Monday, March 23, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Happiness is Forward

This month Fast Company ran an incredible article about Rwanda and the economic revolution that is happening in that country 15 years after the genocide that robbed it of 1 million people (1/8 of the entire population) in 100 days. 

President Paul Kagame has set audacious goals for Rwanda: increase GDP by 7X, move half of Rwanda's subsistence farmers into paying jobs, quadruple individual income, and make Rwanda a tech center for Africa. All by 2020. In 11 years, he believes he can transform his country and he is dedicated heart and soul to the effort. His charisma and ambition is so powerful, you'll want to ask where you can sign up after reading the article. 

The connection I felt to Rwanda after reading the article is very much a testament to Jeff Chu's talent as a journalist. He captured small details as well as the big picture so that a reader can imagine lumbering down the roads of Rwanda with President Kagame, Jeff Chu, and Marcus Bleasdale, the talented photographer who captured iconic images of Rwandan life for the article. The one small detail that has played over and over in my head since reading the article is a short phrase that Jeff Chu saw painted onto the back of a truck. "Happiness is forward."

Despite the vast separation, geographically and historically, between Rwanda and the U.S. there are universal themes that bind us together. I imagine that in 1994, hope was a scarcity in Rwanda. After the genocide, many Rwandan must have doubted that their country would ever heal, forgive, and flourish. And somehow they were able to keep moving forward. Our nation's hope has waned considerably in the last 18 months, and though for different reasons, that sense of hopelessness and helplessness is the same. After all, the loss of hope is the same for everyone who experiences it, regardless of the cause. 

Rwanda's story is a poignant one of resilience and strength. Their ability to move forward and not only hope for better days but work hard for them, day in and day out, is remarkable. We have much to learn from them that is particularly relevant given our country's current crisis. We must all believe, remember, and recite to ourselves and to one another "Happiness is forward." This sentiment in Rwanda is moving from an ideal to reality. 

The photo above was taken by Marcus Bleasdale for Fast Company


runner52 said...

Wonderful piece

Christa said...

Thanks runner52. I am so inspired by this story and by the people of Rwanda.