In 2006, Jessica Markowitz, then 12, started a charity that has sent 22 impoverished Rwandan girls to school. Richard’s Rwanda IMPUWE is named after Richard Kananga, an aid worker who stayed with her family that year (“impuwe” is the Rwandan word for compassion). Richard does reconciliation work in Rwanda, and when he told Jessica about the children who had lost their parents to genocide and could not afford school, she asked how she could help. “He connected me with 22 girls, mostly orphans, who needed assistance,” says Jessica. “I talked to some girls at my middle school, and we formed a group that bloomed into something bigger.”
Through bake sale fundraisers, school supply drives and a ton of determination on the part of its members, Richard’s Rwanda IMPUWE has changed the lives of those 22 girls. Jessica has taken several trips to rural villages in Rwanda, where she formed a partnership with a local girls’ school. She spent this past summer teaching Rwandan kids to read in English.
The charity is now expanding to chapters in five more high schools this year. For her amazing work, Jessica was awarded a World of Children Global Changemaker Award comparative to winning the Nobel Prize, but for a youth. “One big goal we have is to build a women’s empowerment library,” says Jessica. “We want to emphasize female contributions in literature and academics to show the girls in Rwanda how powerful they can be.”
Watch Jessica in this video talk about her charity: