The U.S. Department of State has named Dr. Protais Bunini Gahungu, an alumnus of the Citizen Exchanges program, as State Alumni Member of the Month. Throughout April, his leadership in the fields of community service, education and women’s empowerment will be recognized on the State Alumni website (https://alumni.state.gov), the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ official site for the more than one million alumni who have participated in a Department-sponsored exchange program.
Dr. Gahungu credits his Citizen Exchanges program for changing his life and helping him realize that great achievers can start small and grow to create a large impact. In 2000, following his exchange experience in the United States, Gahungu founded Misericorde, an NGO located in underserved areas around the capital city of Kigali that works to support the Rwandan process of unification and reconciliation.
Misericorde comprises three components: a counseling service, a school and a women’s entrepreneurship project. The counseling service serves about 700 people annually, including orphans, genocide survivors and couples with serious marital or relationship problems. Misericorde College, created in 2003, has an enrollment of 80 students, ages 12-20, of whom 38 attend for free. Not only students but also people in the surrounding neighborhood of Kiberinka Village benefit from the school’s small computer lab and library, which were furnished and equipped through donations. The women’s entrepreneurship project, called Tuzamurane, began in 2007 and has since trained 15 women in the community to make and sell bags, clothes and postcards from local materials. Priority is given to widows with financial need, those who have children at Misericorde College but cannot afford school fees, and those with HIV/AIDS.
Gahungu was among 30 alumni who organized to elect a steering committee for the Rwanda-U.S. Alumni Association (RUSA) in December 2010. Given his prior success in registering an NGO, he has offered to advise the steering committee when they register RUSA. Gahungu also serves as a preacher at Evangelical Gilgal Church and as the Director of Action of Evangelical Churches for the Promotion of Health and Development, a church-run organization with the mission to facilitate peace, reconciliation, health, and development projects throughout Rwanda.
Each month the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of Alumni Affairs, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, confers the State Alumni Member of the Month award on an outstanding alumnus or alumna. For more information, visit the website at http://exchanges.state.gov/alumni/alumnus.html .
Media Contact: Catherine Stearns, StearnsCL@state.gov, phone (202) 632-6437