The last memory Daniel Trust has of his mother is seeing her beaten to death.
“She was crying, she was screaming, blood was coming out of her mouth. And I didn’t know what to do,” said Trust.
At 5 years old, Trust experienced the 1994 Rwandan Genocide firsthand. Today, he is a motivational speaker who talks about his life and LGBT advocacy.
In 2005, Trust immigrated to America where he began a new life and soon founded The Daniel Trust Foundation, Inc. On April 2, almost exactly the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, Trust came to Fairfield and shared his story with a group of students, teachers and visitors.
The event was sponsored by The Center for Faith and Public Life; Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network; International Studies; Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Student Diversity Programs; Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies; Catholic Studies and the Connecticut Writing Project.
Trust began by describing how the genocide affected him, particularly, how he lost both of his parents. According to Trust, the support he has had from friends, teachers and siblings never could fill the void.
“I wish I got to know them … The love of a family is … you just can’t beat that,” said Trust.
Without his parents to raise him, he moved in with his older brother. His brother physically abused him for making mistakes, such as answering a math problem incorrectly or accidentally breaking a kitchen plate. The bullying continued at school as well, when Trust was taunted for being friends with girls.
Faced by both abuse and bullying, Trust started going to church.
“I developed some sort of hope and faith that God saved me for a reason … I developed hope that one day God would send somebody to take me away from this abusive home,” said Trust.
In 2005, Trust’s prayers were answered and he received his visa, which allowed him to immigrate to America. He moved in with his sister and began attending Bassick High School in Bridgeport, Conn. Despite a history of poor academic progress, Trust excelled as a student at Bassick.
“I had to work hard … I had to push myself … I didn’t want my story to define the path I was going to take,” said Trust.
After graduating from Bassick, Trust continued his education at Southern Connecticut State University where he graduated last May with a degree in business management.
“It’s just such a blessing that I actually graduated college based on where I came from and everything that I went through as a child … I’m just so thankful,” said Trust.
After graduating college, Trust discussed his transition into the real world, holding his first job at TD Bank. It was while at TD that Trust continued experiencing challenges, one of which was coming out. He shared his experiences with his sexuality and LGBT advocacy with the audience.
In 2009, Trust came out as gay, despite fears of being rejected by his family and friends. He received mixed responses, one of which was from his sister, who didn’t support him. However, the positive responses motivated him to incorporate LGBT advocacy into his motivational speaking.
He is now a full-time motivational speaker, as well as executive director of The Daniel Trust Foundation, Inc. The foundation gives scholarships to students who give back to their community, as well as a scholarship for teachers who go “above and beyond.”
After Trust shared his story, the audience asked questions and took pictures with him. As the audience left, students, teachers and visitors alike all had positive words to say about Trust.
Tiana Krause, a freshman at Fairchild Wheeler School, said she will be taking Trust’s wisdom and advice back to her Alliance club at school.
“I think [it was good to hear] how to support teens who are struggling, not with the same thing, but with struggling with coming out … It’s good for me to [be able to] share that with teens from my school and [teach them] how to stay positive,” she said.
Director of JUHAN Julie Mughal was also impressed by Trust.
“I think that he’s such an amazing inspiration … For a child of 5 to have lived through that and to have accomplished what he’s accomplished is just amazing,” said Mughal. “I think he’s just a force of nature … he’s just such an inspiration.”