Founded in 2005, Jessie's Place is run and inspired by Frederic Ndabaramiye, who at 15-years-old was dragged from a bus and brutally attacked by Interahamwe rebels. When he refused to kill 18 fellow passengers the rebels hacked off Frederic’s hands with machetes and left him for dead.
Not willing to remain captives to hate and anger, Frederic turned towards forgiveness and action. Feeling lucky to be alive, he teamed up with another genocide survivor Zackary Dusingizimana and they decided to help those like themselves. Along with California native Jessica McCall they formed Jessie's Place, a nonprofit organization which, in collaboration with the Ubumwe Community Center in Gisenyi Rwanda, Africa, supports programs and services for children and adults with physical and/or mental challenges. The UBUMWE Community Center stands for unity and hope for handicapped genocide survivors and teaches that a disability of spirit is far worse than one of the body.
The monthly Community outreach programs and services are focused on severely impoverished rural communities. The Ubumwe Center serves more than 130 children and adults with counseling, primary education, vocational training and workshop employment. The center provides a meal for its students, they are taught literacy, computer skills, the deaf learn sign language, and all are trained to make a variety of crafts including dolls, jewelry and souvenirs.
The center has now expanded to serve members of the non-disabled community, offering computer and literacy classes to the general community as well as wildlife conservation cooperation with the Columbus Zoo. Gisenyi is close to Rwanda’s few remaining wild gorillas and the center emphasizes the importance of keeping their habitat intact.