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April 7, 2014, was the 20th anniversary of the day the Rwandan genocide officially began. Those next days 100 days in 1994 would be days far beyond our own perception of hell. From April 7, 1994 to July 4, 1994, almost one million people were brutally tortured, raped, and murdered by the people they formally referred to as friends and neighbors, and even family. With very little modern weapons, the far majority of the murders were conducted using dull garden machetes and clubs, making those 100 days that much more barbaric.

Decaying bodies filled the streets. The rivers were blood red, spotted with floating corpses. Hundreds and thousands of children no longer had parents or homes. By all predictions and precedent, Rwanda would become a failed state. As Philip Gourevitch wrote, “No one thought Rwanda would survive."

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Rwanda, though, did not become a failed state. She did indeed survive. In fact, Rwanda has thrived far past any expert's wildest imagination, and Kula Project is lucky enough to work with the small farmers of this incredible nation. Over the next three years, our farmers will plant over 75,000 coffee and banana trees, as we help them protect their crops from the looming climate change. This program will help to double their families’ income for a minimum of thirty years.

We ask all of our farmers the same two questions: How will you use the income our program will generate and what do you love most about your country. The answers are remarkable. Every single farmer said they will use the money for school fees for the children. And for our second question, every person said that they love the peace they have in their country. Odette Bayisemge, a farmer we have become particularly attached to, said, "When you have peace, nothing else matters." Stony Nsanzamahoro said, "When you go to bed at night trusting no one will kill you in your sleep, you feel you have the freedom to develop, to make life better for you family, for your work should not be taken from you tomorrow."

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When speaking with our farmers, you quickly realize that they will succeed with or without our program. If they are accepted into our program, they will succeed much faster, and that is why we work there. Our farmers have allowed us to work in their country. They have invited us into their story, not the other way around. Having already survived the unimaginable, they are ready to be self-sufficient, to give their children an incomparable quality of life than the one they knew as children. They expect nothing to be done for them, but when they are given the opportunity to double their income in three years, to send all of their children to school, put food on the table, even afford medical insurance, they are accepting and grateful, and so are we.

Photos courtesy of The Kula Project

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At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and sign-up for Conscious Updates.

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