When Jessica was eleven, she met Richard Kananga, a Rwandan human rights advocate working with children whose lives were devastated by the 1994 genocide. As Richard spoke about the importance of rebuilding hope and forgiveness in his country, Jessica was inspired to find her own way to help Rwandan girls her age. Richard arranged for Jessica to visit Rwanda to meet with girls who live off a dollar a day, and Jessica began raising funds for them back home. She subsequently founded Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE—“Inspire and Motivate Powerful Undiscovered Hope for Women with Education”—a program that offers educational opportunities to low-income girls in the rural district of Nyamata by providing financial support for their schooling.
Jessica has helped combat gender discrimination, reduce child mortality, and empower young women to become wage earners and leaders in their communities. Funds raised through Jessica’s efforts have covered the cost of educating 75 girls at primary and secondary schools, as well as in universities and other vocational training programs. After nine trips to Rwanda, Jessica and her Richard’s Rwanda-IMPUHWE team have raised more than $250,000 in cash and in-kind donations, increased Rwandan students’ access to technology, launched an annual cross-cultural service learning trip to Rwanda for students from across America, and built young women’s leadership skills in both Rwanda and the US.