Hotel Des Milles Collines, Rwanda: By Kim Mathieu
I was lucky enough to be picked as a Youth Ambassador this year and upon our arrival yesterday in busy Kigali, Rwanda, the view was the most stunning. Known for being the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda honours its name. But most don’t know Rwanda only for its breathtakingly beautiful landscape, but for the famous movie Hotel Rwanda. Today, we had the chance to visit the original Hotel Des Milles Collines. Thinking we would just drop by the 5-star hotel to take a couple pictures, we never would have anticipated what we experienced.
In the parking lot of the hotel was a middle-aged, average-looking man wearing a yellow and green polo. When we arrived, he greeted us as most Rwandans do: with nothing but genuine hospitality. His name was Jeafriea, nicknamed Jean-Charles, and although this man looked nothing but ordinary, his story was extraordinary.
The hotel we see in the movie Hotel Rwanda isn’t the real hotel which supported the lives of over 1,200 victims of the turmoil. The hotel we were at, the one in which we were casually standing in its parking -lot, was the hotel in which Jeafriea had been a manager during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. This man had been there when families went starving and took refuge at the hotel, when they had been forced to drink the pool’s water as a way to survive.
I’m sitting now by the side of the Sportsview Hotel, the hotel which we are staying at for our stay in Kigali, and I know I won’t be able to look at a pool the same way. When we got to see the pool at the Hotel Des Milles Collines, I could not see the constant chatter of the tourists appreciating a meal besides the pool. I could not see the children splashing around in the warm water. Instead, I could do nothing but imagine a different atmosphere, one where Rwandans were taking refuge in this hotel, one in which Jeafriea was managing.
Jeafriea had shook hands with the legendary Romeo Dallaire and although he did not receive the same amount of fame, he was a hero. Never would I have thought to casually meet a man with such a heroic tale. Yet it seemed here that everyone has a story. You meet what looks like the most average person and they all have something eye-opening to tell you, something that makes you really ask yourself what your own story is.
Rwanda is shaping my story, and I cannot wait to come home and share my story with you all.
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- Tamara MacCaul says
Hi Kim, It is so nice to hear from you and that you are meeting such wonderful people! I hope you meet many others like you, who have your unfaltering compassion and enthusiasm. Together, I know you will make our world a better place! xox Tamara MacCaul