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Garden of Children Grows in Rwanda

An American woman opens a home for those orphaned by genocide

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In the middle of Rwanda's ethnic strife, an American octogenarian has created a flower-filled oasis for orphaned children.

Rosamund Carr, who left New York to come to Rwanda with her late husband in 1949, has dedicated herself to helping those orphaned during the country's 1994 genocide. Her seven-acre plantation is awash with flowers, which the locally famous florist sells to buy food, clothes, and medicine for her young charges.

During the genocide, in which Hutu extremists murdered about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Mrs. Carr fled to the United States, leaving behind all of her possessions. She says when she learned that Hutu soldiers had murdered her Tutsi workers and "cleaned up" her house, she thought, "I will never [go] back to Rwanda anymore."

A few days later, watching TV with her family in New Jersey, she saw a story about thousands of Rwandan orphans at a refugee camp just six miles from her house that changed her mind. There are about 45,000 children in Rwanda who have been orphaned or separated from their families, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

After Tutsis took over the country later that year, Carr returned, with a mission. "I wanted to bring these kids to my place, and open an orphanage," she says.

With help from friends and relatives in the US, she remodeled an old warehouse near her house and opened an orphanage called Imbabazi (Care) for refugees.

Carr says all expenses for the orphanage come from the profits of her flower business and financial support from friends and relatives in America. "I want [it] to be independently run," she says.

Since opening three years ago, Carr has taken in 150 children. Of these, 75 have been reunited with their parents through the help of the Save the Children Fund and the ICRC. Currently, Imbabazi has 74 children. Most lost their parents during the 1994 genocide. Others were separated from their families during the mass refugee returns from the former Zaire last year. Still others are here because their parents fell victim to the ethnic strife that is still going on today. Last week, for instance, Hutu rebels killed 37 Tutsis in the northwestern town of Gisenyi, 20 miles away.

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