Omy K’s Story, the Healing Power of Purpose

Omy K with Rwandan children

Omy K with Rwandan children

Out of Africa

A few days ago I boarded a flight in Amsterdam for Seattle, part of a long journey home to Victoria. I was returning from upwards of a month in Tanzania. Just before boarding, I was able to switch to a window seat. Lucky for me, because that’s how I got to meet Omy.

He was heading home from Africa too, to Spokane from Rwanda. I’d never met a Rwandan before. All I knew about that country, besides its location next to Tanzania, was that there’d been a genocide in the 1990s. It turns out that Omy, at the age of nine, survived that holocaust. He managed to escape through a window as other members of his family were slaughtered.

“How, dear God, does a person live with that?” I wondered. I looked at Omy and perceived his aura of peacefulness. He told me more about himself, his healing and the purpose he created from his agonizing past. In his own words, here’s his story.  

Surviving the Unthinkable

How did Omy physically survive the horror? By the grace of God is the only answer that comes to my mind. And then, how did he emotionally and spiritually survive the ongoing trauma? First was through love, which included the wise counsel to give back. Somehow I think Omy would have done that anyway, given his deep empathy with homeless children’s suffering. Still, it must have been wonderful to have a caring father figure guide him in that way.

Healing Self and Serving Others

impanda-omy-k-rwanda“Giving back” has helped Omy find purpose in his own pain. When purpose involves serving others, then one’s own suffering can not have been totally in vain. There is room to breathe with that. The healing process and peace are nourished further. “This world deserves peace,” indeed.

A reggae musician, Omy, along with his wife Samantha, has created a nonprofit organization called “Impanda.” The vision of this organization, from their website, is “to empower homeless Rwandan youth through consistent nutrition, basic education, and therapeutic programs centered around art and music.”

Dealing with the basics on his last trip back to Rwanda, Omy took backpacks filled with clothes, shoes and other essentials for distribution to street kids. Performances with his band helped to raise the funds necessary.

Dance to the Rhythm of Your Own Heart

In Kinyarwanda, one of Rwanda ‘s official languages, Impanda means ‘calling.’ From the mission statement on their website, the choice of the name is explained:

At Impanda

[pronounced im-haun-da and rhymes with Rwanda] we are dedicated to the empowerment of Rwandan street kids by hearing their call to be treated as the powerful agents of change that they are.  It is our belief that by promoting self-reliance through investment in the individual, we create a culture that impacts the collective whole.  By connecting with youth we are reminded of our basic human birth rights: to learn, heal, create, tell our story, and dance to the rhythm of our own hearts, in all we do.

In short, in finding their calling and fulfilling it with joy, they transform the world! The same could be said for all of us. Imagine that!

Save the Children

In closing, please enjoy some of the reggae sounds of Omy K! For his songs “Orphans” and “Africa,” please visit: Impanda Music.

If you would like to financially support the work of Impanda, you may do so here: Please consider sharing the inspiring vision of Impanda with others.



About the Author:

Ramona McKean is creating a "Bridge of Light" (aka “a Bridge of the Heart”) to promote cross-cultural appreciation and awareness. An author and speaker, she lives in Victoria, BC, Canada.


  1. Hongchen Wang February 21, 2016 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    The world is not peaceful. Some people still face killing, famine, or lethal disease. When people fall in such tragedies, they need others’ help. Ramona is one of the helpers. She recently went to Africa to help poor children in Tanzania.

    When she finished her mission a month later, on the way home, she encountered Omy, a genocide survivor in Rwanda in 1990. Ramona brought back his story and posted it here on her website to support Omy’s nonprofit organization called “Impanda” – “to empower homeless Rwandan youth through consistent nutrition, basic education, and therapeutic programs centered around art and music.”

    When I read Ramona’s story, I felt sorry for Omy’s experience and his family and his hometown people, who were killed brutally. Meanwhile, I was inspired by Ramona and Omy’s mission. Their actions make me believe that the world has hope since there are still many warm-hearted and righteous people who make an effort to take care of others!

    • Ramona February 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Hongchen, thank you for your thoughtfulness. I believe you must be a warm-hearted and caring person yourself. Yes, if more and more of us do our part to make the world a kinder, more human place, we are indeed doing something very good. Thanks again. You’re a dear for writing!

  2. Elaine Harvey February 25, 2016 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    An inspirational video and message. Thank you for bringing Omy’s story to Canada. ‘Impanda’ to the healing work he is doing. We need many more Omys in the world.

    • Ramona February 25, 2016 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      You are welcome and thank you, Elaine! Indeed, we need many more people in the world like Omy.

