1. Maranyundo means unbreakable.
Maranyundo means “a stone so firm it cannot be broken”. The Maranyundo Hills overlooking the school, although beautiful, have a dark history as the site of a former concentration camp. The building of the Maranyundo Girls School has transformed this site from a place of horror to a place of hope and reconciliation. Children of victims and children of persecutors live and learn, side-by-side, rich and poor together. As Sister Ann Fox said in her address to the first graduating class in 2010, “Although the school grounds may be a genocide site, it is not one made of bones; it is a living monument of hope against darkness”.
2. The Maranyundo Initiative does not own or operate the Maranyundo Girls School.
The Maranyundo Initiative is the US-based 501 c (3) non-profit that founded and continues to support the school. The Initiative was officially incorporated on April 21, 2008 by an incredible group of eight Boston-area philanthropists almost all of whom are still active board members. In 2010, as the first class graduated, the Maranyundo Initiative took the unusual step of transferring full ownership of the school to the Rwandan people. They asked the Benebikira Congregation, a Rwandan Order of Roman Catholic nuns, to accept ownership of the school. The Benebikira Sisters, who are respected throughout Rwanda for their heroism and compassion during the genocide and who have a strong mission of service to the poor, accepted stewardship of the school. Thus began a partnership with the Maranyundo Initiative that grows stronger every year, based on mutual respect, accountability and strong affection.
3. Nuns may run the school, but it is not a Catholic school!
The Maranyundo Girls School is an independent private school. Although it is run by the Benebikira Sisters , the school is open and welcoming to students of all faiths. Rwanda is a deeply religious country and many girls who attend the school have been raised with strong, faith-based values. World religion is a part of the Rwandan National Curriculum and is taught at Maranyundo Girls School as it is at every school in the country. Parents seek out schools run by the Benebikira Sisters not only because they administer many of the country’s highest performing schools but also because of the values of care, compassion, discipline and personal responsibility that are hallmarks of the schools they run.
4. Maranyundo graduates are going places!
Since that first graduation in 2010, more than 250 middle school girls have graduated from the Maranyundo Girls School! Graduates are highly sought after and have gone on to schools like Gashora Girls Academy a prestigious, highly competitive private high school founded by donors from Seattle, the African Leadership Academy, as well as other private and public schools throughout the country. Even more impressive, over 90% of Maranyundo graduates who completed High School, have gone on to university both in Rwanda and across the globe. This fall, eight Maranyundo graduates will be attending college in the US including Duke University, Worcester PolyTech and Duquesne University. Two are on MasterCard Scholarships in Canada, and the rest are at universities in countries throughout Africa, in Rwanda, Ghana and Senegal.
5. Maranyundo students love fashion shows!
Maranyundo Girls work hard and devote a lot of time to their studies. But they also love to have fun and be creative. One of the ways that students harness their creativity is by putting on fashion shows. They use what they have, often wrapping towels, African fabric and scarves in unique ways to make their outfit perfect. The school has many budding fashion designers as well as models who love to strut their stuff on the catwalk!
6. Maranyundo Girls are Bookworms!
In the school’s early years, students rarely read for pleasure. Books were reserved for academic study and it seemed reading was considered homework. But things have changed! Visitors have filled the library shelves with novels like Harry Potter and James and the Giant Peach. Schools in the US, like The Westover School in Middletown CT, Watertown Middle School, and the Advent School in Boston have organized book drives and donors have gobbled up the Amazon Wish List allowing us to send suitcases full of books with every traveler to Rwanda. As the library has grown, so too has the girls’ excitement and interest in reading. Students may not have much time to read for pleasure, but they make use of every spare moment, even reading while walking to and from class. We are surprised there are no injuries as girls crisscross the campus with their noses in books in true bookworm fashion!
7. MGS is on its way to becoming The Maranyundo Girls High School of Science and Technology!
”Expand the school so we can stay here through high school.” This has been the dream of Maranyundo middle school students and their parents since the school opened and became one of the top performing schools in the country. And now, the Maranyundo Initiative is helping make this dream a reality! Construction is well underway and by January, 2017 MGS will have become a full secondary school, doubling its size to 360 students. A new dormitory, bathroom facilities, dining hall expansion and six new classrooms are complete. Three new science classrooms are under construction. Plans are underway for an exciting new building that might well become the center of the school. It will house the library, computer labs and three science labs and will provide space for seminars, independent study and outreach to the community.
8. Maranyundo Girls Love to Pile on the Extracurricular Activities
Maranyundo Girls are busy from early morning until night but extracurricular activities are an important part of the Maranyundo Day. Whether it is sports, art club, hip hop dance, fashion design, culture club, coding club, or chorus, Maranyundo Girls School is focused on developing the whole girl. Students are well rounded and learn how to manage their time effectively so they are very productive.
9. The Benebikira Sisters rock!
The Benebikira Sisters have a long history of providing academic excellence and access to education for even the poorest of the poor. The congregation operates 14 secondary boarding schools, 6 primary schools and 2 vocational schools. In addition they run a number of guesthouses, dormitories, a bakery and a few other small enterprises that provide jobs and opportunity as well as generate revenue for the order. During the 1994 genocide, the Benebikira Sisters distinguished themselves through countless acts of courage, faith, and integrity that often put their own lives in peril. In the aftermath of the genocide, the Sisters cared for and found homes for over 500 orphans. They played an important role in the country’s rebuilding, providing not only material support but also mental health and spiritual counseling to those dealing with trauma and loss. In recognition of the important work they have done, The American Peace Abbey awarded the Benebikira Congregation the Courage of Conscience Award in 2010.
10. There are so many ways to support Maranyundo Girls School
Sure, opening your wallet is a great way to help the work that the school does. For every dollar that you donate to the Maranyundo Initiative, 95 cents goes directly to the Maranyundo Girls School to support its growth and give girls the opportunity for an excellent education. But, did you know that there are other ways that you can get involved? You could organize a book drive at your school, place of worship, workplace, or library. We have a great Amazon Wish List of books that you can purchase, or you can donate gently used, quality young adult literature to the Maranyundo Initiative and they will personally deliver them to the school. Also, you can support the Maranyundo Initiative just by shopping. You can add the Maranyundo Initiative as the organization that you support for Amazon Smile, or you can choose from the hundreds of venders under our Support link on the website and a percentage of all of your purchases will be given to the Maranyundo Initiative.We have an active Facebook Page and have recently entered the Twitter-verse! So reach out and tell us how you like to support Maranyundo!