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Avellon Williams 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- There are many similarities between Rwanda and Haiti. It is no secret that both countries have faced challenges that seemed insurmountable, characterized by devastation, human loss, and catastrophes. 

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While amidst all those struggles and trials, the people of both countries have been resilient to fight on, go against the odds, and triumph.

Those are the words of Haitian-American author Joe E. Sully, who recently visited Rwanda as part of his African tour to promote his book ‘Surviving America: From the bench to the podium’, counts his journey from his Caribbean homeland to the U.S., where he established himself as an entrepreneur and author.

Haitian-American author Joe E. Sully /Image, AC/

During his talk on January 10 at the Kigali Public Library, Sully explained that Rwanda has risen from the ashes to achieve extraordinary things, which made him decide to share his story here.

Rwanda was the first country that came to mind when he thought of sharing his book, which mostly deals with immigration dynamics. Tanzania, South Africa, and Ghana were also on his list of countries to visit.

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Rwanda has always been my dream count. It is my first time on the continent and definitely my first time in Rwanda. In 2005, I was working on a project at the US Embassy in Haiti and I had to do some research on reconciliation and conflict resolution.”

“In the beginning, I discovered Rwanda because of what this country and its people have been through, especially the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed so many innocent lives,” Sully said.

Between 2005 and 2007, and Sully was fascinated by Rwanda’s story, the recovery, the milestones in unity and reconciliation. Rwanda was the first on my list when the opportunity to travel to the continent arose.

“When I finished the book and as soon as Covid-19 was over and I was ready to traverse the place I wanted to go was Rwanda. This is actually not about the genocide alone,”

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“In general, the Rwanda story, the leadership, and the respect this country has gained on the global stage are remarkable. It’s amazing how things have turned around! In just a short time, about a generation, you turned around the country and I wanted to see that for myself,”

A source of inspiration for many

Having grown up in Haiti and surviving a 2010 earthquake in which more than 220,000 people died, Sully, a former journalist, said his story, as well as the stories of many Haitians, is similar to Rwanda’s.

Haitian-American author Joe E. Sully/Image, TNT/

It is also his belief that his book will help demystify many issues around immigration, including how some people think moving to Western countries is easy, making it difficult to get a visa for people from poorer countries.

Besides detailing the hardships of living in a foreign country and the pain of not being accepted, the book also discusses the opportunities available, which can make a huge difference in your life and turn you from nothing into something.

Besides inspiring people, Sully hopes his story will also illuminate the good and bad sides of migration, which are rarely discussed.

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“All my life I have always sought to contribute to people’s lives: To do good and be good. The good I wish to do by sharing my life’s story, hoping that it might be inspiring to anyone out there, particularly young folks, is to lift my fellow men and women who may be facing situations like mine,”

My assumption is that I have been through life vicissitudes for a reason. I want to turn the projector on some of my life’s numerous obstacles to let you, the reader, grasp my scars and my healing,” an excerpt from the book reads.

“They are the scars of an émigré who became fatherless and homeless at the young age of 14 years old,” he writes, detailing how he had to start over, from scratch, by going back to school, doing random jobs like most immigrants in this country do.

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With this book, you will learn that there is no American dream and that racism, rejection, and feeling unwanted and empty are the underbelly of the dream, as well as demonstrate that when you are determined, you will be successful.

Having been born in the capital Port-au-Prince, the author of five books spent his first 30 years in his native Haiti. As Haiti unfolded over the years, he covered a lot of difficult stories.

This book clarifies many myths about immigrating to western countries – the expectations versus the reality, the opportunities versus the challenges.

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Furthermore, it demonstrates the importance of defining oneself in a foreign country, refusing to be treated as a second-class citizen, and exploring one’s full potential, regardless of the challenges that may arise.

In 2011, Sully moved to the United States after a tumultuous period in his home country, with civil unrest, natural disasters, political instability, and scandals, mainly externally influenced, that he witnessed as a journalist.

This book shows how resilience can determine one’s future, despite all odds. There are several libraries where the book can be found, including the Kigali Public Library.

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Avellon Williams

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