Founder April Riegler on Her First Trip to Rwanda
“As we spent time there, seeing the facilities…talking and laughing with the kids, I was inspired by the two strong father figures these children were so lucky to have in their lives. At the same time, I wondered where the mother figures were. Holding a little girl in my arms, whose need just to be held was so evident, I thought of my own mom, and how lucky I am to have her. So many motherless girls surrounded me; with the incredible changes young girls face as they ascend into adulthood, who would be there to listen to their secrets, to give answers to questions all girls have?”
Hope Shines, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2007. Hope Shines provides Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Rwanda support through programs focusing on education, nutrition and health. Hope Shines was founded on the belief that every child should be given the opportunity for a healthy, happy life both in mind and body and HOPE for a bright future.
In 2007, Hope Shines, Inc. founder April Riegler traveled to Rwanda for the first time as a retail buyer in New York City, working with Fair Winds Trading on the Rwanda Path to Peace basket project. She was able to meet basket weavers, who were survivors of the 1994 genocide, on this trip. During this visit, April visited an orphans centre (the site of our first two camps), just outside of Kigali — Rwanda’s capital. The orphan centre was full of amazing little girls and boys, all without parents, and some who are HIV-positive. The orphan centre was founded by two men, themselves orphaned and survivors of the genocide, doing their best to care for these kids who needed the basics of life: food, clothing, and shelter. April knew there was something she could add to these basic necessities—education, friendship, and mentoring.
Since I founded Hope Shines, I have shared the following with many of our supporters. It is the foundation of Hope Shines and how we make it happen year after year: “My motivation is to never let down the Hope Shines kids. We tell them, ‘See you next summer!’ and if we say we are coming back – we do it. It’s that simple. I never want to let a child down by breaking this promise.” ~April Riegler, Founder
She knew that what Rebero needed was a program for the young girls, and in less than a year April made it happen. The successful launch of Hope Shines summer camp program occurred in July 2008, with seven volunteer mentors (four from the U.S. and three from Rwanda) working with forty female OVC. Within two years the program grew to encompass both male and female children. Since Hope Shines was founded we have expanded our programming to include annual health exams, vocational skills workshops and an after-school program!
Hope Shines is completely dedicated to every child in our programs who have grown before our eyes and are bettering their lives and the lives of their families. They are the future of Rwanda and are shining stars in their schools and their communities. Through Hope Shines activities they have been given HOPE and the right to dream for a brighter future!