From Rwanda to CultureWorks’ ESL program to King’s: the story of Fiacre Batera
Originally published on
By: David Langford, Current Events Instructor, CultureWorks

This tale is about a young man who smiles a great deal. He is charming, bright and an extremely nice person to spend time with. He is also willing to share a story about his life, a story few people can relate to. Fiacre Batera is a survivor of the horrendous Rwandan genocide. He is now at King’s, where he is completing a double major. This came after graduating from the CultureWorks ESL program. Fiacre was able to accomplish all this with the help of the local Roman Catholic Diocese.

Fiacre, now 30, left Rwanda in 2015 to come to London, Ontario. He speaks openly about what he left behind and what he lost.

“The genocide? I lost a lot,” he says frankly. His losses include his mother, his father, his uncle and many other family and friends.

The genocide took place from April to July in 1994, as members of the Hutu ethnic majority in the east-central African nation of Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. As many as two million refugees were displaced. It was not the world’s finest hour.

Fiacre was six when his father died; his mother passed away a year later in a refugee camp. He has three brothers and one sister who continue to live in Rwanda. Fiacre said his dad’s brother was murdered, but his parents were not. Many died from disease in the refugee camps.

“A lot of people died from sickness in the camps because of the epidemics,” he said. “People would drink the water from the rivers and the rivers were full of dead bodies. The hospitals were closed so people could not get medical attention. We were raised by my aunt, who is my Dad’s sister. We were very close before my parents died, so I was kind of lucky to have someone.”

Fiacre’s journey to Canada

Before coming to Canada in 2015, Fiacre worked as a waiter in a Rwandan hotel, sold insurance and was a teacher for five years. And then he came to London where he is particularly thankful to Father Michael Bechard, chaplain at King’s, for making the move – and his life – easier. “There are no words to say about that. He’s helping me with everything,” Fiacre said. “He’s a great person, with a great personality. He’s trying to help everyone.”

It seems fitting that Fiacre has been able to meet Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire during his time in Canada. Dallaire, the retired senator and general, served as commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda in 1993 and 1994.

“He came to King’s to speak. When I came to Canada, Romeo Dallaire was one person I wanted to meet,” Fiacre said. However, Fiacre was performing in a play the same night and missed Romeo’s speech. But he did manage to catch up with him later in the evening. “Before I met him I read his book, so I kind of knew his perspective of Rwanda. I talked to him; he asked me what program I was in. I said I am in social justice. He said ‘so once you are finished that, go and fix that back home.’ I said for sure I will.”

Excelling at ESL school, King’s University College, and beyond

Fiacre’s double major at King’s seems to fit perfectly. He is taking Social Justice and Peace Studies and Human Geography.

His time with CultureWorks was well spent, he said. He was a CultureWorks student for eight months. “It was a very good experience. I am still using some of the skills I got there,” he said. “What to do, what not to do, where to go, where not to go, the food. Also, we had the chance to explore different cultures, like the Japanese, Chinese, Middle East.”

His connection with CultureWorks did not end when he graduated. In November 2017, CultureWorks Vice-Principal Stan Rath presented Fiacre with the CultureWorks International Student Award at the Feast of Christ the King ceremony.

Stan recalls that Fiacre was a very good student while at CultureWorks. “I think he was on one hand quite a serious academic, and on the other hand very personable and very friendly,” Stan said. “So he made a lot of friends. He was very open and very involved.

“He set a great example for more reserved students and I think his willingness to participate in everything meant two things: he got a lot out of our program academically, and he got a lot out of our program socially.”

Fiacre now finds time to work with the homeless in London by helping out in soup kitchens. He is also part of the interfaith program at King’s. He also plans to meet with indigenous people in the Canadian North this summer through the experiential learning course RS 2351G – Inculturation and Spirituality.

In the meantime, he works part-time as a dishwasher in the King’s cafeteria. “It’s little money, but it’s a Canadian experience and a chance to meet people. That’s hard to do without working. I feel very sick when I am not getting involved,” Fiacre said.

CultureWorks is very proud of all that our graduates have accomplished here at our ESL school and beyond.

This article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of the King's Herald