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GHS Interact donation supports Rwandan students

Aria Stephan, president of Gilford High School's Interact Club, presents a check to Joan and Alan Graustein to benefit the Rwanda Children's Education Foundation. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
June 06, 2018
A fundraiser by a group of Gilford High School students will allow two children in Rwanda to go to school.

Last Thursday, Interact Club president Aria Stephan presented a check for more than $300 to Joan and Alan Graustein of the Rwanda Children's Education Foundation during Interact's end of the year ceremony. Interact raised the money during a benefit yard sale weeks following a presentation on Rwanda and the Rwanda Children's Education Foundation.

The Rwanda Children's Education Foundation supports school and family expenses for impoverished Rwandan children. Education is free in Rwanda, but students are responsible for paying for school uniforms, supplies, and other expenses. The foundation will cover these expenses as well as living expenses for the students' families.

In April, the organization's founder, Jeanine Mukarbega, with translation by her son, gave a presentation to GHS about the Rwandan Genocide and the work of her organization.

Stephan said they learned of the foundation after they had worked with Interact at Inter-Lakes. Stephan said Mukarbega presentation was really moving.

"I think we'd like to continue to do everything we can," Stephan said.

Interact held a yard sale to raise money for the Rwanda Children's Education Foundation. The amount raised was doubled by its parent organization, Gilford Rotary.

That will be enough to send two children to school and provide money for their families.

In the beginning the organization assisted the families of refugees, sponsoring 10 students. Since then the scope of the organization has expanded.

The Grausteins said they visited some of the students in Rwanda and saw their impoverished living conditions.

He also told the story of a group of students who sacrificed themselves to protect their classmates in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide. A group of killers came into the classroom and demanded the students tell them who in the class was Tutsi. None of the students identified their Tutsi classmates and all of them were killed.

"That touched my heart," Alan Graustein said.

He said the country is still in the process of rebuilding.

The Graustein's said the organization is next looking to offer microloans to small businesses in Rwanda to help them grow. They applied for a grant from the Rotary for microfinancing.

"We are very grateful; just really appreciate the dedication and commitment of these high school students," Alan Graustein said.

Joan Graustein said Interact teaches the students to give, a lesson they carry with them through their lives.

"It's not just school; it's changing their entire lives," Stephan said.

She said when kids in Rwanda go to school, they get higher paying jobs and better lives.

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