April is a month of great significance for Rwandans all around the world because the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda that lasted 100 days and eventually claimed between 800,000 – 1 million lives, almost all Tutsi, began on April 7, 1994. This year the Rwandese Community Association of Maine will commemorate the genocide on April 16 in Portland

The Rwandese Community Association of Maine


Apollinaire Munyaneza

The Rwandese Community Association of Maine (RCAM) is led by Apollinaire Munyaneza, President, and an executive team that includes officers and commissioners of teams focused on areas such as Gender and Family; Youth and Culture; Communication and Mobilization; Skills and Knowledge; Social life; and Solidarity. The leadership team was voted into office in May 2021. There is an annual General Assembly, which was held via Zoom this year. 

RCAM is a nonprofit with nine board members. The board meets quarterly. The association has a solidarity policy, which was drafted by the executive team, and details how community members will be supported in difficult times, such as bereavement, as well as in joyful times, such as marriages. The goal is equal support for all. Certain members who are well-respected by the community and therefore have authority are chosen to lead the Solidarity Committee, whose role is to give advice and intervene at early stages if conflict or disagreement develops, before a difference escalates. 

 

All Rwandese people in Maine are automatically members of the association. There are 2,000-3,000 Rwandese in Maine. The group maintains a WhatsApp group of more than 250 people. Recently more people have been settling in the Lewiston/Auburn area, although most still live in greater Portland. RCAM’s mission is to help Rwandan immigrants integrate into mainstream U.S. society. RCAM advocates for the delivery of services to those who face significant challenges that stem from post-traumatic stress disorder, language limitations, legal obstacles, and validation of educational certification from abroad. The association also works to educate local Mainers about Rwandan culture, values, and beliefs, and holds cultural events partly to achieve this end. RCAM believes that cultural events help boost the morale of immigrants. 

April is the month Rwandese around the world commemorate the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. RCAM will hold an event on April 16, beginning with a Walk to Remember and continuing with a program in Talbot Hall at University of Southern Maine. In addition to supporting survivors, the goal is to educate as many people as possible about what happened, in hopes of preventing similar things from happening to others. 

Other plans include sports events and cultural education for children so they will not forget their heritage. New Year’s is usually a big celebration. Since COVID-19 prevented a celebration in winter, the community hopes to celebrate the New Year this summer. A musical event bringing the Rwandese and Burundian communities together is planned for September at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. 

The pandemic has been particularly hard on children and the elderly, and RCAM hopes to get both groups outdoors during the good weather. The community seeks funding help to make this possible. In addition, RCAM could use help paying for someone to staff their office space at the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, where they have been helping people with documents. 

Contact: Apollinaire Munyaneza, [email protected]