Rwanda: A Place of Peace—How Microfinance and Sponsorship Change Lives
This month our country of focus is Rwanda, where World Vision’s Strong Women, Strong World initiative is assisting women, particularly those impacted by conflict, AIDs and HIV, with vocational and business training. The following story was contributed by Kari Costanza.
World Vision sponsorship changes lives as children are provided with educational opportunities, better health and nutrition, and access to clean water. But sometimes parents need an extra boost to provide for their children. In Rwanda and many countries around the world, microfinance is the answer.
Like millions in Rwanda, Jacqueline Makamusoni’s life fell apart in April 1994. Jacqueline was living in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, where her husband worked as a nurse. The couple had 3 children, a girl and two boys, all under 5. They were happy.
The events of April changed all that. On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying the Rwandan president was shot down over Kigali. That night, the killings began—an incomprehensible slaughter of men, women and children. In 100 days, nearly a million people, primarily Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were hacked to death—machetes the weapon of choice.
Jacqueline’s husband was one of those people. She tells the story of his death with no details.
“My husband had gone to work in the hospital. When chaos started up,” she says, “he died.”
Jacqueline gathered her three children and went back to her home—Nyaruguru in southern Rwanda.
“When I came back, many houses were down. They were destroyed. Some people had died,” she says.
“I went to live at my father’s house. It was very small. We decided to come and look for somewhere to stay. We actually went to sleep at people’s houses.”
Schools were destroyed. Water systems wrecked. Health care was practically non-existent. And worst of all, the fabric of neighborhood had been ripped to shreds.
“When I came back here, people could not trust each other,” says Jacqueline. “Those who had lost people wondered if you had any hand in this. One would go this way and the other went that way. Those who fled feared to come back here. It wasn’t really harmonious.”
Jacqueline’s family began to disintegrate.
“My older children dropped out of school,” she says. “They became street children. We had nothing. That’s when I met World Vision [in 1999] and my oldest girl was sponsored.”
Things began to change for the better. “They had destroyed the schools and World Vision was constructing them,” says Jacqueline. Her children were given educational materials and went back into the classroom.
“From World Vision we got food,” she says, “and had our basic needs met. They built us a house. We also got cows and a goat.”
Jacqueline began to put her life back together, remarrying and having twins, Yve and Yvette, now 10.
And then the bottom dropped out. Again.
Jacqueline’s husband, a soldier, was sent to fight in Congo. “He went in a group of soldiers,” she says, “and he never came back.” When asked how she coped—a widow again because of war, she smiles ruefully.
“It’s really God, it’s not me who raised the children,” she says.
Her second husband killed in conflict, Jacqueline now had responsibility for 5 children—three from her first marriage—the twins from her second. She needed a way to become the breadwinner for her children. She had hopes and dreams for them that could not be realized without income.
Sponsorship had helped bring the family back to life. The children were in school. They had a house. They had clean water. But they needed income.
Through World Vision’s microfinance program called Vision Fund, Jacqueline was able to provide her children with all they needed.
“Vision Fund lent us money to start a small restaurant,” she says. Us was Jacqueline and two other widows. In 2006, they started with a small loan of $250 split three ways.
The ladies put their heads together, rolled up their sleeves, and went to work. It didn’t take long for their restaurant to become the best restaurant in town—serving 50 customers a day. The ladies branched out—beginning to cater events in Nyaraguru—growing their business and taking on even more loans. Their children were able to go back to school. Jacqueline’s oldest children—to college.
Life began to return to normal as Jacqueline was able to dream again for her children’s futures. It is only fitting that she would name the restaurant Ituze, A Place of Peace.
“Because of the loan my children have food to eat,” she says. “They have clothes. They go to school. Our community is really happy. They love the restaurant. We serve good meat and chips. We can make our own mayonnaise. If there are any guests, any big person who comes to this area, they have somewhere to take the person.
“And how have things changed for me? I have a good life.”
Through sponsorship and micro-credit, facing seemingly insurmountable odds, Jacqueline and her neighbors have been able to recreate the life they once had.
For more on Jacqueline, read a special interview with World Vision.