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Irish aid worker's Rwandan mission

A YOUNG Dublin woman has hailed Rwanda as her "second home" after working with survivors of the African country's horrific genocide.

Alice Simington, from Carrickmines, is now the country director for Concern in Rwanda and has been based in Kigali for the past two years.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups which degenerated into the world's worst genocide since World War II.

Between 800,000 and one million people were killed, most bludgeoned to death with clubs and machetes.

But Alice said that Rwanda is now rebuilding itself and is on course to become one of Africa's most developed economies.

"The Rwandan government is redesigning primary school programmes," she told the Herald.

"They are moving from teaching in the local language to [using] English in schools and Concern, with a consortium, is working with parent-teacher organisations."


"We give cash transfers worth between €15 and €20 to support people in their small enterprises. And it is working."

Alice now heads up a 55-strong Concern team in Rwanda, all bar two of whom are Rwandan nationals.

"We work in the south of the country, which is the poorest area. Beginning in April, Rwanda marked the 20th anniversary of the genocide in which 15pc of the total population died.

"The commemorations were held for 100 days, symbolising the number of days the genocide lasted. It ended on July 4, which is now Liberation Day.

"The government, which is efficient and ambitious, is striving to make Rwanda a middle-income country by 2020. Rwanda is approximately the size of Munster with a population of 11m.

Alice said that while she misses Ireland, the reward is to see the success of development programmes led by Concern.

"Concern programmes in Rwanda are funded by Irish Aid, USAID, the Government of the Netherlands and general donations from the Irish public.

"Of course I miss my family and friends, and shopping too, and the independence and freedom you have when living in a country like Ireland. I also miss being anonymous, something, that is impossible for a white woman in Rwanda," Alice smiled.

"Still, I see Rwanda very much as a second home now."

The young Dubliner studied Public Administration at the University of Limerick before doing a Higher Diploma in Management and Marketing at UCC.

She then did a Masters in Development Studies at UCD and as part of her Masters' programme spent three months working in Liberia.

"I was 28 and it was a life-changing experience," Alice recalled.