Born into a “good family” in Rwanda, Dr Lise Mumporeze was six years old when her entire family was killed in the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi people in 1994.
She shared her inspiring story about overcoming incredible personal tragedy and adversity to study medicine and become a cardiac specialist at a Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) lunch held at Macquarie Group in Sydney earlier this month.
Through SACH, Mumporeze is currently undertaking a fellowship in paediatric intensive care at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Israel, after which she will return to Rwanda to help establish the country’s first paediatric cardiac centre at the King Faisal Hospital (KFH) in Kigali in partnership with SACH and the Rwandan government.
The centre will become a treatment hub for sub-Saharan Africa, providing critical cardiac services to children from Rwanda and surrounding countries.
“When I’m finished with this training I’ll go back home and help in establishing and sustaining the cardiac care program and teach new students so that we grow,” Mumporeze said.
She told of how living in the SACH children’s home in Israel, she sees children come from all over the world for treatment.
“And every time I come home from work, I see volunteers who are playing with sick children and the children are laughing. I’m like, ‘wow, humanity is not only about treating, but anyone can contribute in their [own] way.’ So Save a Child’s Hart has taught me a great lesson.”
From the destruction of the 1994 genocide, she said Rwanda today “is a good country”.
“As the people we are proud of the progress that has been made … we are proud of the country we are having today,” she said, echoing her own journey: “From a good start, I ended up having no future. But that was not the end. That was just the beginning for me again.”
High Commissioner of Rwanda Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye said his people “have refused to continue to be defined by just genocide”.
“We are a country that is one of the fastest growing economies in the world … We are the country which is the safest in Africa, the sixth safest in the world,” he said.
“Rwanda wants to become a regional hub for many things. But one of them is medical hub … what we undertook as a country is to be able to develop our healthcare system to make sure we can not only take care of own population, but also the Africans, and the paediatric cardiac centre falls into that.”