Peace's Story: A Journey from Rwanda to UNM


Every PAIR student is inspiring. Sometimes their stories need to be shared. This is one such story, the journey of a young woman who overcame many hardships that might have fueled despair but instead led to amazing success. This is Peace's story.

Peace was born in Rwanda. When she was six, her family began its escape through Africa. Because her mother is a Tutsi and her father a Hutu, they were frequently turned away from villages along the way. Finally they reached a refugee camp in Kenya.

Peace’s life there was very hard. As the oldest daughter, she had responsibility for the family: she woke before dawn to cook breakfast, hiked up the mountain in extreme heat to buy food and collect firewood, scrubbed pots "until they were white"; she also experienced violence and personal attacks.

Despite this history, Peace has incredible resilience. She arrived in Houston and PAIR as a high school sophomore, struggling to learn English and make up for the school she had missed. She held a job and seized every opportunity. Though it was difficult, she was determined! Her enthusiasm, warmth, and caring for others made her a natural leader: her peers in PAIR's Global Leaders program at Westbury High School elected her the group's president. 

Just as Peace was becoming a part of the lives of the PAIR team and her fellow students and just as she began to look forward to high school graduation and a home in Houston, her family moved to New Mexico so her father could work. After so many losses, staying in one place is a gift; another loss can be devastating. We worried about Peace and kept in touch through Facebook.

A little more than a year after the move, Peace sent a long letter via email to the PAIR office. She had exciting news to share: she was a college student! Here is her letter.

Peace new.jpg

   PAIR has given us hope, dreams to dream. PAIR has given me, us, a chance to become bigger, better, people in our own lives, in our communities, and in our country too. We benefit so much from PAIR, through our homework help, future planning, making friends and mentoring.

This is my story. I first attended PAIR at the end of 2009. Since then I wanted to make many memories with PAIR so I attended all of the sessions that I could. The volunteers and students opened my heart, my mind, and they took away my shyness and fear. Over the years the volunteers changed, but the PAIR staff, continued to support us! They showed me the kindness and love that they have for me and the other kids.

In 2011 it was going to be harder for me because I knew that I needed help for my homework and someone to talk to. But PAIR still had our back. Now me, Peace Bebe Izabayo, along with my sister and others, are all in college. We all graduated with the help of PAIR!

PAIR helped me get into college and succeed by helping me to apply to a lot of colleges, by going to college night with the PAIR staff, and by attending a lot of college visits in Texas. PAIR always talked about college during every session and how important it is.

Don’t get me wrong, no one in my family told me how important it was going to be. They could not even help me to know what was my next step after high school graduation. I thank PAIR for stepping up to help me make it happen. I remember I was so upset when my GPA was 2.4. I got so emotional and Amanda and the volunteers came to me and told me that I can still try hard to make it higher. PAIR prepared me for school, how to be always ready, on time, and to be sure of what I want to do with my whole life. I had to figure out what I like, what I wanted to major in, and what I can do in the future. With the help of PAIR I made it. I’m so happy that we made it.

So me and my sister now go to UNM and we still miss all. I’m majoring in psychology, and my sister is in pharmacy so we are here, we are loving college life, we feel grown and have a lot responsibilities!

PAIR is amazing, PAIR works hard, PAIR loves us. What I want to say is that without PAIR it would have been difficult for me and my sister too. Thanks to PAIR!!!

Thanks again.