On Monday, September 19, representatives from the Akilah Institute for Women of Kigali, Rwanda, visited the Academy for the second year in a row, sharing their experiences with the student body. Mrs. Pat Donohue, a member of the Akilah Board of Directors, joined two students of the school, Noella and Ellen, who traveled to the United States from their home nation of Rwanda to participate in an American tour that promoted awareness of the institute. Both women impressed their audience with their captivating stories of lives touched by the Rwandan genocide.
Mrs. Donohue opened the presentation with a personal anecdote relating how she became involved with the Akilah Institute. As a member of the nursing industry, she felt the need for reform to improve the lives of nurses. When she heard about the effect of the Rwandan genocide on young African women, Mrs. Donohue was struck with the same desire to make a change. Then she told four more “wonderful stories about the empowerment that women have and the changes that we can make to change the world,” including the story of Elizabeth Deerborn Davis, the founder of the Akilah Institute and a Tampa native.
Mrs. Donohue followed her opening statements by introducing Noella, an Akilah student. After losing much of her family to the genocide, Noella decided to pursue her education but did not have the means to pay for college. She discovered the Akilah Institute, applied for admission, and beat out hundreds of other girls to be a member of its eighty-member class.
Through the Institute, Noella developed skills for success in the hospitality industry. As a result of her learning, she hopes in the future to open a hotel that bears her name, the Noella Hotel, where she can welcome visitors from around the world to her Rwandan homeland. Noella’s enthusiasm and passion for hospitality shined as bright as her unwavering smile.
Noella then presented her friend and classmate Ellen. Ellen began her account of the Akilah Institute’s impact on her life by proclaiming her love of single-sex schools; educated at both a single-sex high school and later Akilah Institute, she knew how these schools benefit young women.
“I feel very proud when I am in the environment of a single [-sex] school and young girls,” Ellen declared with a smile and thumbs up. “I feel so confident, and I feel like I am covered and protected.”
Born in Uganda to refugee Rwandan parents, Ellen was far too familiar with the hardships aroused by genocide. Just like Noella, she lost many family members to the conflict between two ethnic groups, the dominant Hutus and the majority Tutsis. Ellen also lacked the funds to finance a college education, so she believed her dreams of owning a tour company ended after her high school career. But she found out about the Akilah Institute and its mission of educating young women and her hopes were revived.
More to come…