Oct 8, 2013
06:56 PMConnecticut Today
Rwandan Genocide Survivor and LGBT Advocate Holding Guilford Fundraiser
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Among Daniel U. Ndamwizeye’s memories is one from a dozen years ago. Then, the West Haven resident was 11 and getting on a plane to leave his native Rwanda for Zambia, the first leg of a journey from pain to salvation, from tragedy to opportunity and freedom.
That freedom means the Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) graduate and TD Bank employee can live openly, and comfortably, as a gay man, a status that parts of the world and some of its cultures still struggle to understand, and to accept as simply another shade of normal.
But Ndamwizeye, who goes by the Americanized name Daniel Trust (Ndamwizeye means “I Trust Him” in Kinyarwanda), is not content to rest on the acceptance that has followed his “coming out story.” Instead, he has world-altering aspirations.
Ndamwizeye created a non-profit foundation in 2009 whose mission is to foster links with charitable and educational organizations that aid orphaned children and provide resources to assist the children in their educational and career goals, as well as in their day-to-day lives.
Through the foundation and his increasing number of high-profile motivational speaking appearances, he also acts as an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) advocate, determined to help young people feel secure and supported as they navigate issues of sexual identity.
Those efforts will come into sharp focus Thursday when The Daniel Trust Foundation, Inc. holds its first fundraiser at the Ayuthai Royal Thai Cuisine restaurant in Guilford, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., followed by an after-party at Bar nightclub in New Haven. The fundraiser centers on filling the coffers of The Daniel Trust Scholarship Fund, and a “special Connecticut teacher” will be honored at the event. Tickets, at $40, can be ordered online, and include an open buffet and wine bar, with music by DJ Keemy.
“I am introducing a teacher’s award [for those] who take it to the next level,” Ndamwizeye said over coffee recently at Fuel in New Haven. He talked about a special teacher who will be the initial honoree, but asked that her identity not be revealed in order to preserve the surprise.
The award, to be given to outstanding teachers at each annual fundraiser, will be $500 to start, and will grow “eventually as the foundation grows,” said Ndamwizeye, who will also begin offering scholarships—at $500 or $1,000 initially—to graduating high school seniors who are “doing something good that is greater than themselves.”
To understand how Ndamwizeye got to this point, and to see how tragedy can be transformed into beauty like clay in a sculptor’s hands, you have to go back to what happened before that plane trip to Zambia—to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
The genocide represented the culmination of decades of ethnic tensions, and when the crisis came, beginning with the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, Hutus engaged in a mass slaughter of the Tutsis. According to human rights organizations, 800,000 men, women, and children were killed. Others place the total closer to 1 million dead.
“Daniel Ndamwizeye can still hear the screams of his mother as she was beaten to death, a victim of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that also claimed the lives of his father and two of his sisters,” is how a story about Ndamwizeye on the SCSU website opens. He was 5 at the time.