Group passionate about providing aid to Rwandans

Monday, May 9, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:09 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The board members of Step Up — American Association for Rwandan Women have various reasons for their involvement in the organization. Most are not as intimately linked to Rwanda as Rangira Béa Gallimore, but they share her zeal for realizing the goal of building a women’s center in Kigali, Rwanda.

Anne Deaton met Gallimore a decade ago. Until then, she said, she was not fully aware of the extent of the human tragedy in Rwanda.

“And so oftentimes when people learn of a human tragedy, afterwards they feel helpless,” she said. “What I am grateful for is that here is an opportunity to respond. And also in this raising awareness about Rwanda we have the opportunity to say, ‘Never again.’”

Deaton, who retired in January from her position as director of Missouri’s Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, is also a member of the board of the state’s Special Olympics of Missouri. She is active in campus organizations, including the Friends of Peace Studies.

“I think we are very fortunate to have someone of Dr. Gallimore’s character, vision and passion for this project and to have her on our campus and to be blessed by her presence,” said Deaton, whose husband is MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. “I think she is doing something of huge significance.”

Joanne Butler met Gallimore and her family in 1990 at the United Pentecostal Church in Columbia. She was working for MU at the time but now owns and runs A Good Start, a 10-year-old licensed Christian day care.

Butler and Gallimore are mothers and enjoy spending time talking with one another. Their families have vacationed together and shared many memories. The bond between the families increased during and after the genocide.

She said she wonders how survivors can find closure in villages where all the inhabitants were killed. “They really need somebody to listen, someone who can handle trauma,” she said.

Butler said she thinks her resources can do more in Rwanda than in the United States. She mentioned a story she heard recently about an American who gave $60 a month to a woman so she could move from her rural home to be closer to friends who helped her obtain food and AIDS medicine for AIDS.

“There’s no way I could see $60 doing that much here,” she said. “Because it’s a small country, a little goes a long way and you can reach a few more people there.”

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