Frederick & Zacharie

Building a dream
Frederick and Zacharie
Frederick and Zacharie in front of the Ubumwe Community Center in Gisenyi, Rwanda.

The Rwandan genocide ended in 1994, but pockets of resistance still lingered for years. In 1999 a fifteen-year-old Rwandan boy, Frederick Ndabaramiye was dragged from a bus and brutally attacked by Interahamwe rebels, a few years after the genocide. When he refused to kill 18 fellow passengers the rebels hacked off Frederick’s hands with machetes and left him for dead. After a year in hospital, Frederick was placed in Imbabazi, an orphanage started by American Roseamond Carr in the aftermath of the genocide. Most of Frederick’s family had been slaughtered and his mother, who remained alive, did not have the resources to care for him after he lost his hands. Frederick met Zacharie Dusingizimana, a young teacher at the orphanage.

Not willing to remain captive to hate and anger, Frederick and Zacharie turned toward forgiveness and action. Feeling lucky to be alive, they wanted to help those like themselves. Partially because of the genocide, Rwanda has a disproportionate number of physically and mentally disabled people and most are street beggars. With the support of the Columbus Zoo’s Partners in Conservation and Jack Hanna, Frederick and Zacharie founded The Ubumwe Community Center as a place where these people are given an alternative, where they can be educated, learn skills and ultimately work, generating a sustainable living for themselves and their families. Today Frederick and Zacharie speak internationally and are mentors to young people everywhere. They teach that a disability of spirit is far worse than one of the body. Frederick models his triumph over physical limitations through his painting, his love of life and his fearlessness.