Gorillas in the mist. Mass genocide. The movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and maybe coffee.
Those are the things most people say when Ralph Coolman asks them what they know about Rwanda — a tiny central African nation that has had (and is still having) a profound impact on the West’s view of Africa, on the international community’s view of itself and the whole concept of aid and development.
Seattle is connected to Rwanda in a number of ways, beginning with the country’s role as a major producer of high quality coffee beans for Starbucks and Costco. A number of local humanitarian organizations, as well as social enterprise business ventures, are active there.
Coolman, a Seattle man and my neighbor in the Green Lake sub-district of Tangletown, works with a girls’ education project launched there by two exceptional Seattle women, Suzanne Sinegal McGill and Shalisan Foster. It’s called the Rwanda Girls Initiative. I’ll be writing more about that project later.
I’m headed to Rwanda along with a dozen or so other journalists sponsored by the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University. For the next two weeks, I’ll be reporting on the trip and also posting stories on a number of Seattle projects at work there that have helped make Rwanda — despite its horrific recent past history — into what many see as an African success story.