  3. Phoenicia March 21, 2016 at 12:24 am - Reply

    What a touching article. What strength and character Omy has. He faced heartache and trauma at such a young age yet he has chosen to give back. I agree with your statement that giving to others means your pain was not in vain.

    Have you watched the film “Hotel Rwanda?” I recommend it, though it is gory in parts, it brings home the sheer horror and terror that the people of Rwanda suffered.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Phoenicia, I’m sure the movie “Hotel Rwanda” is effective in depicting the horror of that time and place. I honestly don’t think I could bear to see it. Thanks for the mention, though, and the comment.

  4. lenie March 21, 2016 at 2:50 am - Reply

    Ramona, how fortunate you are to have met Omy, or maybe fortune had nothing to do with it. If you hadn’t met him, we wouldn’t know his story and the amazing work he does, so I believe the timing for you to meet him was Now. We hear a lot nowadays about the Syrian refugees, which is good, but at the same time the horrors happening in Africa seem to be overlooked. Thank you for reminding us that the need for help must extend to everywhere it’s needed, not just where it’s politically popular. I will be supporting Omy.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm - Reply

      Lenie, if fortune (luck) is just blind chance, then I don’t think it was what “led” me to sit beside Omi. I like to think it was much more special than that. 🙂 Like we were meant to meet!

      I like what wrote about extending help to where it’s needed, not just “where it’s politically popular.” As a Canadian, perhaps you recall Roméo Dallaire? He was a commander for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). In 1993 he saw the escalating horror and blew a very loud whistle. Other nations deemed that intervention did not serve their national interests and ignored his pleas.

      Dallaire calls what happened in Rwanda as “the failure of humanity to heed a call for help.” He also says: “While most nations agreed that something should be done, they all had an excuse why they should not be the ones to do it. As a result, the UN was denied the political will and material means to prevent tragedy.”

      I figure we humans have got to look at how we label others, look beyond those labels at real people and not succumb to indifference. If we were in the shoes of those targeted by ignorance and hate, that’s what we’d want. Omy puts a human face to the awfulness of that not-so-long-ago genocide. I hope more people hear his story and reflect on what’s happening currently in our world. Thank you so much for supporting his cause via social media and in whatever other ways you see fit.

  5. Arleen March 21, 2016 at 8:02 am - Reply

    If this doesn’t touch your heart strings, I do not know what would. What a horrible experience. If Omy did not have that experience he may not have thought about giving back. So it ended up by being a beautiful story. It was a sad beginning but turned out to be inspiring. Living with Omy’s past will never go away but what he’s doing today will last a lifetime and maybe inspire more to give.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      Yes, his story sure touched my heart strings and not just in the “Hollywood kind of way” that I’m sure you’re referring to. I hope more people hear Omy’s story and are inspired to open their eyes and extend themselves more in service to others. Thanks for writing.

  6. Catarina March 21, 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Have worked a lot with African governments and seen the poverty and the tribal problems. Rwanda’s genocide was horrendous. Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by the Hutu led government. It’s seldom tribal conflicts get as bad as they did in Rwanda, but there are still constant minor problems of the kind. Truly wish the colonial powers had taken tribes into account when they agreed on borders in Africa, and the Middle East, as well actually.

    Glad your friend from the plane survived and is making an effort to improve life for poor people in Rwanda. If more Africans did the same, the continent would be in better shape.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Catarina, I agree with you that if more Africans were proactive in improving their quality of life, the continent would benefit. That actually fits for all of us wherever we live. You mention the colonial powers. As far as I can see, they were and are mostly motivated by self-interest; otherwise, why would they be “there” in the first place?

  7. Donna Janke March 21, 2016 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    I notice you mentioned Roméo Dallaire in your reply to Lenie’s comment. I thought about him and his loud voice trying to bring attention to the problem while I was reading the post. The universe works in strange ways. There may be a reason you wound up beside Omy K on the plane and this post bringing attention to his work is part of it.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Donna,
      It’s interesting that you thought of Romeo Dallaire too. What a valiant guy he is! Looking him up, I see that he has established his own foundation “to inspire young people from underprivileged backgrounds to develop their leadership potential.”

      I believe it was no fluke that Omy and I sat beside each other on that flight. I love to share the stories of people who inspire me. Just reflecting on the difference between those who inspire and those who motivate: Motivation seems to involve matters of personal measurable gain (nothing wrong with that). Inspiration involves being touched on the inside and being moved in a way I can only call spiritual. That was Omy’s effect on me. He wasn’t trying to get me to do something; he was just sharing. I’m grateful to have met him and I hope his dreams for the kids of Rwanda come true.

