Her name is Karen Bugingo a journalism student at the Mount Kenya university, Rwanda
campus. She recently made headlines for the launch of her book “My name is Life”! At the
exciting age of 25, Karen Bugingo is a survivor, author, blogger, student, advocate and
entrepreneur. Fascinated by her achievements, FeelMag met up with the young lady to get to
know her better and for the sake of our curious readers, to bring the untold stories and fun facts
She loves writing, traveling and meeting people. Apart from her study, she also has her own
startup as an online accessory delivery. She is a cancer advocate and volunteers for Rwanda
Children Cancer Relief. The NGO advocates for childhood cancers and try to get treatment funds
for underprivileged kids. The book was part of her advocacy and that’s what she would like to
focus on in the future.
A Double Survivor!
Names are powerful omens, indeed. The name “Bugingo” which means “life” has demonstrated
its authenticity by allowing Karen to live through more than one ordeal. Before going through
chemotherapy and surviving cancer, Karen, her brother and other members of her family
survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. However, her parents didn’t get so
lucky and were killed on 8 th April 1994 at the beginning of tensions in Nyamirambo. Karen and
the brother survived by being at the grandparent’s home who had to leave the city and go to their
village where friends hid them and transported them to safe areas where the RPF was rescuing
people on the run. Her memory of the genocide is carried down from stories told by family
members who all have different memories of the time.
When asked why the story doesn’t appear in detail in the book, Karen states it wasn’t the time to
tell that story. She was only two years old and barely has any memories of her own. The survival
of the Genocide in 1994 doesn’t feel like her story to tell compared to the vivid recollections she
has of going through the cancer, and therefore it wasn’t developed in the book.
Although her memories of surviving during the 1994 Genocide are distant, Karen recognizes that
she has been given a chance to live against all odds, twice! This leads her to see that there’s
something bigger than herself that she must fulfill and that is cemented by her faith as a born-
again Christian. The cancer experience has humbled her, she says, and has given her growth.
Therefore, she chooses to share her story and hopes it encourages people and makes a change.
On the Book and the Next Step
Talking about her first book, the writer acknowledges that it ends abruptly and leaves
room for a prolongation. If she’s to write again, it will be a continuation of her book and what
her life became after she dared to share the story and the publishing of her book. This could be in
the coming two to three years. She hopes to then fill in the blanks on some unanswered questions
from the book. Many readers for instance wondered what happened to the character “Jordan”
who seemed to be sweet and cared for her. Karen explains that the character of Jordan was
introduced to portray the normal teenage life, before cancer happened. She wanted her readers to
know that she lived a normal life and went through normal teenage tendencies like crushes,
parties, and boys before the diagnosis.
It’s been five years in remission and she’s living a normal and healthy life, cancer free.
When asked about her future plans, Karen states that she would like to focus on her cancer
advocacy. “The biggest part of recovery depends on your financial ability.” she says. A cancer
patient not only needs to afford treatment, but also healthy and balanced meals. This has been the
biggest drive for her advocating for children who do not have the financial means to access
chemotherapy. She strongly believes that no child should die of cancer and that’s why she
focuses on children.
However, she still wants to write and share her story. She says; “I want to share my story, not
just in Africa or East Africa, but with the whole world. Even though I am the kind of person that
would rather not have attention on me.”
Karen’s 5 in 5 Goddard list.
We asked Karen to compile a list of five things she would like to be, do and have in five years.
And here’s what she has to show!
Travel the world, everywhere!
Write another book.
Grow a business
Make a documentary
See the Devil’s waterfall in Zimbabwe
A successful author
A person of influence
A successful marriage
A second citizenship
Foreign husband. Preferably Ghanian