Shifting Gears Towards a Brighter Future
In 1994, the people of Rwanda experienced one of the worst genocides in history, taking nearly a million people’s lives in just over 100 days. Thousands of others were left alone and homeless searching for refuge and hope. Many people took refuge in Congo, but years later some of the Interahamwe rebels returned back to Rwanda to kill again.
In 1998, at 15 years old, Frederick Ndabaramiye was traveling on a bus that was stopped by a group of Interahamwe rebels armed with machetes and nail-spiked bats. They demanded that Frederick kill the other passengers to save his own life but he refused saying, “Kill me first.” This enraged the rebels so they made him watch as they killed the rest of the passengers one by one, with machete, in front of his eyes. Soon thereafter, they told him they were going to give him a message. Thinking this would be a letter or note to pass on to someone, he was sorely mistaken as they dragged him into the forest and pinned his arms to a log. As they started cutting with dull machetes he begged that they leave him just two fingers. Ignoring him, they cut off his hands and left him for dead.
Eventually, Frederick somehow managed to stand up and walk out of the forest where two women found him and brought him to a hospital. Soon thereafter, he fell into a coma for six months. When he finally awoke, he was in shock. Not only did he see his arms missing hands, but he also found himself in an environment where people were crying in pain and dying all around him. Confused and feeling useless, Frederick soon lost all hope. He tried killing himself a couple times but after each attempt being unsuccessful, he finally realized that God had a reason for him to live.
Frederick spent the rest of that year in the hospital recovering. When he was released, his mother didn’t have the resources to care for him so he was placed in the Imbabazi Orphanage, which was started shortly after the genocide by an American woman Rosamond Carr. When he first arrived at the orphanage, it was very difficult for him to live with his anger and sadness but eventually this would be the place where Frederick regained hope and created a new life for himself.
Frederick’s new life began shortly after he started sharing his stories and experiences with the others. He realized that he wasn’t alone and he was determined to be independent again. He wanted desperately to be able to feed, bathe and dress himself just like he once did before. The first thing he re-learned was how to smile. Soon thereafter, he taught himself how to hold a spoon, take a shower, shave and put on clothes. No matter how many attempts each task took, Frederick never gave up!
It was at the orphanage where Frederick met his friend, Zachary Dusingizimana. Together, they helped one another as they each began to let go of their fear and anger. Eventually embracing forgiveness, both of them were able to create a good life for themselves. As they continued to share their dreams, they realized they wanted to help other survivors do the same.
In 2005, they founded the Ubumwe Community Center (UCC), which has been a place of hope, helping hundred’s of children and adults living with disabilities. UCC offers basic education, training in computer skills and handicrafts, sign language instruction, an outreach program, and an integration program that places some disabled students back into mainstream Rwandan schools. When they first founded UCC, they were helping on average three people a day. Today, UCC now receives more than 100 people daily!
Frederick is also the founder of I am Able, a handicap cycling team that is taking it even further, on two wheels, where UCC can not go. The cyclists are trained in the UCC methods of self reliance and they are passionate about passing on the joy of purpose. Their driving mission is to help others like themselves embrace the message that disability is not an inability and that we are all able! Along the rides, the I am Able team spreads trails of love, forgiveness and hope. They share their own stories, encouragement, support and training while raising awareness that all beings are valued members of society. Frederick invites anyone and everyone to join him and the rest of the I am Able team as they spread awareness, inspiration and hope to all!
Frederick continues to work at the Ubumwe Community Center while also focusing on the pursuit of developing the I am Able project worldwide! Another favorite pastime of Frederick’s is painting. You can often find him in his studio working on his most current masterpiece and sometimes you’ll catch him sharing his passion with others, teaching them how to paint as well. Frederick continues to be an inspiration and fine example of what forgiveness, courage and determination can bring! To learn more about Frederick, check out his biography called, ‘Frederick: A Story of Boundless Hope,’ written by Amy Parker.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about Frederick’s story. Please take a look at some of his amazing work, enjoy one of the most infectious smiles you’ll ever come across and learn why he is doing all that he is!
Forgiveness sets you free!