We’re helping create a literacy movement in Rwanda

April 11, 2014  |  General  |  No Comments

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Grace Rwanda co-founder Elizabeth Johnson is on her way back from Rwanda and she reports that the team made great strides. Not only did they set up our second library and distribute school books, but the team also took steps to create a network of literacy partners to build an even stronger foundation for the future.

On March 20th Grace Rwanda partnered with Rwanda Library Services to hold a workshop educating a dozen local NGOs and government departments about literacy promotion and library outreach strategies that could be used to improve youth reading skills, especially in rural areas. Grace Rwanda was happy to be involved in facilitating this collaboration. We’re working together to create a national literacy movement!

Elizabeth also reports that the March 15th opening of the Kayonza YEGO youth centre community library drew incredible support from the community, and earned the attention of local dignitaries who are getting behind our cause.

More than 500 people attended, including two members or parliament, the mayor of Kayonza, the director of Rwanda’s Library Service and delegates from two government ministries, in addition to district officials, business executives and leaders from local churches and schools.

To mark the occasion, two local soccer teams played a demonstration match wearing jerseys donated to Grace Rwanda by the Canadian national women’s soccer league. We shipped 45 boxes of jerseys in all: we’ll donate two team sets to every youth centre library we open in future. Everyone was thrilled with the library, which was stocked with 2,000 books, Rotary-donated dictionaries, 10 e-readers and four laptops.

We’re building incredible support in Rwanda for Grace Rwanda’s vision of creating a new generation of readers. Thanks so much for being part of making our dream a reality.

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.

Grace Rwanda’s second youth centre library is now open

March 30, 2014  |  General  |  No Comments

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Grace Rwanda’s second youth centre library in Rwanda is now open!

The team made great strides during this spring trip. They officially opened a new YEGO youth centre library in Kayonza, which includes books, computers and ereaders to ensure youth can become both literate and computer literate.

They also distributed more than a thousand books to students at Biti Elementary and Ecole Primare Gitingati in Muhanga, making good on our pledge to eventually supply every school child in the district with a school book. Elizabeth and the team got to spend some precious time with gradeschoolers watching them read and learn in class.

The team even checked in with the first youth library we opened in Muhanga last fall to find it in excellent condition and well used. Plus, volunteers met with government and Rotary officials and made preparations for the next YEGO library.

We’re so blessed that your support has made all of this possible. Have a look at our new photo gallery on Flickr to see how your donations are being put into in action in Rwanda helping to bring literacy and hope to so many deserving youth!

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.

Vote for our Grace Rwanda co-founder as one of Canada’s top immigrants!

March 26, 2014  |  Events, General  |  5 Comments


Grace Rwanda co-founder Elizabeth Johnson has been honoured by being named a finalist in Canadian Immigrant Magazine’s Top 25 Contest!
Elizabeth was selected as one of the country’s top 75 most inspiring immigrants for her community work in B.C. and for her work with Grace Rwanda bringing literacy to the children of Rwanda. She was selected from more than 630 entries submitted from across Canada, an impressive achievement on its own.
Now, Elizabeth needs your vote to ensure that she can be named one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants.
Please support her and, by extension, Grace Rwanda, by visiting this link: Canadian Immigrant Top 25 Contest and casting your vote.

Voting opens March 25 and closes quite soon, on May 14th. You can only vote once, so please share the news and encourage your friends and family to vote too. It only takes a minute and it would mean so much to us. The winners will be announced in June.
You’ll see that Elizabeth is in very distinguished company. Among this year’s nominees are Vancouver MP Hedy Fry and B.C. Senator Mobina Jaffer.
Help Elizabeth and Grace Rwanda earn the recognition they deserve! Please cast your vote today!

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.


We’re on the ground in Rwanda, creating more libraries

March 21, 2014  |  General  |  No Comments


The Grace Rwanda team is on the ground in Rwanda! We’re gearing up for the opening of the new Kayonza district youth centre library.

Elizabeth Johnson and our Canadian volunteers have been busy networking, by attending a Kigali Rotary event, and preparing for the opening of the new library on March 14 by selecting and purchasing books. Many thanks go to B.C. teacher Karen Saenger for her help and curriculum guidance in selecting new books for the library.

