On a street corner in Kigali, two Alaskans (Victoria and Christy) met by chance. They quickly learned that they had both made plans to work at the same orphanage. Victoria was providing music lessons and the kids were eager to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from her. The big problem was that Victoria would soon be gone and her students would no longer have regular access to musical equipment. One of the older boys, Kira, asked Victoria for what all the kids really wanted - a music production studio. She agreed to return to Kigali to help them build one. Christy jumped at the opportunity to help build the studio. Maria, a fellow arts educator and friend of Victoria's from NYC, flew out to Rwanda to also help with the process.
These three woman a small entourage of hard-working and devoted local youth drew sketches, took measurements, carried wood, hammered, sawed, and nailed for three months until, finally, the studio was opened for business on April 1, 2013.
The youth decided to name the studio GMC Production. They chose the name to pay tribute to the orphanage they were all raised in, Gisimba Memorial Center. The studio quickly became so much more than a place to make music. It became a community center, a study hall, a library, a craft space, a play space, and a place the kids can use to stay connected even after they have moved out of the orphanage.
Rwanda has a special way of getting into your heart. Once you're connected to the people and culture, it is impossible to go home and not still feel connected to the beautiful country and wonderful people. These three women and the Rwandan youth have grown closer each year through their shared work and vision for GMC Pro. They continue to work together to expand the studio and provide new artistic, educational, and social opportunities for the kids who were raised in the orphanage. Victoria, Maria, and Christy have been funding the studio on their own for the last couple years. As activities in the studio increased, and more kids started needing financial assistance to pay for school fees, it was clear that the women needed to start an official organization in order to better support the youth.
Turi Kumwe Inc. was founded in January 2015 with the intention of building a global community of support for the Rwandan youth, and also to increase opportunities for cultural and artistic exchange between American and Rwandan youth.
Our name, Turi Kumwe, is a Kinyarwandan phrase that means “we are together.” Although the words are simple, turi kumwe can be said to acknowledge a friendship, to indicate you are thinking of someone even though they are far away, to comfort someone when they feel alone, or to show solidarity and support for each other as we journey through this life.