Born into a large, politically connected Tutsi family, Vancouver resident Darius Safari was just a boy when the Rwandan genocide erupted over 100 horrific days in 1994. An estimated 800,000 people – mostly Tutsis – died at the hands of marauding Hutu militias.
Safari and one half-sister are the only members of an extended family of 100 to have survived.
“It’s 17 years ago, but it is still in my heart,” Safari said.
Safari witnessed the murder of family members, but managed to elude Hutu militia by hiding in the countryside, or in the homes of sympathetic Hutus who would shelter him for a few days at a time.
With the help of a family friend, also a Hutu, Safari escaped to a part of the country where it would be more difficult to discover his Tutsi identity. He lived on the streets until meeting a missionary from Uganda who took him in.
Safari became a Christian, finished high school, and began serving in a ministry that helped raise sponsorships for Rwandan street children.
“To me, my passion is working with kids,” he said. “I was in the same shoes with them, so I understand what they are going through. That’s why I stepped up and [said] I want to help, after understanding how Jesus did something amazing for me.”
It was during this time that Safari met a Vancouver missionary named Darcee Tandy, who visited Rwanda annually over the course of three years. The couple began dating long-distance in 2008. Safari got a visa and moved to the United States in June 2010 and the couple married three month later.
The Safaris now live in Vancouver with their infant daughter.
Safari’s immediate goal is to build a proper memorial for his grandparents and parents in his home village in Rwanda.
“I want to let my kids know what happened to their grandparents and their family,” he said.
Video shot by Ed Stortro
Video edited by Miles Burnett
Voice over by Scott Thompson
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