Jean Claude Muhire is a multi-honored, talented Rwandan social entrepreneur and humanitarian activist with a strong passion to community development sector. His work focuses on improving the lives of vulnerable population through education, peace-building and advocacy. He is a published author, filmmaker, peer educator, mentor and advocate for children and women’s rights. Some of his awards and honors include being: Honorary citizen of Boone in North Carolina, TEDx Speaker, Africa Youth Awards 2016 Winner for Leader of the Year, Mandela Washington Fellow 2018 at Appalachian State University, Global Dialogues 2015 International Winner, and more. As of now, he serves on the leadership of several organizations including but not limited to: Archidiocese of Kigali, LEAD Rwanda, and Love the Kids Foundation. Regardless of his past, he chooses to start small and live for transforming lives.
Here are some of what he had to say when we had a chat with him:
- What solution would you proffer as regards the rule of law which the Rwandan government obliged orphanages closed and children return back to their families in the community?
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I don’t think I have any further solution except the agreement and better understanding to the Government of Rwanda’s initiative to close orphanages! Children have been reintegrated into the local families so as to find safe places than orphanages to live in. I think that the initiative aimed at creating greater relationship between the child and a parent or guardian. I previously served 2 years in an orphanage, and it’s been not an easy task to look after many children in need. The living conditions have been quite interesting while the needs are much and very limited to access. A big number of Rwandan orphanages were created after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and it was said that they take care of vulnerable children including many orphans. But, the truth is that there have been children with parents who used to live in orphanages due to several backgrounds. Only few orphans have lived in those centers. So, close to 20 years later, orphaned children because of the Genocide were mature enough to raise their voices and be supported in some ways. The Government of Rwanda brought in the law to shutdown orphanages to facilitate the reintegration and better development of children who, I think, lack self-esteem due to different poverty including the consequences of Genocide or extreme poverty or inter-familiar conflicts.
- What was the idea behind the state’s initiative?
The idea was to create a sustainable solution leading to creating a bond between the child-parent or child-guardian relationships. Orphanage isn’t a safe place for people to be raised better than a family. In addition, I think the State wanted also to identify the specific families of children who joined the orphanages on irregular basis or without an intense investigation.
- What is your knowledge about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda?
Growing up, I got to know that Rwanda lost more than a million of its citizens for a 100 days’ period. I could learn in school and have seen through the movies or read that Hutu extremists killed Tutsi! The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is an absolute evil that has brought Rwandans into darkness but it’s been a lesson that has raised so many citizens to practice unity and reconciliation as a tool to effect sustainable development characterized by forgiveness or healing of the hearts. I am still learning more about the Rwandan story related to the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
- In the Young African Leadres Initiative 2016, President Barack Obama had a few things to say about Africans, what in particular was most interesting about his speech?
Well, the President Obama’s remarks in the 2016 YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship was to me a reflection of what Young Africans do and the challenges they face in their respective communities. He mentioned a bit about his background and the work that he’s been doing as POTUS.
It’s quite interesting for him to have said that he’s the only US President that visited Africa so many times, not only because he has an African parent but I think it’s because he believes in power of cooperation and international development. So, he was trying to inspire the young people to keep their willingness and abilities to perform different tasks and ensure change happen. He has been and will continue to be an inspiration for many young people, including myself.
What’s your guiding principle?
I’m being guided by the human reflection and extra support I receive from the people who see the potentials in me. I’m such a committed and determined youth leader with great ambitions and better experience in serving the communities to transform lives.
What birthed your passion for the vulnerable populations
While growing up, I experienced childhood hardships and faced complicated situations. My biological mother passed on when I was 12 years old. On top of that I had no opportunity to know my father for quite a long period of time. I was raised by a single grandmother in a rural Rwanda and life was almost hard. I struggled a lot to complete primary school education and was lucky when I found a sponsor for secondary school education. Few years after, I decided to join the Kimisagara Orphanage and assist the founder to take care of many children in need. I was able to use my experience to comfort and encourage orphans for I could relate to their stories and challenges. This profound experience allowed me to get over and use my painful childhood to help. Storytelling and film-making and humanitarianism were my mechanisms of reaching out to kids who were still wounded by their experience and couldn’t aim and dream to become important people of the Rwandan society. I later on decided to create a child-rights promotion organization, as another environment where needy children are supported to overcome their day to day struggles. My passion to supporting the vulnerable population is due to personal background and experience of life I had enjoyed so far! I believe that not having parents shouldn’t take away children full childhood rights and dream big. I live to achieve.