By Valerie Alexander *
I spent yesterday and today traveling with President Clinton through Rwanda, a country he first visited in 1998, as president. I was honored to join him on his fourth trip to the country, and to learn of the dramatic change that’s taken place here since that first visit 14 years ago. In Rwanda we see the good that can come when people are given the investment and opportunity they need to secure their own futures – when people’s hard work and good efforts are rewarded with strong systems that yield strong outcomes.
In 1998, Rwanda’s per-capita income was about $268 per year. Today it’s about $1,300 per year – almost a fivefold increase. The country is building stronger systems, and in turn, a culture around the predictability of good results for good efforts.
We can see the success of these efforts in the Clinton Foundation projects we visited yesterday and today, and in the people we’ve met whose lives have been measurably improved by the Foundation’s programs and by the work of our friends and partners.
At the new Butaro Cancer Center in Northern Rwanda, we met local doctors and staff who are not only the sole providers of cancer treatments in the region but also the most innovative. They are building the health infrastructure that’s needed to sustain quality care in the region long into the future. We also met mothers and children who will have futures because of this work – and who will return to their communities to lead healthy, productive lives. I can’t think of an experience more meaningful than meeting people whose lives have been saved or changed by the work we do.
Today we stopped in Kigali to learn about the Human Resources for Health (HRH) program – which is addressing a critical shortage of health workers in Rwanda not by staffing clinics and hospitals with foreign specialists, but by building a local, sustainable education system, in partnership with 13 top-ranked U.S. schools. Currently, Rwanda has only 633 physicians for a population of over 10 million people.
Also in Kigali, we visited the Mount Meru Soyco factory, which is currently under construction. We met with local farmers who will benefit from the agribusiness project through our Clinton Hunter Development Initiative. The lush green landscape – the backdrop to the newly erected steel beams – will become the permanent home for a fully
functioning processing facility soon. And that was an overwhelming sight. Through a translator, I asked a farmer who also serves as president of one of the local cooperatives, what this project means to him and to his family. His wide smile needed no translation. What is taking place is truly a game changer.
I see these projects in photo and video every day. I work alongside our local staff and write about the dramatic impact we’re having on the ground – yet none of that compares to seeing the work firsthand, or meeting the people whose lives have been impacted by our programs. In my official capacity on staff, I have the privilege of communicating the Foundation’s great work to people the world over. Yet over this past week, people have been communicating the Foundation’s great work to me.
* Source www.clintonfoundation.org