Standing Up For Survivors

Over a period of 100 days from early April in 1994, up to a million Rwandan Tutsi were murdered by Hutu militias, with mutilations, killings and rapes occurring on an unimaginable scale. Fifty members of Mary Kaytesi Blewitt’s family were slaughtered in cold blood during the genocide.

Mary’s own journey had been one of exile - spending a childhood in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, and coming to the UK as a refugee. Returning to Rwanda following the genocide, Mary worked to help bury the dead and to support genocide survivors, many of whom had lost everything – family, friends, home, and their health.

Mary became a figure of trust, with survivors seeking her out to tell their own stories of atrocity and survival. One woman told how she was raped in front of members of her own family who were then murdered. She was allowed to live and was told “You Alone May Live” so that you will die of sadness. This haunting phrase became the title of Mary’s memoirs - a book about grief and survival in the face of incredible trauma.

The London and Kigali based Survivors Fund charity SURF now raises over £1 million a year to support projects for survivors in Rwanda. After 15 years as director of SURF Mary has now stepped down to concentrate on other projects, and still speaks as passionately as ever about the work that became her calling. Length 40 mins.

Mary’s website is