At 4 years old, Yannick Kabuguza was attacked during the Rwandan genocide.
"If you threw your problems in a pile with everyone else's, you'd fight to get yours back, and I think he's a perfect example of that," said Bill Lavin, founder of Where Angels Play.
"His parents were killed and many members of his family and village were killed. He was struck with a machete, and they left him, thought he was dead," said plastic surgeon Patricia Fox.
Kabuguza survived — but lived most of his young life with a deformity to his left ear.
"In that culture, that was a significant stigmata that meant he was a genocide victim," said Fox.
Fast forward two decades, Yannick met Bill Lavin.
"He feels like he received a gift. I want to just emphasize that he is a gift to us," said Lavin.
Lavin is the founder of 'Where Angels Meet.' They build playgrounds in communities struck by tragedy. The first one overseas was in Rwanda.
"After we came back from Rwanda, I had a video of Yannick. Yannick, as he said today, wanted his story to be told," said Lavin.
Bill happened to tell Yannick's story to just the right person.
"They said, ‘We happen to know someone who's pretty incredible,’ and we connected with Dr. Fox, she said she could do it if we could get him here," said Lavin.
"I had that dream since I was young. Finally it's done. It's done because of you," said Kabuguza.
This week, a Schenectady doctor performed plastic surgery on Yannick free of charge.
"You come away feeling wonderful that you've been able to change a life," said Fox.
"I never met somebody like her, how she did everything for free of charge, she dida great job, it's like amazing, it's like amazing, I don't know how I can explain that, but I appreciate her," said Kabuguza.
Yannick is eager to share his story. To him, it's about more than survival and hope, though. It's about forgiveness for those who hurt him.
"I'm not perfect, you're not perfect. Everyone has a negative side. With that I decide to forgive him," said Kabuguza.
Yannick and Bill say they plan to continue working together in the future.