Get to know our Executive Director and Founder, Alphonsine Anderson

The Inspiration for Rising Above the Storms

Last month, Alphonsine Anderson had two wonderful opportunities to share her story and the experiences that inspired her to create Rising Above the Storms.

The first came from Cisco, the employer of Alphonsine, and many RAS volunteers and donors. This year, February 15-19 was a special week at Cisco. It was the first World Social Justice Week, run by Cisco’s Inclusion and Collaboration Communities. The week was full of special guest speakers, including Alphonsine, that discussed a variety of topics on race, equity, human rights and much more.

Alphonsine had the opportunity to share the story of her family, including her parents and two older siblings, who were murdered in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. She discussed the vulnerable youth in Rwanda and how Rising Above the Storms aims to help and support these children. “I see myself in the eyes of those children. I could have ended up on the street. I could have been one of them,” Alphonsine says.

Additionally, Alphonsine spoke to the hope RAS brings for a brighter future. Sharing her own story, she says, can hopefully encourage others that no matter the difficulties we face, we can do something to be somebody or to positively impact someone else, as Alphonsine did by supporting 5 family members while she also attended graduate school. Just as one person can impact 5 lives, RAS aims to expand our reach to make a difference in hundreds of lives.

To hear more about Alphonsine’s story, how to get involved, and the vision, mission, and values of RAS, listen to her World Social Justice Week talk.

Also in February, Alphonsine was interviewed on the podcast “We Are for Good: The Podcast for Non-Profits.” The hosts of the podcast asked Alphonsine about her inspiration for RAS and how she got to where she is today. Alphonsine shares pivotal moments along her journey, such as when she first received a salary and could buy her siblings new clothes. It’s “the greatest memory of my life,” she says.

You’ll also hear from Board Member and Director of Marketing and Digital Experience, Devin Hood on what led her to get involved in RAS. Devin shares how the Board had to pivot from a 5-year plan to a plan of survival and recovery during COVID. She also talks about the RAS digital and social strategy and the importance of being vulnerable and standing in your truth.

Listen to the full podcast to hear more about RAS’s advocacy for children in Rwanda, how the organization has grown, and its vision for the future.

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Four Things I’ve Learned at Rising Above the Storms

Rising Above the Storms helped me develop my career. For example, I’ve learned to do financial reports, budget preparation and execution, stock control and stock taking, bank reconciliation, and employee tax declarations. However, beyond my role as an accountant at Rising Above the Storms there are key life lessons I’ve learned.

Not All Wounds Heal the Same Way

I’ve learned to offer proper counseling according to the circumstances that brought them to us.

Empowerment Through Friendship

Rising Above the Storms has empowered me to be not just a counselor to the kids, but a friend. I encourage them to strive to build a bright future.

Advocacy Goes a Long Way

Rising Above the Storms has empowered me to be an advocate for vulnerable kids and helped me live out my passion of helping needy kids and people in general.

It’s About Heart

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can help in ways beyond just giving. If you have the heart of thinking about others and what you can contribute, you can change lives.

Team Member Spotlight: Dieudonne Irakoze

The first day I was at the center without Yvette and Fred, I did not understand.

I had a fear that paralyzed my emotions.

Staying at the Center with four kids, I did not understand how life would be without them around.

As days went on, Fred and Dr. Appoline came to visit us.

They understood my fear of staying alone.

They helped convince the children to respect the sanitation measures and created home activities to help keep them busy.

We don’t know when this will end and sometimes I feel insecure, but the cooperation and sympathy of the team have resurrected my hope. They are always calling me and asking about the center.

Stay hopeful, wash your hands, and keep social distancing.

About Dieudonne

Dieudonne was born and raised in Rwanda. He completed high school and taught modern languages at Teacher Training College. He currently lives at the Center in Rwanda; he cooks, cleans and watches children who temporarily stay at the Center in between transitioning off the street and returning to their community.

He joined Rising Above the Storms (RAS) via Peace Builders NGO in February 2018 serving as caregiver and housekeeper at the Center. Dieudonne enjoys cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes and also likes so much music and basketball.

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Team Member Spotlight: Yvette Uyisabye

In the beginning I did not understand. I thought that the quarantine would only last a few days. The Center was not prepared, and our provisions were only for a few days.

I was shocked every time I sat and watched the news from around the world.