      Thanks for writing, Donna. It’s always a pleasure getting your feedback.
      🙂 Ramona

  8. Ken Dowell March 21, 2016 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    This is truly an inspirational story and it is so moving to hear Omy tell it in his own words.

    • Ramona March 21, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      When Omy told me his story on the plane, I was attentive to it and to him personally. Watching and listening to it on his video impacted me in a more “punch-me-in-the-gut” kind of way. Both in person and on the video, Omy is gentle in his delivery and oh so powerful! Thanks for your comment, Ken. Will you be willing to share his story with others?

  9. Marquita Herald March 22, 2016 at 7:29 am - Reply

    What a powerful video! After seeing the movie about Rwanda I read quite a bit about it and I am so impressed with this beautiful story. The characteristics you describe are indicative of highly resilient people so I found myself nodding as I was reading your fascinating article. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Ramona March 22, 2016 at 11:02 am - Reply

      Thank you, Marquita, for your sensitive response. Sometimes the harshest of trials (torture, really, in Omy’s case) provide the most intensely “rich” opportunities for soul growth. That is, if one so chooses to grow. Omy chose to grow. That’s what accounts for his inner glow. He’s the kind of person I admire and respect. The good he chooses to do is the good I am inspired to support.

  10. Sabrina Quairoli March 23, 2016 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    This is a great inspirational story, Ramona. Thank you for sharing. I totally agree that purpose helps heal us and service helps others. It’s a win-win.

    • Ramona March 23, 2016 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Absolutely win-win! Isn’t that the best way? Thanks, Sabrina. 🙂

  11. Doreen Pendgracs March 23, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Ramona, and thank you for sharing this post about Omy K. It is so wonderful that he has made his way thru the tunnel and into the light of a new world. And that he has the energy to help others.

    • Ramona March 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Yes, a “new world” is it exactly. Thanks, Doreen.

  12. Xin Meng March 23, 2016 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Hi again, Ramona,

    Actually I saw the video when you first published this blog article last month. But I was so busy that I did not post a comment here. Omy’s story is both inspirational and thought-provoking. I should definitely learn from him. He went through such a tragedy, yet he has been so strong in finding his purpose in serving others. We all need to find our purpose in life and “dance to the rhythm of our own hearts.” I agree with what you say in the last paragraph that we can all find our calling and “fulfill it with joy.”

    Thank you, Ramona, for your great post!

    • Ramona March 23, 2016 at 11:31 pm - Reply

      Xin, you’re the best. Thank you!

  13. w.a.rusho March 24, 2016 at 7:40 am - Reply

    A great post.
    It is worth while reading this. We live in bubbles and sometimes forget about other people in the world. Posts like this expand our horizons and help us understand the challenges other people in this world take, just to survive. thanks for sharing this.

    • Ramona March 24, 2016 at 11:22 am - Reply

      How true about the bubbles we tend to live in. I find that reading different people’s views and going to movies that are more than “fluff” help me to expand my horizon, to see the bigger picture. I think it’s important to put divisiveness aside as best we can. That’s what Omy has done. He knows that blame just keeps us mired in mud. W. A. Rusho, would you mind sharing my blog? If so, thank you. 🙂

  14. Erica March 24, 2016 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    It is amazing what people can survive. Omy’s story is very inspirational. Many people survive tragedy just to become bitter and angry. Omy’s story shows that no matter what you go through, you can find a way to use it for something positive. I’m glad you got to meet him on that flight and help spread his story.

    • Ramona March 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      I’m glad I met him too, Erica. Yes, it’s so easy to get caught up in bitterness and anger, especially when we look at the darkness in our world. It’s also easy to feel helpless, resigned, or indifferent. People like Omy are inspiring. I bet there are many people with inspiring true stories who don’t share. They could even be family members or neighbours. Sharing is important, especially when it uplifts and inspires. I would love to have Omy’s story spread wide and far. Might you be willing to help me with that? A link on Facebook maybe, or other social media? Thank you, Erica.

  15. Maxwell Ivey March 25, 2016 at 1:04 am - Reply

    Hi Ramona; So many people talk about doing things like your trip to tanzania but so few ever do it. And then most who do wouldn’t have really seen or got to know this young man. They would have been too focused on getting back home to their normal life. They would have been thinking oh lord who did they put me next to. They would have been hoping for a quiet trip with their iPod strapped to their head and slept the whole way. But you were present. You were in the moment and had yet another blessed encounter. Lots of people talk about being mindful and living in the moment, but you did it and you did it after a long trip too. congratulations my friend. you rock, max

    • Ramona March 25, 2016 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Max, you are so dear! Thank you for your kind comments. You are my friend from way down south of the border who calls himself the “blind-blogger.” Did we meet through LinkedIn, or was it somewhere else online? Talk about a person who rocks. You’re in the upper echelons, Max, if such a thing can be said to exist! I guess what I’m saying is this: You inspire me and many many more people who’ve met you in person or online. You’re a life coach, a writer of blogs, a public speaker and a person who helps others sell amusement park equipment. All that and you’re blind!

