David Russell, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
CEO, Survivors Fund (SURF)
Since participating at the 2008 International Achievement Summit, I have graduated with an MPA from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, where I was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. I am now Chief Executive of Survivors Fund (SURF), the principal international organization representing and supporting survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. SURF partners with survivors’ organizations in Rwanda to build their capacity to advocate, fundraise, manage, monitor and evaluate programs encompassing healthcare, home building, education and entrepreneurship.
Our principal program, funded by the UK Department for International Development, is supporting AVEGA Agahozo, the association of widows of the genocide. We have developed a model of wraparound support that we are now extending to 15,000 vulnerable women survivors of the genocide, and 50,000 of their dependents, across the Southern, Northern and Western Provinces of Rwanda. This work enables them to secure ownership of their land and property, and to develop viable livelihoods, as well as providing trauma counseling and access to health and education services. We support the survivors’ right to seeks reparations as we approach the twentieth anniversary of the genocide in 2014.
On a personal note, I am also developing new initiatives through the social venture consultancy that I direct, The Social Enterprise. Current projects include: Parenterprise, an early years education pilot in West London; and Pashkes of London, a socially responsible dairy-free iced dessert business. All of this work has been informed by my participation in the Academy of Achievement. I remember, in particular, my namesake Bill Russell telling us that “With opportunity, comes responsibility,” which in my line work, is definitely true. And when I recall the experience of Frank McCourt—that it was after his primary career as an inspiring teacher that he published his first book at 66 years of age—it is a reminder that it is a very much a long game that we play!