For the past ten years, the population of Rwandans living in the United States has more than doubled in number over to almost one thousand people. Most of them live in large cities and are fast joining the ranks of a growing middle class immigrant community.
The Washington DC area in particular has become a home to many of these Rwandans, mostly youth seeking to maintain their bonds to their home country. They say immigrating brings new challenges, responsibilities and a need to protect a culture that can easily be lost as they fit into the new environment.
With that in mind, the Rwandan community in Washington created the “Rwanda Network Association” (RINA). Founding member and chairman Yohan Petero Kayinamura calls it “a platform for creating networking opportunities and advancing the lives and culture of its members.”
Created at the end of last year, the association has over 100 members of varying ages, who get together periodically to celebrate, network and above all teach young children who were born in the US the home language of Kinyarwanda.
Rwandans in the diaspora have become an economic force in a country that still reels from the 1994 genocide in which almost a million people perished and depleted the country of valuable human resources.
Kigali says it recognizes the Rwanda diaspora as key partners in the sustainable development of the economy, through the remittance often sent to family members.
Kayinamura says that Rwandan youth came up with idea after realizing that many of his compatriots have to go through the same problems as they try to settle in the US.There is little or no information available to them as they try to adapt to their new home and so helping each other was the right solution.
He adds that the advantages of a social support network like RINA includes professional referrals and job search opportunities for people who are often new to the area.
Kayinamura reiterates the need for people to keep in touch with their culture and heritage. He says it’s for this reason his association maintains a traditional dance troupe made up of members, that entertained hundreds of members during the new years celebration
The association also supports an annual event that brings Rwandans from all over the United States to celebrate their heritage while showcasing the growing opportunities for trade and tourism in Rwanda. The event also attracts American business interest in Rwanda, and promots a culture that was once thought to be on the verge of demise.
For more information visit www.rinaonline.org