Students gathered in Hancock on April 12 in remembrance of those who died in the Rwandan Genocide just 25 years ago. This year, the school welcomed guest speaker, Daniel Ndamwizeye, better known professionally as Daniel Trust. Trust said in his talk, “Sometimes I would cry and pray, ‘why am I alive, why did I not get killed’ through it all I always had hope that it would be better for me one day.”
Trust was born and raised in Rwanda and is a survivor of the Genocide. He immigrated to the United States when he was 15 as a refugee.
Trust was five years old when the genocide began. He was the youngest of eight children. His father was Hutu and his mother was a Tutsi. Just before the Genocide started, Trust recalls his parents calling him and siblings into the living room. “They asked us to pray because something terrible was going to happen to us. We prayed for protection and my parents were Seventh-day Adventists, and we lived close to the church. Many people at the time thought that if they went to a place of worship they would be safe. Myself, my mom and two sisters, we went to hide at the church we worship at.”
After a few days in the Church, people with machetes came and took everyone they found outside and began killing them one by one, he recounted. He recalls how frustrated he was hearing his mother’s screams, but was unable to do anything. “At the time in Rwanda, the killers had no mercy, if they knew you were Tutsi somehow someway they would kill you. That moment of my mom being killed was the last memory I have of her.”
Trust hid along with two of his sisters, however, they would be caught trying to run away and killed. His father also was caught trying to find safety and was killed as well. The people who killed his family would go on to steal all their possessions and set their house on fire.
However, Trust speaks with a positive outlook. He said, “When I share my story I always say I survived by the grace of God because I could have been killed as well.”
Eventually, Trust was able to make it the Congo for safety until after the genocide was over. However, he still faced a number of hardships. “I was constantly beaten for doing anything. If I was washing dishes and I do not do it correctly, I was beaten for it. If I was being helped with homework and I said two plus two equals five instead of four, I would get beaten. I was not allowed to have friends, and life was just very hard for me. And because of everything I was going through I performed very poorly in school. Sometimes I would cry and pray, ‘why am I alive, why did I not get killed’ through it all I always had hope that it would be better for me one day.”
In 2005 Trust was able to move to Connecticut. He attended high school, and by the time he graduated he was very involved academically and with extracurricular activities. He was then able to receive a number of scholarships, allowing him to attend Southern Connecticut State University. There he graduated in 5 years and worked full-time will working towards his degree. At the age of 19, he got a job at TD Bank and worked there for many years. In 2013 he was able to buy his first home. After purchasing it, he went to a grocery store and bought himself a cake to celebrate. He also buys himself a cake for his birthday every year. Trust emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive things in life and celebrating yourself.
Trust his now a youth advocate, an international speaker and is the President and CEO of the Daniel Trust Foundation. His foundation is a non-profit for low-income students and teachers that are or hope to make big impacts on the community and individuals who may not have the same advantages as other students.
“I would not be here today if it was not for all the people who invested in me,” Trust said.