Today we introduce you to Clemantine Wamariya, whose story is one of resilience amidst chaos and overwhelming destruction. Born in Kigali, Rwanda, Clemantine was only six years old when the Rwandan genocide began in 1994. She and her sister, Claire, became separated from their family and lived on the run in refugee camps in seven different countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. In 2000, the International Organization for Migration (OIM) brought them to the United States, where she started her formal education at the age of 13. Miraculously, the following year, after 7 years of separation, Clemantine and Claire learned that their parents and younger siblings were alive in Rwanda. After 12 years of separation, she and her sister were reunited with their family on The Oprah Winfrey Show. “With every interaction I have had with Oprah Winfrey, she reminds me to be myself and to continue speaking-up about injustices,” says Clemantine.
Since her early teen years, she has traveled the world sharing her message of personal resilience and advocating for action to advance human rights. Clemantine later went on to graduate from Yale University in 2014 with a degree in comparative literature. Described as “a compelling storyteller and fierce advocate for girls worldwide,” Clemantine has spoken at the United States Holocaust Museum, the United Nations annual commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, and the US Department of Homeland Security Human Rights Law Conference. In 2011, President Obama appointed her to serve on the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and she currently serves on the board of Women for Women International and Refugee Transition in San Francisco.
Clemantine’s experiences as a Rwandan Genocide survivor and a former refugee have emboldened her to fight injustice and to champion the cause of underprivileged and disadvantaged people. For the past eight years, she has shared her riveting experiences as both a survivor of genocide and as a refugee. She is continuing her journey as a storyteller, collaborator, and a public speaker. For young people searching for their passion, she advises them to “Be kind to everyone. Be curious about life. Be grateful, give and work hard.”
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