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Vashon-Maury couple discusses Rwanda work

Ann and George Lewis, Islanders who have spent considerable time in Rwanda, will speak at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 8, to the Unitarians.

The fuse was long, but Rwanda exploded in a flash in April 1994.  Genocide ensued.  In 1996 Ann and George Lewis took a three-year assignment to Rwanda with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), George to re-launch and direct the USAID program there.  Ann managed burgeoning U.S. government humanitarian assistance as roughly 15 percent of the population returned to Rwanda overnight, from camps in the Congo and Tanzania. Essential human services and physical and institutional infrastructure appeared devastated beyond repair. There were forbidden words: Hutu, Tutsi, reconciliation.

The Lewises recently returned to Rwanda for half a year, again with USAID, working and socializing with Rwandan friends and associates from 1996-99 and with newcomers bringing fresh perspective. 

Rwanda is in transformation. The United States is a lead contributor of assistance through public and private sources, including the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Gates and Clinton foundations. 

Lately, Ann has also worked in Nigeria and Tanzania. They will lead a “conversation” on their re-engagement nine years later with Rwanda, offer some reflections on Nigeria and maybe risk a generalization or two.

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