Woman Who Miraculously Survived Rwandan Genocide Gives Back to Community

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When massive genocide swept through Rwanda in 1994, hope and salvation seemed out of reach for the persecuted Rwandans, but God’s hand of protection intervened over Liberty alumna Sonia Gwaneza (’18).

Born in 1992, she was a small child when the Rwandan genocide forced her family to separate and hide within the homes of friends and neighbors. Given to an older woman for protection, young Sonia was battling malnutrition when a group of ravaging murderers entered her neighborhood block and forced everyone to line up. Her neighbors were killed one by one. But when the murderers reached Sonia, they spared her, deeming her too young and unlikely to  survive anyway. However, God had other plans for Sonia.

Today, Sonia is a graduate of Liberty University with a Master of Arts in Public & Community Health, and her passion for service and advocacy is rooted in her personal history. She may have been underestimated as a child, but she proves her childhood oppressors wrong with each passing day.

Sonia is the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree, and she may not be finished yet. With her degree in public and community health in hand, she aims to use the skills and knowledge gained at Liberty to impact her home community. In Rwanda, she has seen the positive change that has blossomed from the buried anger and devastation. She hopes to return home and build an orphanage for those affected by the genocide, as well as a hospital to provide maternal and child health care to those who cannot afford it.

She gives Liberty credit for inspiring her to develop and pursue her passion for service. Through opportunities on campus and with LU Serve, Sonia was able to apply what she had learned in the classroom to real-world communities. “It’s not about going to school, taking classes, and submitting assignments,” Sonia said in a recent interview. True learning is “to go out there and to start serving the community. Getting into the Lynchburg community has prepared me to serve on my own,” she said. Those opportunities helped her grow and develop as a person, challenging her to discover new ways to serve and deeply impact the people she encountered.

When asked what being a Champion for Christ means, Sonia replied that it is “to represent Christ in everything that we do, that everything that I do in my life glorifies God.” Being a champion means “making sure it isn’t really about me, but about Christ.”

Sonia has held on to Liberty’s mission of Training Champions for Christ as her personal motivation to become the champion God has called her to be, and she has certainly succeeded.

“I’m ready to go out there and do something,” she said. “Ready to learn. It’s the start of something new, not the end of the program. I cannot wait to see where God brings me into the future.”

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