Anyone who has gone through the Service Year and traveled abroad with Youthlinc knows that we could not accomplish what we do without the guidance, passion, and vision of our In-Country Coordinators (ICC). ICCs work with Youthlinc staff throughout the year on planning and preparing projects, evaluating and problem-solving the effectiveness and sustainability of the projects, and they organize many of the travel logistics internationally like booking hotels, transportation, and meals for us. ICCs are a critically important part of our ability to create lifetime humanitarians.
They also become our friends— often feeling more akin to family. They spend 24 hours a day with our team when we are abroad. They answer hundreds of questions a day, share their love of their countries and cultures with us, and connect with our young humanitarians and mentors through service, fun, and shared values.
So, when something happens to one of our beloved ICCs, we feel it profoundly– whether it is an amazing success or a devastating loss. They are our partners, our friends, and our Youthlinc family.
It is with great sadness that we share the news that our wonderful in-country coordinator in Rwanda, Mr. Pascal Mutemberezi, passed away unexpectedly from a health-related issue on October 10.
Pascal was a titan of a human— a gentle giant who made beautiful waves wherever he went and with everything he did.
We first met Pascal in May 2019 when he was on an International Leadership Exchange Program through the US State Department and was being hosted by our nonprofit friend Utah Global Diplomacy. He visited us one afternoon for a round table conversation about Youthlinc’s work in youth empowerment and community impact. He was deeply inspired by Youthlinc’s approach and from that brief encounter, a friendship grew between him and Youthlinc and the idea of future work in Rwanda started growing.
In late 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Justin, our Executive Director, and a colleague from Utah State University, Dr. Shannon Peterson, decided to put into motion making Rwanda a part of Youthlinc’s Global Community Leadership program. Justin called Pascal and asked him if he would be up for this grand adventure of putting to work our volunteers and starting an official partnership. Pascal was immediately all in.
Pascal’s role as an employee for the Rwandan government as a nonprofit and NGO specialist uniquely positioned him to connect Youthlinc to many nonprofit partners for us to evaluate partnerships with. He and his wife, Meloni, also ran a grassroots community nonprofit called Save Community Initiative. In June 2021, Dr. Peterson, Justin, and Britnie Powell went off to Rwanda to begin preparing to take a team there in 2022. That visit was so successful that not only did Youthlinc end up taking a Global Community Leadership team there in partnership with Utah State University in 2022, but we also launched Rwanda as a new Service Year site— so a traditional humanitarian team also traveled there to work under the leadership of Nathan Jones. Pascal and Meloni acted as In-Country Coordinators for those maiden teams.
Youthlinc sent another team to Rwanda this past summer and has another two teams planning to travel there in 2024. One through Utah State University again, and another trip focusing on oral histories, vocational training, and education initiatives.
Pascal’s legacy will live on. His reputation among his peers in Rwanda is unparalleled. The day he passed away over ten different people in Rwanda, from ten different nonprofits, NGOs, and government organizations reached out to Youthlinc to express their grief and acknowledge his legacy.
Pascal’s wife, Meloni, has graciously stepped up to take the role as our In-Country Coordinator in Rwanda, for which we are incredibly grateful. She has been a large part of the coordination in the past and will fill that role wonderfully. She is a titan of a woman, carving out her own legacy and making an incredible amount of good happen in Rwanda.
A decade ago, when Pascal and Meloni were in the beginning years of their marriage, they adopted two children who were both in grade 6. One child was an orphan and the other had only one parent who was unable to care for him. So Pascal and Meloni took them in, adopted them, raised them, and now both of their children are in university. Their capacity to love and make safe places for vulnerable souls is a testament to their identities and characters.
Our heart is full of love for Pascal for the legacy he has helped shape for Youthlinc in Rwanda. Our heart is full of love for Meloni who has lost her sweet and precious Pascal so suddenly. Her partner in life and in creating change and connection in this world is lost.
We would like to honor Pascal’s memory this upcoming year with an infrastructure support project that SCI is working to achieve. The desire to build a community house that will specifically support women who are learning vocational skills that will give them the opportunity to provide a more stable life for themselves and their children.
Join us in making a donation for this community house project by donating in Pascal’s name.
Thank you, Pascal, for being a lifetime humanitarian and opening your heart to all of your American friends from Utah.
Pascal Mutemberezi: April 15, 1978 – October 10, 2023