VCU Study Abroad students connect with Nonprofit Founder and Genocide Survivor

August 14, 2023

Noel Odenwald grew up in Rwanda during a tumultuous time. At six, Noel’s parents were killed during the Rwandan Genocide. Growing up in orphanages, Noel was sponsored by Maureen Odenwald from the US. As Noel entered adulthood he transformed Maureen’s kindness into a commitment to provide for the children of Rwanda. Since 2017, Professor Kimemia from the Political Science department brings students to visit Home for Hope each year of his Eastern Africa study abroad excursions. The students are always greeted by Odenwald's humble hospitality. The students listen devotedly to Noel’s story and are inspired by his ambition to ensure all children have access to education, nutrition, and healthcare in his community. 

In 2015 Noel founded the nonprofit Home for Hope, focusing on providing for children who lack access to nutritious foods and quality education in Rwanda. Noel works tirelessly to provide for his family and the children in his local community through his print shop. The Home for Hope Foundation is more concerned with an individual child's needs than providing large numbers of students to secure grants. The foundation exemplifies quality over quantity ensuring that each student receives everything they need to not just finish school but to succeed and grow into adults who Noel hopes will be inspired to give back, in turn creating a cycle of positive change.  

One successful program run by the Home for Hope Foundation is pig donations to mothers across Rwanda. In addition to donating school supplies, the VCU students each purchased a pig or two to be donated in the Fall. The women receive each pig and use them to generate wealth for their families. This aspect of Home for Hope focuses on ensuring that the children’s families are also cared for. After donating more than 10 pigs the VCU students walked to see the young piglets bred by Noel that would soon support families nationwide. As the primary nonprofit administration professor, Dr. Kimemia enhanced the students' experience abroad, connecting them with real changemakers like Noel from Home for Hope. The time spent in Noel’s home learning about his commitment to empowering local children will surely stay in the hearts and minds of these VCU students forever. 

Written by: Ailita Whalen 

International Studies and Nonprofit Minor studies student