Watoto Read was born from the experiences of one of our Founders, Claudine Leary, who is a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda. She was a college freshman when violence broke out, and was forced to flee the country. She eventually found safety in a refugee camp in Malawi, separated from her family and unsure if she would ever see them again. Jesuit Refugee Service was serving in the camp, and one of their volunteers, Joe Moretti, advocated for Claudine to get a scholarship to Africa University in Zimbabwe. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business studies in 2001 and ultimately relocated to the United States where she completed two higher education degrees in business administration and divinity. She is deeply grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Moretti and Jesuit Refugee Service provided for her and recognizes that without Mr. Moretti’s advocacy, and the chance for an education, her life story may have been very different.
As a refugee, Claudine spent much time caring for young children in the camps, many of them orphans. She has not forgotten these children and for years has dreamed of ways to improve the circumstances and futures for children like those she left behind. After many years of consideration, Claudine realized that the key to providing hope and a better life for refugee children was simple: education. Claudine, along with several members of our current Board of Directors, founded Watoto Read in 2015. “Watoto” is the Swahili word for children. After receiving tax exemption status in February 2016, Watoto Read officially launched its fundraising operations.