KCF’s Origin: A summer intern from Cornell
Emmanuel (Emmie) Asaba grew up as a poor Rwandan refugee in neighboring Uganda, in a village of mud huts with no running water and no electricity. His family supported him in his desire for education by selling their cattle to pay his tuition. He witnessed the genocide as a young boy and was guided toward civil engineering by a strong desire to help the people of his village attain a better life. Emmie focused on transportation engineering and was able to attend Cornell University after receiving a Fulbright scholarship. With these successes, he became an instant role model for just about every child and family in his small village back in Rwanda.
Emmie was introduced to the private engineering firm of Kittelson & Associates through an internship in the summer of 2007. He lived modestly and sent whatever extra money he could save to help other children in his family and village stay in school. His care for others, his commitment to helping them help themselves, and his vision for how Rwanda could rise into economic independence was so inspiring that the Kittelson Charitable Foundation was formed to help transform the vision into reality.
At our request, Emmie identified 26 children in his village of Ngarama who were capable and eager to attend secondary school but could not because of their inability to pay the tuition. The Foundation bought the uniforms, mattresses, shoes, and toiletries they would need at the boarding school, paid for their tuition and school supplies, and sent them to secondary schools throughout Rwanda in January 2008.
Today Kittelson Charitable Foundation is sponsoring nearly 50 students. Most of the new students are brothers, sisters, or close relatives of the original 26, reflecting our philosophy that the greatest long-term success will come from focusing on individuals and families. Our students range from 5 to 30 in age and from kindergarten to the university level. Five of our students are now in university studies, including two who are studying in the United States (see the Rwanda Rising page for more information on these two students). An important success indicator for the KCF philosophy is that not one of our sponsored students has dropped out and not one girl has been lost to family pressure or pregnancy. We are very proud of them all and look forward to their success and to the time when they will be in a position to return our favors by also helping others.