate for proper treatment and peer support for all of those dealing with this condition. He spoke passionately of his support for human rights, particularly war-affected children and women, and his life mission to eradicate child soldiers all over the world. We were all honored to be in the presence of an incredibly inspirational and humble hero.

 Merrill Genereux with Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire

Did you know?! A Few Facts about Recovering Rwanda


  • Of 80 seats in Parliament, 51 are held by women (64%). Rwanda has the highest number of women in its government of any country in the world.  By comparison, only 25% of federal seats are held by women in Canada.
  • President Kagame was elected for his second seven year term in 2010.

SAVE the DATE – INSPIRE!africa annual fundraiser will be on Thursday November 19th at Webster Galleries once again. Mark your calendars you won’t want to miss it.

INSPIRE!africa now accepting online donations at CanadaHelps.org!

Please visit our website or https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/8512 if you wish to donate online. Although we are excited to make donating even easier for you with this online option, mail-in donations (sent to 102, 520 Cedar Crescent SW Calgary AB T3C 2Y9) are still preferred to reduce administrative costs.

Please follow INSPIRE!africa on Facebook.

For Facebook search “INSPIRE!africa”- https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/111283675568571/