Photo: Adam Bacher

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The Woman Who Helps War Victims Rebuild
As a driven businesswoman, Victoria Trabosh's goal in life was to make the cover of Time. At a professional meeting in Portland, Oregon, however, she was introduced to a Rwandan woman named Rita Ngarambe. Their initial chitchat quickly turned into a more serious discussion, in which Ngarambe explained how her people had lost hope after the 1994 genocide. That conversation, Trabosh says, planted a seed. "I went back home and said, 'I'm going to go to Rwanda.'"

While in Rwanda, Trabosh met people who'd suffered unimaginable losses—a widow who lived with four of her children in a 42-square-feet mud hut, a young boy whose siblings were raising him because his parents had died. Determined to reach out to survivors and their children, Trabosh started the Itafari Foundation after she returned to the U.S. Itafari means "brick" in the Kinyarwanda language reflecting her desire to help the people there rebuild.

Over the past eight years, Itafari has raised nearly a million dollars and most of that money has gone toward helping Rwandans become more self-sufficient—paying orphaned children's school fees, for instance, or supplying loans to family heads so they can start their own businesses. The foundation has transformed hundreds of lives, including that of a woman named Claudine, who lost both her parents in the massacres. With Itafari's help, Claudine was able to build a house for her family and send her two children to school. "When someone has gone through a genocide, they need to know, 'Can you help me with my dreams?'" Trabosh says. "Our work is empowerment."

Though still recovering from a recent heart attack, Trabosh continues to promote Itafari's mission and the potential of the people she serves. "I watch their success and I say, 'Anything is possible.' I was optimistic before, but I am so focused now. I am so clear that there is greatness available to all of us."

Elizabeth Svoboda is the author of What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness.

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