Heaven Retreat

Back to Global Conversations Episode 22: Josh and Alissa Ruxin

Melissa sits down with Josh and Alissa Ruxin to talk about why they came to Rwanda on their honeymoon and never left, the country’s complicated history and reconciliation process and its rapid development, the power of resilience, and the best way to experience Kigali. Plus, the making of Heaven and The Retreat, their hotels and restaurant, the places they dream about, and more.

Episode Guide

In this episode, travel to Rwanda, which is also called the land of a thousand hills and is a place that unequivocally, absolutely steals your heart. Melissa first traveled there several years ago to see the famous mountain gorillas. You have to trek deep into a national park to see these endangered animals, and because you’re usually traveling in small groups, you can get within feet of the gorillas. It’s a very moving experience because they share an amazing 98% of our DNA, so it really is very different from any other wildlife encounter. 

Aside from the Gorillas, Melissa fell deeply in love with Rwanda, a country that saw a horrific genocide in the early 1990s and that has been rebuilding ever since. Reading about its history, meeting people who survived those years — you can’t help but be moved by it.

Our guests on this episode, Josh and Alissa Ruxin, moved to Rwanda in 2005 with the lofty goals of improving healthcare and to fight poverty. Since then, their projects have expanded, as has their family – the Ruxins have six children: three biological and three adopted Rwandans. Alissa’s original aim — to provide sustainable employment for orphans of the genocide and to create a gathering for food-lovers — turned into Kigali’s must-visit restaurant Heaven. They also run the city’s best boutique hotel, and Josh somehow managed to find time to write a beautiful and moving memoir about their journey, called A Thousand Hills to Heaven. Enjoy their story!

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