Rwanda native still working to help his country
Normally I would ignore the interruption, but in Gabriel's case, I smiled because his conversation with the teenagers was about second chances and opportunities.
Gabriel grew up in a place where second chances and opportunities wear thin. When offered and fulfilled, they are greatly appreciated.
"I was born in Kigali, Rwanda, where the genocides occurred," he said. "I was there during that horrible time and lost many friends. My parents were able to get away safely, but it was horrible â€¦ horrible," he said.
Gabriel asked the group if they'd heard of the genocide in Rwanda. When only a few hands were raised, he used a more familiar hint.
"Do you remember the movie, 'Hotel Rwanda'?"
Immediately, hands raised and voices acknowledged the movie starring Don Cheadle.
"Well, what happened to my people in Rwanda â€¦ was far worse than what you saw in the movie," Gabriel said.
More than 200,000 were massacred in April 1994. Gabriel, now 32, married and living in Hawaii, was devastated, he said, and at times, suicidal.
At 16, he joined the Rwandese Patriotic Army to fight for justice and against genocide.
Cards from Africa
Gabriel is still doing good things for his people in Rwanda by reaching out to orphans of genocide or AIDS, helping to co-found Cards From Africa.
Cards From Africa, at http://cardsfromafrica.com, trains and employs orphans to create greeting cards that are sold nationwide, with proceeds going back to the orphans and their families.
"It allows the orphans to provide for their families and be productive and proud of their work," he said.
I admired his concept as well as the displays of his artwork, created with charcoal, oils, pencils and paints -- a far cry from the dirt and water he used to create pictures with as a child in Rwanda.
I talked with his wife, Margaret, also from Rwanda, and played with their son, Hero.
While tickling the smiling toddler's feet, I marveled at the irony of Gabriel's journey -- from a war-torn place of horror and death to a place of independence and freedom -- and for not turning his back on the place where he came of age, continuing to travel with lessons for others and not taking anything for granted.
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