A Life Changed: Grace Karera's Story - Compassion International

A Life Changed Meet Grace Karera

  |   Posted: August 14, 2017

Home Country: Rwanda

Occupation: Medical student, studying to be a pediatric oncologist

Life Goal: "My passion is really just to serve people in need. I also want to be an inspiration to girls in my country…that they can be whatever they dream of."

As a little girl, Grace suffered tremendous loss. But from the ashes of the Rwandan genocide grew a young woman determined to make the world a better place – determined to not just survive, but to thrive.
A Story of Healing and Survival

When Grace walks the halls of University Central Hospital in Kigali, she barely notices the chaos around her. The sounds, the smells, the sights, none of them disturb her.

She is at peace there.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but perhaps that peace comes from surviving a childhood filled with more chaos than any emergency room can hold.

Grace Karera meets with a patient

Grace is studying to become a doctor.

Grace was an infant when the Rwandan genocide claimed her home, her village and her parents. Her grandmother, Verena, escaped with her surviving grandchildren.

“When my grandmother tells me the story of our survival, it sounds like a scene from a horror movie,” says Grace.

“She says that after my parents were killed, she sought refuge at a church in Ntarama Bugesera District. While she was hiding in the church, the militia came and set it on fire. But by God’s grace, my grandmother was able to run with me and my young brother, and we hid in a nearby swamp for days.”

After the genocide, Verena struggled to provide for her grandchildren. There were few jobs in the war-torn country, and many days she could not even feed Grace and her brother.

When Grace was 7, a Compassion center opened at an Anglican church in her community. Her grandmother enrolled her, and for the first time since the war, Verena finally felt a sense of relief.

Grace Karera reviewing papers with a man

“Society needs to know that educating the female child is important for any kind of development,” Grace says.

After years of carrying the burden of her grandchildren’s survival, Verena finally had a partner in Grace’s sponsor.

“Her sponsors have taken care of her more than I would have; they have paid her school fees and medical bills and always wrote her letters of encouragement,” says Verena.

“As an orphan, the correspondence with her sponsors gave her a purpose in life. I always tell her that with the kind of love and affection she has received from me and the sponsors, she should always be exemplary to her peers and also offer the same kind of love to vulnerable people.”

As Grace grew, that kindness she learned from her grandmother, sponsor and the Compassion staff began to shape her life, and soon she decided that she wanted to become a doctor. But in Rwanda, science and medicine are fields dominated by men. But Grace had not survived only to give up. With the help of Compassion, she enrolled in medical school.

“In a class of more than 100 students, we are only 15 girls and we have to work hard to prove that we are capable,” says Grace.

Grace Karera

Grace is now just months away from finishing her residency.

“Society needs to know that educating the female child is very important for any kind of development. A girl will one day become a mother, and a mother is the pillar of the family, so when you educate a girl, you are developing families and society.”

Grace is now just months away from finishing her residency. She plans to one day be a pediatric oncologist, and she hopes to work with some of the most vulnerable children in Rwanda. To help heal them. To show them what survival looks like.

“To some people a hospital is a scary place, but to me, it’s a life-changing sanctuary,” says Grace. “It’s hard to put into words the joy I feel when a patient who came through these emergency doors in a critical condition goes back home when he or she is healthy.”


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