Jacqueline Murekatete has something that makes her stand out from the many people who embark on charitable ventures each year: a personal resilience that makes Lance Armstrong look like an emotionally unstable teenager.
When she was just 9 years old, the Rwanda native’s mother, father, siblings and entire extended family were murdered in the savage genocide that killed up to a million people in a matter of weeks in 1994.
Surviving and fleeing to the United States, she eventually attended New York University and earned a degree in political science, FastCompany reports.
Now, in her mid-20s, Murekatete has decided to embrace her experience to try to turn it into something good in a way that got her noticed by DoSomething.org, a website for socially enterprising youngsters run by a FastCompany columnist.
Connecting with an organization called Miracle Corners of the World, which builds and helps fund community and education centers in poor areas in Africa, Murekatete helped set up a learning center in her native country. It’s called Jacqueline’s Human Rights Corner. Her ability to raise nearly $100,000 to get it up and running, along with her openness about her experience, caught the eye of DoSomething.org, which awarded her a $10,000 prize to put toward her efforts.
DoSomething.org awarded five $10,000 grants and a $100,000 grand prize to a small set of young social entrepreneurs; FastCompany.com has profiled one each day this week.
Murekatete joins other dedicated survivors like Immaculee Ilibagiza who turned her unlikely survival into an opportunity to help. Ilibagiza was one of eight woman who survived for more than 90 days in the tiny bathroom of a local pastor, hiding from marauding Hutu death squads. Ilibagiza has started the Left to Tell Charitable Fund to help children orphaned by the genocide.
In the DoSomething Awards, four others were recognized for promising development and education projects, ranging from a theater program for students with developmental disorders to a public health program for Haitian youth.
The winner of the $100,000 prize was Jessica Posner, who started a center to help young girls in Kibera, Kenya, who would otherwise have to sell themselves for sex to survive on the streets. Check out Posner's project here.
Photo: configmanager/Creative Commons via Flickr