The Rising from Ashes Foundation believes in Second Chances

Mission

Born out of the making of the film Rising from Ashes was a profound discovery—made even more potent in its simplicity—that a bicycle could become the vehicle of hope for an entire nation rebuilding itself from genocide. We realized Rising from Ashes was more than a film. It was a blueprint, evidence documented over seven years that Team Rwanda was a powerful unifying force and a healing mechanism—we saw how it worked and wanted to scale it across the continent—someday the world. The bicycle—and cycling as a pursuit—is widely accessible, easily transportable, rapidly disseminated and a universal engine of both economic and personal empowerment. Simply, you can go further on a bike. In practice, the Rising from Ashes Foundation uses documentary storytelling to inspire and educate global audiences into meaningful action, to raise vital resources for our cycling programs on the ground in Africa, and to apply the ideals of conflict resolution within their own communities.

Model

A 100% model, and media + mobilization to drive impact

We have made a bold promise for transparency at the foundation, with two distinct accounts; One for operations, and the other for funding real action in Africa. Operational support comes through a circle of committed foundation sponsors called “The Climbers” while 100% of public donations lands on the ground in Africa to make a difference. Our success will be documented in film & other media to continuously inspire engagement through storytelling. We will leverage media to build community to generate the funds to drive change.

Media to inspire engagement

We will follow the model of our first film, and document the impact of our programs, team building, mobilization, education, and use them as the evidence and motivator for sustained support.

A mobilization platform to build community

By showing our films and leveraging this website to inspire and educate audiences to take on a cycling or endurance race in support of our programs, or hosting a RFA event in a school, organization or amongst peers, our community becomes stronger.

Creating impact on the ground

We will support the expansion and improvement of existing teams and build new teams in Africa, beginning in Rwanda, Eritrea & Ethiopia. We will also do film screenings with Conflict Resolution workshops in schools across the country and interdisciplinary discourse and solution-building at the university level.

History

Bringing the pieces together

In Rwanda ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, the bicycle is essential to life. It is how you move. It is how you work. And during the Genocide, it is how you survived. Stand on any corner of any village throughout the country, and farmers will scream down hillsides barefoot on 25 year old bikes loaded with 100 pounds of potatoes, taxi drivers peddle diligently with a mother and daughter in tow, and a child amuses himself for hours guiding a bent wheel down alleyways. It seems natural, maybe destined, that bike racing has a rich history in Rwanda. For decades the country has participated in the sport, hosting local races for bragging rights, riding barefoot, many times without brakes or gears. During 100 days in 1994, as six lives were systematically snuffed out per minute, thousands of Rwandans escaped certain death on their bikes. When the dust settled and the perpetrators were subdued, the country mourned the death of nearly one million of their countrymen. Amidst the heartache and trauma, a committed group of young cyclists began importing racing bikes into the country with the hopes of resurrecting the sport. In 2005, legendary bike builder Tom Ritchey, and future founders Dan Cooper and Peb Jackson, explored the country on their bikes, and upon meeting a group of cyclists who called themselves Team Rwanda, left with the vision there was potential for a National Team, and a question. "What if they could make it to the Olympics?" They turned to filmmaker T.C. Johnstone and said, "what if we made a movie about it?"

The bike reconnects Rwanda to its true self

Tom asked his childhood friend, Jonathan "Jock" Boyer, one of America’s most fabled cyclists and the first American to race in the Tour de France to coach the team, and a story was born. As Jock and five original riders set off in 2006, we documented their progress. The highs, lows, heartaches, and triumphs of building a professional cycling team in Rwanda.

Team Rwanda started out as a cycling organization, however they quickly learned that they had to care for the greater needs of each athlete. Many of the riders could not read or write, lived in homes without water and electricity, were malnourished, and had never received healthcare, or even knew what a dentist was. But there was still a greater issue, the issues of the heart. These riders were all recovering from the traumatic psychological effects of the 1994 genocide. Team Rwanda had to look deeper.

