When Arlene Brown retired at the age of 65, she thought she would enjoy a life of leisure and travel. But after two years of traveling the world, she came to realize that her real joy came from living a life of purpose and contribution. This desire to live purposefully is what led her to join a team of Methodist missionaries in 1996 to provide aid to refugees who had escaped the Rwanda genocide by fleeing into Congo. It was not until much later that she realized the refugees were genocide perpetrators, and they were very dangerous.
Arlene returned to the United States, discouraged but not beaten and began to prepare for her next trip to Rwanda. She returned several years later only to be evacuated from the country due the explosion of a volcano near Goma. Her third journey back to Rwanda marked the start of what proved to be a new chapter in her life and in the lives of hundreds of women and children in the Gitarama area of Rwanda.
In her early travels to Rwanda, Arlene learned of the overwhelming gap in care for orphaned children. She founded Urukundo Home for Children as a safe refuge for orphans of genocide, HIV/AIDs and extreme poverty. Urukundo, which means love, sits on a beautiful hill that overlooks the city. Under Arlene’s leadership, the home provides shelter, nutrition, education, health care and, perhaps most importantly, an environment in which children can experience security and dignity so that they may experience lives free of fear.
Over the last decade, Urukundo Home for Children has expanded to provide education, health care and outreach services to the community, especially vulnerable populations such as women and children. Many of the children who first came to live at Urukundo more than 10 years ago are now in university in Kigali. Like all college students, they enjoy coming “home” on weekends and holidays. And “Mama Arlene,” as the students and community refer to her as, always welcomes them home with open and loving arms.
Southern Methodist University Embrey Human Rights students visited Urukundo Home for Children and brought supplies, school supplies, clothing and soccer balls for the children.
An international speaker, peace-building trainer and mediator, Robyn works with individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. She also works with community leaders and political and governmental leaders to develop grassroots efforts for building sustainable peace in areas of historic conflict. In this capacity, she has been featured in news outlets internationally.