I was terrified and could not sleep when I thought about what would happen to our kids who were asked to stay home, with no class.

Because they are poor, the coronavirus will have tremendous consequences for the families of our kids.

Even though I continue to work online and stay informed about what is happening with the kids still at the center, I feel sad to hear what is happening.

My family is also quarantined. From time to time we are well off and together, but the new normal does not give us time to rest.

Staying at home, washing our hands, and social distancing are rules applied in my family.

About Yvette

Born and raised in Rwanda, Yvette is an office administrator and councelor for Rising Above the Storms.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Education of Kibungo (INATEK) located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. She is a Therapist by profession and she likes to lend a year and be a positive impact in her community and society.

Yvette served as a Primary teacher for 5 years before she started college; she loves children and likes to see them make great choices and decisions for their future. She first served as a volunteer (counselor) for a local NGO Peace Builders, and was hired full time after RAS entered partnership with Peace Builders in 2016; PeaceBuilders’ vision and mission is to improve the lives of children, family planning and early childhood development. Its partnership with RAS focus on youth-at-risk (street children) in Rwanda.

Yvette lives in Rwanda with her husband.

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Team Member Spotlight: Fred Gatete

COVID-19 has been a great devil to humankind. While respecting measures taken by the government to prevent it, we will continue to fight it in our homes, community, country, and the world.

When I accepted the role to go to the Center from time to time, to supervise in cleaning and bring the children food, I knew there was a risk.

I knew that I was exposing myself to contamination. It has not been easy for me or my wife.

Responsibility, sympathy, and compassion have helped me stay driven. I have a responsibility to the organization ‘Amahoro Builders’ and to the children.

I am now a bit more secure and pray to God to give me the power to overcome this fear, because he is able.

In Rwanda, we have had cases and that has not made it easy for me to go to the bank, the Center, or the market to buy food for the children.

At home I have fun with my lovely wife and during the time I am home, the feeling of hopelessness and the pain of moving around is gone.

Thank you to my wife who has kept me healthy.

About Fred

Fred was born in Uganda and grew up in Rwanda. Through Compassion International Organization, Fred was sponsored by an American couple (the Evan’s) to study high school and they continued through college. Fred graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Accounting from the University of Rwanda. During college, Fred also managed to study Theology through Joy of God Institute.

For 4 years, through Compassion International, Fred studied a servant leadership principles course called the Leadership Development Program (LDP). He also led different Student’s Associations at the university and in the Leadership Development Program. Some of his roles where being a care group leader and vice coordinator for all students sponsored by Compassion International at different universities in Rwanda (2014-2016). Fred was one of the top five Compassion’s students awarded during his LDP Graduation in 2016.

Fred joined Rising Above the Storms (RAS) Rwanda (via Peace Builders) in June 2017. He serves as an Accountant for the Center in Rwanda and Counselor for the children. He loves to serve & work with children, advocating for them and playing his part in transforming the lives of the children. He also serves as a coach for the children’s soccer team.

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Team Member Spotlight: Alice Musabimana

Being healthy is the first human capital. There are no spare parts for the body.

The best we can do is stay together to fight the coronavirus. In the current environment we are living in, we are respecting measures taken by the government to prevent the virus from spreading. That means regularly washing your hands with soap and water, staying at home, and social distancing.

The situation terrifies me, but I also feel hopeful seeing the efforts of different governments, agencies, and individuals. There are individuals that are sacrificing their lives to find a solution to COVID-19. I am grateful to medical professionals everywhere. And to our friends in United States, I am sorry for what is happening in your country.

May God protect you and your country.

About Alice

Born and raised in Rwanda, Alice is a representative and counselor for Rising Above the Storms.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Kigali Independent University, Rwanda and a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from Annamalai University, India. Some of her field work includes research around senior living, family planning and vulnerable youth.

A true leader, her passion to help others is not new; Alice has always been a designated person to be at the helm in all projects she has been involved in from a young age. For example, in high school, she was selected as the head of her school for several years. Some of her responsibilities were to be a role model, an advocate and a voice for her school to its leadership. She enjoys responsibilities and challenges.

Alice also volunteers as the Social Affairs Person at her church. Working for RAS and with kids, especially those at-risk is truly her passion and something she is good at. Alice lives in Rwanda with her husband and infant daughter. During her free time, Alice likes to attend soccer matches, basketball tournaments, watch movies and read books.

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