Engineering doctoral student Chadia Uwamahoro isn’t afraid to offer her native Rwanda as an example of what’s possible through truth and reconciliation.
The healing process is ongoing in the central African nation of nearly 14 million people following the 1994 genocide against 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and their supporters by the governing Hutu majority. Uwamahoro was just a year old when the genocide began. “When the country lost nearly a million people, we went backward,” she says. “We had no other choice than to rebuild.”
Uwamahoro is now a civil engineering doctoral student studying under Dr. Lisa Tobber in the UBC Okanagan Advanced Structural Engineering and Experimental Testing Group. Much of her current path is based on helping a united Rwanda thrive.
The mother of a two-year-old daughter, Aaira, Uwamahoro co-founded a construction consulting business in her hometown of Kigali with her husband, who is also a structural engineer. She says she plans to return to Rwanda and raise her family, grow their business and continue the rebuilding process. She has full faith in the Rwandan people and the direction the country is heading. “As Africans, we have to learn,” she adds. “That’s how we know what happened to our people and our country. It’s easy to divide people to control them. When people are together, it’s hard to control them. They’re able to resist you.”
Uwamahoro’s specific research at UBCO is around precast concrete buildings and systems, with emphasis on the connections being used with precast concrete shear walls. A precast system is constructed in a plant and transported to the building site, while traditional systems are poured on location.
“Precast is already being used in Canada, especially Ontario,” Uwamahoro says. “It involves multiple different units that need to be connected to act as one building. We’re looking at those connections and how they behave.”
She says that bringing her two worlds together—taking what she learned at UBCO with her home to Africa—is proof everyday Rwandans are invested in their future.
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