Attending University in the neighboring Republic of Congo, Rwanda Rise founder Emmanuel Sitaki, narrowly escaped the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis that eradicated his and so many other families across Rwanda.
Although he survived the genocide, he lived with the constant reminders of an unimaginable loss. Emmanuel returned to the neighborhoods where his loved ones once lived, finding the streets lined with orphans in desperate need and barely surviving. That sight clarified his mission. He recognized God's voice and was reminded of the scripture in the Bible (James 1:27) which calls people to care for orphans and widows.
Emmanuel knew that he had to do something when nine orphans ran up to him on the street and begged for help. His thought was to find homes for them with widows who had tragically lost their loved ones in the genocide. Emmanuel was able to provide shelter and love to numerous orphans in this way.
Ten years later, as all of the orphans were becoming teens Emmanuel began to realize that due to the poverty caused by the genocide many of them did not have the education or training to get a decent job. They were quickly going to become a generation of vulnerable adults, trapped in a cycle of poverty.
THE ORIGIN STORY
Founder, Emmanuel Sitaki
"We need to come up with some way to train them," he said. "They've never been to school and have no money to go to school."
With this vision, Hope Vocational Training Center was born in 2008. Today, Hope Vocational Training Center graduates almost 300 students each year with government accredited certificates in Culinary Arts, Sewing, Hairdressing, Masonry, and Welding as well as computer and business skills training.
Land adjacent to the campus has been purchased and we plan to expand the campus by adding additional training programs and doubling the number of students we equip for the future.
I vividly recall the news reports of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. I have always been passionate about matters of justice and I could not understand the failure of the U.S. and other countries to act. A decade later, my church got involved in Rwanda and I hoped I could make a trip there. I was thrilled when Board Member Corky Morse invited me travel to Rwanda in 2019, to meet the students of Hope Vocational Training Center. I was struck by the beauty of the country and its people – and the dramatic impact the school has on the lives of its students and their families. And, I was able to climb up to see the mountain gorillas – an unforgettable experience. I joined the Board in January 2020. A lifelong Seattleite, I own a Real Estate Development Co. with my son. I enjoy spending time with my adult son and daughter, as well as my two Labrador Retrievers.
See Emmanuel's story above.
Through the years I have come to believe the best way to truly help others is to teach them how to help themselves. Breaking the cycle of poverty is not easy . . . but, by equipping young men and women with vocational skills, this is exactly what Rwanda Rise does. That’s why I am a committed trustee. The 10+ years I invested on the Board of Agros International, along with many trips to Central America have reinforced this conviction. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and three lively children. I am also the co-founder of Shilshole Development, a real estate development firm in Seattle, WA.
As a business graduate from the University of Washington I have had many opportunities in my life, but the greatest opportunities started with a mission trip I took with my husband and two sons to war-torn Guatemala in 1996. It changed my life and sent me on the journey I am still on. I spent 16 years on the Board of Agros International focusing on breaking the cycle of poverty. In 2014, I took my first trip to Rwanda as a volunteer trauma counselor. The people and their desire to overcome the heartache of the genocide captured my heart and deep respect. I joined the board of Rwanda Rise in 2015 and currently serve as interim Executive Director. In addition to work, I love spending time with my three grandchildren and playing with our two pups.
I had known about the horrific Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi. But, it became very personal for me as I spent time with survivor, Emmanuel Sitaki, hearing his story. As I got to know Emmanuel, I sensed God’s clear call to serve the youth of Rwanda by becoming an active member of the Rwanda Rise Board of Directors. The opportunity to play a part in the growth of Hope Vocational Training Center is humbling and deeply inspiring. Rwanda Rise’s core focus on teaching students to build enduring skills that form the basis for earning income aligns with my beliefs around the importance of personal growth and work. I feel honored to use my gifts in service to this phenomenal ministry. I currently serve as Sr. Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Smartsheet and live in Woodway, WA with my wife Jill and 3 kids. We attend University Presbyterian Church in Seattle.
I stepped foot in a developing country for the very first time in 2002 and my life has not been the same since. Words such as thrive, sustain, restore, and hope began to take on a very different meaning for me than ever before. I had the privilege of serving on staff with Agros International for 11 years and saw up close the power that training and education have to break the cycle of poverty on so many levels. I believe in the model of Rwanda Rise wholeheartedly and am moved by the stories of lives changed through Hope Vocational Training Center. I now work for Seattle Pacific University as the Associate Director of Advancement. My husband and 3 children and I live in NE Seattle. I'm originally from the East Coast but have been in the PNW for 22 years and happily call it home.
In 2008 I was invited by Rwanda Rise to teach sewing to a group of 25 women in Rwanda. I fell in love with Rwanda and the people and have been involved ever since. I am a professional seamstress and run my own business and have been able to use that skill in Rwanda at the Hope Vocational Training Center. I am currently serving as Chairman of the Board for Rwanda Rise. In my free time I love to hike and spend time with my grandchildren.
Interim Executive Director
Director of Vocational Studies
Culinary Arts Instructor
Head Cook-Boarding Students
Director of Student Discipleship
Head of Boarding Students
HVTC Head Administrator
Head of Social Services
Head of Transportation