Rwanda: Mary Kayitesi Blewitt

We all have a responsibility to stop human suffering. Each one of us must play our part, and make our voices heard too. Together we can make a difference.

— Mary Kayitesi Blewitt

Mary Kayitesi Blewitt was born in 1962 in a refugee camp in Burundi. She is the founder of Survivors Fund (Surf) in London, a non-governmental organization concerned with advocacy, litigation and fundraising to support survivors of the massacre and genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. She works through eight Rwandese organizations supporting girls, women and orphans who are heads of households. The organizations provide material support and create opportunities to meet and treat trauma, an essential condition for peaceful co-existence.

The genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 shaped the mission and destiny of Mary Kayitesi Blewitt. The turbulence that had driven her parents into the camp came back to haunt her. Most of her family members were butchered. Grief and trauma engulfed the survivors. Few were lucky to give a decent burial to their loved ones. Being a Tutsi in Rwanda during the 1959 revolution and later in 1994 was considered a curse. Insecurity and fear dominated their lives. At the time of Mary’s birth, her parents were in Burundi as refugees. Her father died when she was five. Her mother remarried but her stepfather later died, leaving her to fend for eight children. The family then moved to Uganda. In 1986, Mary went to the UK to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Life was beginning to look normal until suddenly in 1994 when the genocide began. A million lives were lost in 100 days, 50 of the victims were those of her immediate family. Mary’s stepfather had been a doctor. From him she learnt the great value of support and providing relief where and when one can. So when the killing stopped, she went to Rwanda to bury her family and try to help. The countless corpses and mass graves were a daily sight. The survivors recounted harrowing tales. She describes the eight months she spent in the country as her most trying time. Back in the UK, she set up Surf to help the survivors. The funds benefits especially the hundreds of Rwandian survivors in the UK who had no support. Surf also assists survivors in Rwanda through grassroots organizations like Associations des Veuves du Génocide, Solace Ministries, and Ibuka, the survivors' umbrella group. Surf also ensures that the voices of the survivors are heard, that the memories of the genocide are kept alive and that the victims are never forgotten.

Survivors Fund (Surf)