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.
Frequently asked questions
Where is Rwanda?
Rwanda is small country about the size of Maryland located in south central Africa. It has a population of almost 13 million and the median age is 20 years.
What is Rwanda known for aside from the 1994 genocide?
Rwanda is home to one third of the world’s natural Mountain Gorilla population and three national wild game parks. Guided treks enable visitors to get an up close look at gorilla families in their natural habitat. In addition, a safari in Akagara Game Park takes you through the home to lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and African buffalo.
I'm thinking about visiting Rwanda. What do I need to know?
It’s incredible. It’s beautiful. And you will never be the same. We have teams traveling regularly to Rwanda, Africa to serve our students at Hope Vocational Training Center. We would love to have you join us on our next trip. Let us know if we can answer your questions about a trip to Rwanda.
Is Rwanda safe to visit?
Rwanda is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. The nation has gone through a remarkable process of reconciliation since the 1994 genocide. There are no longer any tribal affiliations (e.g. Hutus or Tutsi) and little to no corruption. In 2017, Rwanda was rated the ninth safest country in the world by the World Economic Forum, placed ahead of countries like New Zealand, Austria, Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands. The US did not make the top 20.
What form of government do they have?
A Presidential Republic. Paul Kagame has served the nation as its president since 2000 and was most recently re-elected to his third term in office. In large part, the nation is enjoying peace and prosperity because of its stable government. The Rwandan legislative body also has the highest percentage of elected women of any nation in the world at 61% according to the World Bank Group.
When was Rwanda Rise formed?
In 1996. Formerly known as ERM Rwanda, Founder and President Emmanuel Sitaki began the organization in Rwanda first, then subsequently opened a second U.S. based nonprofit in 2005. ERM Rwanda, dba Rwanda Rise, is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in the greater Seattle area.
Can I volunteer with Rwanda Rise?
Yes! There are myriad of ways to volunteer with Rwanda Rise, from spreading the word to providing services to short-term trips. Please go to the Contact page and fill out the form.
Is it safe to use my credit card to make a donation via the website?
Yes. We don’t store any of your credit card information (that’s handled by our trusted payment processor, BluePay, an award-winning processing provider). Plus we will never share your personal information with anyone else.
Does my support make an impact?
YES! Your support gives a student a marketable skill that can easily quadruple their income. Your support also funds extracurricular activities from sports to school choir and dance teams that bring joy and build teamwork. Regardless of their trade, every student takes an entrepreneurship course where they design a business plan and prepare to start a business after graduation. Our desire is to not only train our students in highly markable skills, but to provide a truly life changing experience.
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.
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.
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.
In 2017, my wife and I were invited to hear about an organization helping young people affected by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. When we learned about the work being done at HOPE Vocational Training Center through Rwanda Rise, we knew we wanted to be involved. I officially became a board member in 2019, hoping to bring new, fun, and creative ideas to spread our reach. I enjoy photography and videography, volunteering at my daughters' school, and getting out on the golf course.
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.
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.
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