A Community Planner who uses storytelling as a planning tool. In 2005, Mugabo co-founded BBR – Building Bridges with Rwanda; a non-profit organization designed to create a platform for collaboration between international volunteers and their Rwandan counterparts who are rebuilding their society. As Baraza Host, Lama will be interviewing Rwanda’s change agents and development partners to share their insights about the Africa we want to build. In Baraza Conversations focus on personal transformation while also exploring ways innovations in science and technology can deepen our understanding of community development.
Lama Mugabo is a community planner with a passion for nutrition, wellness and community service. His upbringing as a Rwandan political refugee in Bujumbura, Burundi fueled his work. As a stateless, he became aware that Rwandans were the last to be hired and first to be fired. A social and economic injustice that forced his people to always be one step ahead of anyone else, just to make ends meet.
Lama also observed a deep commitment for members of the community to be their brothers’ keepers. Community service, helping the vulnerable and supporting the education of the Rwandan children. His love of reading, English language and social justice earned him a United Nations High Commission for Refugees scholarship to attend the Lester B Pearson College of the Pacific, in Victoria, Canada.
From 1975-1977, Lama Mugabo flourished at Lester B Pearson College of the Pacific, a school that welcomed students from around the world. This United World College’s vision is to promote international understanding through experiential learning. Canadian Prime Minister and the the1957 Nobel Peace Prize, said: “How can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can this be if they don’t know each other?” Lester B. Pearson.
Pearson College had a profound influence on Lama’s life. It shaped his life purpose. He committed to serving his community. Lama was stateless and Canada gave him a home. He became a Canadian citizen but never forgot his roots. After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, set out to contribute to rebuilding his native Rwanda.
In 1998, Lama earned a Bachelor’s degree in communication from Simon Fraser University. After working in BC public schools and speaking with different audiences on African development issues, Lama was interested in learning how to tell stories that will bring about a refreshing African perspective, different from the gloom and doom we received from the mainstream media. The few times Africa was mentioned in the media, the analysis lacked depth because the reader was kept at a basic level of understanding African issues.
In 2000, he joined the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning with the goal to learn practical skills that will add value to Rwanda's sustainable development goals.
2004, Lama served as the National Coordinator of the Remember Rwanda 10 years campaign. The goal was to raise public awareness of the impact of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis and tell Canadians what Rwandans were doing to rebuild their society. The RR10 Campaign was hosted in ten cities across Canada: Victoria, Comox, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Fredericton. Canadians were moved by what they heard. They said to us: “We are sorry that our country looked the other way while innocent lives were lost. What can we do to help you rebuild your society?”. Lama took this question as a call to action and went on to form an organization Building Bridges with Rwanda. It created a platform for learning exchange between Rwandans and their Canadian counterparts.
In 2008, Lama relocated to Rwanda where he led a multi-stakeholder team to foster sustainable development in rural Rwanda. Building Bridges with Rwanda worked in the Eastern Province, District of Bugesera, Sector of Gashora, near the Burundi border. For seven years, the Gashora Integrated Community Development Initiative hosted more than six hundred volunteers from Canada, the USA, France, Columbia, Belgium, Britain, Germany. South Korea, Burundi and Uganda.
In collaboration with Developing World Connections, Washington State University, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Victoria, University of Michigan, Western Washington University, Developing Connections. Rwandans worked side by side with international volunteers, building household kitchen gardens, they traveled together. Visitors gained a deeper understanding of the Rwandan cultural, history and development story. Rwandans broadened their horizons and enjoyed the opportunity to practice English as Rwanda was transitioning from French to English as the official language. BBR cross-cultural and experiential learning brought about a lot of positive changes. In addition to foreign currency earnings, local businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry gained remarkably. We created new jobs. Rwandan youth benefited from educational opportunities, with support at different levels; primary, secondary and tertiary.
In 2019, Building Bridges with Rwanda joined hands with Hogan’s Alley Society, and the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement to commemorate 25 years of post-genocide liberation in Rwanda. Our vision is to remember, engage and inspire our audience to learn about the Rwanda Development Model. Remember Rwanda 25 Legacy Project will lead two annual reflection tours to Rwanda, and organize a development conference in Vancouver, every other year. RR25 Legacy Project will embolden conference participants to present insightful papers and work collaboratively and produce joint work: i.e., produce a film, write a book, write a play, etc.
Lama Mugabo is frequently invited to speak on social and economic justice issues based on his community planning work in the Vancouver Downtown East Site, as well as issues related to Rwanda's sustainable development in the media.
RR25 Legacy Project at SFU June 6, 2019
Lama Mugabo joins Below the Radar to speak to building community and solidarity, from Rwanda to Hogan’s Alley. Lama is a Rwandan-born community organizer and planner with deep roots in the Downtown Eastside and the Black community in Vancouver.
University of British Columbia Feb 2020
Black History Month in Feb 2019 - Building Bridges with Rwanda in collaboration with the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement (Simon Fraser University). RR25 Legacy Project worked with UBC Global Fund to host 4 Dialogue Sessions: Gender, Tribalism and Ethnic Division, Islamophobia, Indigenous Vs Settlers conflicts. Each dialogue session had a facilitator, and a rapporteur whose responsibility was to synthesize highlights from each dialogue session to the plenary. Participants told us: “I learned a lot. I would like to see more opportunities to learn from positive outcomes from the continent.” “The results we see from Rwanda have challenged the assumptions that knowledge flows from North to South. It’s refreshing to learn how it has bounced back from its 1004 tragedy.”
Panelist on a community conversation about race relations between Blacks and Asians in Vancouver based on an award-winning documentary Down a Dark Stairwell.
City of New West - Sanctuary City Team
Working as an organizer for CAN, Lama was instrumental in recruiting and training change agents who used their lived experience to advocate for policy change.