The team also checked in on the Muhanga district youth centre library that we opened last year. It was amazing to see the library shelves now completely filled with books, and to see the stacks of well-read magazines available to the area youth. The shelves have been finished as well and the centre looks fantastic and is being well used.

The group also stopped in to visit Rwinkwavu school, which Grace Rwanda has assisted so much in the past. The students, as always, were delighted to see Elizabeth, as this photo clearly shows!

Stay tuned for more news from Rwanda as we celebrate our second community library grand opening! As always, we couldn’t do any of this work without you. The youth of Rwanda thank you.

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.

We’re headed back to Rwanda bringing more books

February 20, 2014  |  General  |  No Comments

Mike Santorelli and Grace RwandaWe’re excited to announce the Grace Rwanda team is about to depart for Rwanda!

The focus for the team this time is to put your generous donations to work by creating our second youth library in a YEGO youth centre in Kayonza District. Also during this trip, the team will distribute more than a thousand books to gradeschoolers at two rural schools in Muhanga District, Biti Elementary and Ecole Primaire Gitingati. We will also distribute more than 300 dictionaries and a dozens of donated soccer jerseys.

This library and these book donations were made possible by supporters who donated to our holiday fundraising campaigns, as well as local Rotary Clubs including Rotary Club of Langley Sunrise, which kindly provided a matching grant.

We’d also like to thank schools that raised money for books through Toonies for Change. Special thanks go to St. Helen’s School in Burnaby which donated $1,400 at the last minute from their Me to We Day, enabling us to donate 700 of the books!

On this trip, the Grace Rwanda team will include co-founder Elizabeth Johnson, UBC PhD student and volunteer videographer Jordan Levine, former Grace Rwanda board chair Franco Bordignon and his daughter, Stephanie, and Sechelt volunteer Elizabeth Dilasser.

In the photo above, Johnson (c) and Bordignon (r) are joined at the St. Helen’s School Me to We Day by Vancouver Canucks centre Mike Santorelli (l). It was fun for us to come full circle by meeting a Canucks team player — longtime supporters of Grace Rwanda will remember we had schoolchildren in Rwinkwavu cheering and waving Canucks flags in 2010! Wouldn’t it be great to get their team behind our team?

We’re excited about sharing our progress in bringing literacy to Rwandan youth with you in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.

Grace Rwanda’s story in new ebook B.C. Without Borders

February 9, 2014  |  General  |  No Comments

BorderscoverGrace Rwanda’s been profiled as one of 50 leading humanitarian charities in B.C.

The story of our charity, and of Grace Rwanda co-founders Elizabeth Johnson and Marie-Louise Kaligirwa, appears in a new Province newspaper ebook, titled, “B.C. Without Borders: 50 British Columbians Leading the Fight Against Global Poverty.”

We’re delighted to be a part of the ebook, and hope it spreads the word of Grace Rwanda: what we’ve achieved and what we dream of achieving.

Here’s an excerpt from our chapter:

As a Tutsi woman living in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Elizabeth Mujawamaliya Johnson lost the majority of her family under horrific circumstances. It’s the kind of experience that could turn a person bitter. But instead, Johnson drew on her tragic past to create a bright future for the next generation of Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsi alike. She found an inner amazing grace and established an educational charity called Grace Rwanda.

The Langley resident co-founded the charity with fellow Rwandan Marie-Louise Kaligirwa, another genocide survivor who lost nearly all of her family. Johnson worked for the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture, CARE and World Vision in Rwanda before immigrating to Canada in 1999. Kaligirwa was an accountant working for large oil and gas and insurance companies before moving to Canada in 1998. The two long-lost school friends came to Canada separately and reconnected in the early 2000s by chance — an acquaintance who knew that Kaligirwa wanted to move from Calgary to Vancouver gave her Johnson’s number. “I didn’t know she was alive,” Johnson recalled. “We were all just screaming and in tears. It was really like a miracle.” Once joyfully reunited, the pair began thinking about ways to help rebuild their country.

If you are interested in reading more of Grace Rwanda’s story, you can order the ebook online at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

You can get regular updates by following @GraceRwanda, liking us on Facebook, adding us in your Google+ circle, and watching our videos on YouTube.