In 1994, more than 800,000 people were murdered in Rwanda in just 100 days. No one was spared the terror and violence of those days. Two survivors of that genocide, Norah Bagirinka and Tatiana Adams founded Rwanda Women in Action (RWIA) in 2007, after they had separately resettled in Columbus, OH.
Born out of the needs of other refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, and the Republic of Congo, Norah and Tatiana established RWIA to help these women, men, and children navigate the labyrinth of social services, establish a strong independent base, and thrive in their newly adopted country. Norah and Tatiana’s personal refugee experiences coupled with their ability to speak English and several African languages, make them a vital resource for translation and communication for the more than 30 refugee families that live in the Northland area of Columbus.
Refugees are guaranteed 90 days of assistance upon arrival. RWIA seeks to fill the gaps left by this limited support by offering programs at no charge to equip these refugees with necessary knowledge and skills to survive in this country. Currently an all volunteer organization, Norah and Tatiana, along with volunteers, provide instruction, transportation, and assistance.
Since 2007, I have worked with Tatiana Adams to assist African women and their families as they resettle in Columbus, OH. The idea to form RWIA came from our personal experiences attempting to assimilate in America, learning a new way of living, and our ability to speak multiple African languages. We understand the problems inherent in the refugee experience and are able to guide them through everyday living experiences. Our organization grew out of refugee's needs and their dependence on us at all hours of the day and night. In the past two years, we formed a board, attained 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service, and received grants from Columbus International Program (Schildhouse Founders Fund) and The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio. Additionally, we were able to form partnerships with the Assistance League of Metro Columbus and Children's Hunger Alliance. The needs of our organization are great, and we recognize these steps are only the beginning.
RWIA began by putting on programs for African women from central Ohio to tell their stories of survival, sing, dance, and sell African crafts to provide scholarships for young women in Rwanda. As our founders, Norah Bagirinka and Tatiana Adams, spent increasing time assisting refugees in locally, RWIA focused its efforts in central Ohio. In 2011, RWIA was awarded a grant from The Women's Fund of Central Ohio to establish a cooperative daycare program. The mission of the program is to provide necessary free time for the participants so that they can improve their lives through English classes, learn new skills, and receive job training. Children's Hunger Alliance directed the training and inspections for the refugee women to become certified childcare providers. We also partnered with the Assistance League of Metro Columbus in providing necessary supplies for the program. In 2012, the Women's Fund awarded a grant to continue and expand the program.