Tommy Fleming has recorded a charity Christmas single with teenagers in Rwanda.
The Sligo singer recorded Supertramp’s 1977 hit ‘Give A Little Bit’ with students from Rwamagana High School, located an hour from the country’s capital Kigali, to raise vital funds for Irish charity Bóthar and their work with genocide widows.
“I’ve had many, many great moments in the music industry but recording with these kids was one of the very best. They have an incredible sense of positivity despite having so little,” said Tommy.
He spent three days meeting, rehearsing, and recording with the teenagers before performing in front of a small crowd in Kigali, including government officials.
“The kids have little English but music is a universal language. When we met them, we asked them to sing to see what they’ve got. They broke out into ‘Perfect’ from Ed Sheeran and we just looked at each other and said ‘this is going to be fantastic’,” says Tommy.
“We had so little time to prepare but they nailed it. That night we sang in Kigali with them was really, really special.”
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the horrifying Rwandan genocide which saw up to one million people slaughtered over the course of 90 days from April 7, 1994, in what was the fastest killing spree in the history of man.
“It’s an amazing country. When you see get the stats, you just wonder how could a country get over this, how people could get on despite the fact that their neighbour slaughtered their children. But they are getting on,” reveals the singer.
“Up 1million people were killed in just three months, women were raped and infected by HIV carrying gangs, huge numbers of them were widowed, children were slaughtered and huge also numbers orphaned.
“It’s estimated that over 800,000 children lost one or both parents during the genocide, 70% of them witnessed someone being killed or injured and 90% believed they would die.”
Tommy, who took time out from recording his new album Voice of Hope II, to travel to Rwanda, met some of those families living with the legacy of genocide more two decades later and witnessed the positive impact Bothar’s work has had on their lives.
Bóthar supports the Rwandan government’s ‘One Cow Per Family’ programme, which aims to reduce extreme rural poverty by providing every family with a cow by gifting in-calf Irish dairy heifers and other food and income producing animals to local families.
“One woman had five of her nine children and her husband killed in the genocide. You would wonder how someone could go on after that and when we arrived the smiles and tears just flowed,” reveals Tommy.
“It was as if we were representing a country that had given her family the winning lotto ticket. You just stood there humbled by it all. We’ve never experienced anything remotely like this.
“The cow she got from Bóthar gave her some bit of hope. She was able to raise what was left of her family and subsequently her grandchildren from this single cow as every year since she got that cow, Bóthar was back to put the cow back in calf.
“The gift kept going on and on and is still giving to her today.”
During his trip the singer also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre on his trip, a hugely emotional experience, as it charts the unspeakable horror of the killing spree on the site of a mass grave of 250,000 people.
His entire experience is charted in a series of four short videos, which are rolling out here on Independent.ie every Monday from today for the next three weeks. Watch a sneak peek of what’s to come and the first video in which Tommy meets an Irish couple who send cows to families in Rwanda, above.
Donations are hugely important to Bóthar and range from €10 for a guinea fowl to €1,800 for an in-calf Irish dairy heifer right up to €25,000 for a Bóthar Ark – enough to purchase animals to look after 85 families.
For more information on Bóthar and to download ‘Give A Little Bit’ check out www.bothar.ie
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