Adrien Niyonshuti lost sixty members of his family in the Genocide. Maybe because he sought purpose behind his pain, maybe he just had a gift, but Adrien started cycling in 2003. In 2006, Adrien rode a mountain bike for the first time, catching Jock and winning a local race, forging the beginning of a relationship between two broken men. In 2011, Adrien qualified for the Olympic Games and in 2012 entered the Olympic stadium as his country’s flag bearer, a bold achievement which sent shockwaves throughout Rwanda and the World, a living example proving ghosts and demons of our past have no power over our future.

Going strong. Getting stronger

Team Rwanda Cycling has since grown to 20 Rwandan riders and staff.  It is currently developing a world class training center in the hills of Rwanda, and a sustainable future of Rwandan leaders to carry the organization forward. Riders are building homes and are respected voices in their communities. Racers who have aged out of professional cycling are certified mechanics, managers, cooks, and massage therapists. We are confident one day the coach of Team Rwanda will come from within.

Leadership and Board of Directors

TC Johnstone

TC JOHNSTONE

T.C. Johnstone is a board member of the RFA Foundation as well as the director/producer of the feature film Rising From Ashes.

T.C. Began making films in Steamboat Springs, Colorado while working for Young Life, a youth outreach program for high school students. He produced his first feature film with 100 high school kids which launched a career in filmmaking. After working for several years in LA he began producing and directing feature documentary films. Over the past ten years he has worked with National Geographic, Discovery, NBC, CBS, author Rick Warren, and many others. In 2007 he founded the Gratis 7 Media Group Foundation which produces feature films for the commercial market.

T.C. And his wife Kristen live in Boulder, CO. He continues to produce and direct films as well as consult non-profits on media strategy.

Dan Cooper

DAN COOPER

Dan Cooper co-founded Team Rwanda with Tom Ritchey and Jonathan Boyer. He has played a critical role in gaining support for the documentary film through the Friends of Rwanda network that he has grown over the last six years.

Peb Jackson

PEB JACKSON

Currently, Peb focuses his energy on projects with both private sector and non-profit organizations to maximize opportunities, develop leaders, and enhance relationships. He serves as a liaison to business, government and entertainment leaders. Peb partners with organizations like CURE International, and Catalyst. He has pioneered practical work in Rwanda; helping search for economic solutions, aiding the reconciliation and recovery efforts, and is The Executive Producer of the award winning film, Rising from Ashes.

Greg Kwedar, Executive Director

Greg Kwedar
Executive Director

From narrative films, music videos, and documentaries to nationally televised commercials, Greg has created stories that are designed to capture honest human emotion. His work has been viewed in over 180 countries, screened in festivals both domestic and abroad, garnering awards and starting conversations. Out of response to his producing work on Rising from Ashes, Greg has stepped onboard as the Executive Director of the Rising from Ashes Foundation to realize the amazing potential he and the Rising from Ashes Team have witnessed in the years making the film. Greg is convinced that we must first live the most fantastic story with our own lives. He is an avid traveler, collector of knick-knacks, compulsive list maker, seeker of adventure, intrigue, and mystery. He calls Austin home with his beautiful wife Greta and beast of a chocolate lab Tucker. Greg also finds symbolism in way too much… just ask him about feathers.

Jon and Linda Halbert

Jon and Linda Halbert

Mr. and Mrs. Halbert have been married for 32 years and have 3 children. Through the establishment of The Jon and Linda Halbert Family Foundation they are able to provide resources to the needy domestically as well as internationally. Their commitment to helping those in need as well as their love of Africa combined with their passion for film and the arts has led them to their participation in Rising From Ashes.

Today Mr. Halbert and his wife Linda, are involved in a variety of commercial as well as benevolent organizations. Mr. Halbert currently serves as Vice Chairman of CitySquare, an organization that exists to fight the root causes of poverty by partnering with those in need. Working together as a community, they feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless and renew hope in the heart of Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Halbert has more than 30 years of management experience in the health care, energy and finance industries. He currently serves as Chairman of Phytel, Inc., a technology driven provider-led population health improvement company based in Irving, Texas as well as Chairman of The Pursuant Group, the nations top provider of fundraising services to America’s leading nonprofit organizations.

© Rising From Ashes Foundation 2014.  Photo credits.  Created with NationBuilder.