      Oh yes, and you write books, with titles that in and of themselves are inspiring. How could anyone not be stopped by the title of your first book to consider what it might contain: “Leading You Out of the Darkness into the Light, a blind man’s inspirational guide to success”? Or your 2nd book, soon-to-be-released, on diet and health? “It’s Not the Cookie, It’s the Bag” sounds intriguing when one considers that you went from 512 pounds down to 256 pounds!

      Best of all, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a down-to-earth, good-hearted, plain decent guy. I’d love for others to meet you too. That’s why I am putting your link here. Readers, please meet my friend Max: 🙂

  16. Maxwell Ivey March 25, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Hey Ramona, when you texted me to say you had replied to my comment, I thought cool I’ll go find out what she thought. Then I read this and am totally touched and honored. I do my best to work hard learn the lessons god has intended for me and teach a few when I get the opportunity. I have written two books, and I think the title of the new one “it’s not the cookie, it’s the bag” is the kind that will have people wanting to read just to find out what I meant by those words.

    I do my work online so far. I haven’t been blessed yet with long journeys. You have stepped out in faith and traveled half way around the world to help people in person. There are opportunities everywhere for people to learn and grow and help others if they will just keep their hearts and minds open to finding these opportunities.

    I am working on a book tour for both books and hope that canada will be in my future. I have invitations from several friends in california, oregon and washington; and I have two clients from my amusement equipment business in western canada. I will certainly let you know if I’m ever in your area. However, my plans may be put off as my new eye doctor is pitching the computer implant for me. It all comes down to what works best for each of us in god’s plan. thanks so much for this kind introduction. I will email you a copy of the book when its finished being edited and you can share your thoughts with me and with your readers if you like. God bless you, max

    • Ramona March 25, 2016 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Max, I’m happy you read my response. Wow, I got to find out there’s a chance of your coming to Victoria on Vancouver Island, or maybe to Vancouver. I also learned that you may have a computer implant to give you some vision! I’d never heard of this before and have just read about it online. It’s amazing. Let’s mean it literally when we say “we’ll see what happens!” Whatever is in store, I wish you all the best. And thank you about the e-book. God bless you too. Ramona

  17. Jeri March 26, 2016 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing Omy’s story. The effect of trauma is an area I am gearing up to explore in my own creative nonfiction, and I have always been drawn to such stories as a reader. It’s brave and inspiring when such people can share their stories and let us know we are not alone in the things that happen to us.

    • Ramona March 26, 2016 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      I agree with you, Jeri, brave and inspiring. Thanks for your comment.

  18. Jason Butler March 27, 2016 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I’ve never heard of Omy K before. This is a powerful story. It is good that he has been able to give back and help other people.

    • Ramona March 28, 2016 at 10:09 am - Reply

      Thanks for your response, Jason.

  19. ikechi April 6, 2016 at 3:54 am - Reply

    Hi Ramona

    What an inspiring story and I do commend Omy for healing a difference in his community. The genocide that happened in Rwanda is very scary and sad tale of how mixed up mindset can cause a nasty effect in our world.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care

  20. Haiwu April 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Ramona, I lived in Rwanda for 1 year not long ago. Then it was the safest country in East Africa, with economic growth surprisingly high. Still I remember and miss some friends there, especially their gigantic smiles.

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 9:34 am - Reply

      It’s a good thing you left when you did, Haiwu, as I gather things are not so pretty there at present. It’s awful to think about.

  21. L. L. Reynolds May 2, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    This was such an inspiring story! Too often we are indifferent to others suffering. What an amazing young man!

    • Ramona McKean May 2, 2016 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      Truly an inspiring, amazing young man! As soon as I met Omy, even before we talked about anything, I could tell he was “special.” Later, when he sent me his video, I was bowled over. He’d told me his story in person but the video heightened my sense of him and what he endured. Yes, indifference is often the case with others’ suffering. I guess we humans don’t like to be touched with it so conveniently shut our hearts. This is where prayer/meditation (whatever word people want to call it) comes in. Lifting the problem/awfulness to a higher power helps me to both keep my heart open and to not get pulled down by the pain. Thanks for reading and commenting on Omy’s story, Lois.

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