Academy plays host once again to Akilah Institute

Cara Millburg, Social Justice Editor

The Akilah Institute, a non-profit organization (NGO) based in Rwanda, will begin its U.S. tour this fall  in Tampa with a school-wide presentation at Academy on Monday, September 19. Academy played host to Akilah speakers last fall, who inspired students with their determination and understanding of their roles in the future of a country that had been the scene of violence and bloodshed during the 1990s.

On this visit, two Akilah students will update AHN students about the progress the organization has made over the last year in supporting Rwandan women in achieving an education that will enhance their career opportunities after graduation.  The tour, called “Akilah Safari,” will bring the organization’s story to other American cities this fall, including Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Ithaca, Providence, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

The vision for Akilah, founded by Elizabeth Dearborn Davis and Dave Hughes, came from their experience in working with grassroots organizations in Rwanda. They describe Akilah as “a place to prepare students to find meaningful employment and launch ventures in the fastest growing sector of the Rwandan economy.”

Opening it doors in February 2010, the school now totals  80 students, ages 18-25. These young women are part of the generation that has suffered the consequences of the 1994 genocide. They were children during the conflict, and many of them lost their parents and siblings.  Today one-third of them serve as heads of their households.

Today is the most critical time in Rwanda’s rebuilding process. The children orphaned by the genocide are now teenagers. They need the skills and training to provide for themselves and their families.  Mothers left to run families on their own must find a way to support themselves and their families, as well as contribute to the rebuilding of their country.

Assistant Principal Jack Mullarkey has arranged for the school to host this organization again this year.  “Akilah Institute’s visit  to AHN is an outstanding opportunity for a cross-cultural sharing: it allows both sets of students the opportunity to see a school that is very different from their own,  but one that shares a foundation in empowering young women. It is also powerful because (since last year) a number of students have donated their time to Akilah’s mission, and many more have donated books to stock Akilah’s library.”