In the late 1990’s when French was preferred to English and almost all business was conducted in French, I noticed several promising would be Rotarians come and go in quick succession at my club, the Rotary Club of Kigali, purely because of the language barrier. In the Rotary year 1999 / 2000 when I became the President of the Rotary Club of Kigali I made it my objective to create the first English speaking Rotary Club in Rwanda.
I appointed Rtn Mary Balukengeri as my special envoy on this mission and together we managed to get some like minded, service minded and dedicated people together and thus was born the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga. Very few people know that my first name is Joseph – and so you can see that anything born of Mary and Joseph would be nothing but the greatest!
Over the years the R.C. of Kigali Virunga has been an exemplary club enjoying wonderful fellowship and doing much for the community and the less privileged, the most ambitious of these being the Kigali Public Library (KPL), the first of it’s kind in Rwanda. This project was the brain-child of Rtn Beth Payne who used to work in the US Embassy in Rwanda as the Consular Officer.
Along with the Rotary Club of Virunga she organised a fund raising event for the KPL in 2001 at the US Ambassador’s residence which was graced by H.E. President Paul Kagame and the First Lady Jeanette Kagame. This showed His Excellency’s commitment to this project from it’s early days and to this day he remains equally enthusiastic and dedicated in seeing it through to fruition. As SORWATHE was the First Premier Donor, my wife Amithy and I were privileged to sit at the high table along with the First Lady and the then US Ambassador George Staples who was also a member of the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga. When the KPL project slowed down due to lack of funds H.E. President Paul Kagame pledged Government support to complete this project and it appears to be on course to be completed shortly. SORWATHE the largest private donor in Rwanda has also continued to show it’s commitment to this project by contributing USD 5,000 every year since 2001 in addition to the original USD 45,000 as a Premier Donor. Rtn Raj who is the current Chair of the KPL must be congratulated for a job well done.
The Rotary Club of Virunga has been blessed with consistently good leadership and dedicated members which is a recipe for total success. The greatest blessing for any parent is to see their offspring doing well in life and hence the immense joy I have in knowing that the Rotary Club of Kigali Virunga is going from strength to strength.