During my time in Rwanda, I met some insanely strong human beings, who, despite their hardships, are never seen without a smile. Wilson is one of these extraordinary people. Not only is he always smiling, but he is spreading smiles and laughs to the people around him. From just looking at him, one could never guess what a difficult life he has led, and is still leading. After learning his story, I realized I needed to help him in any way I could.
After 1994, Mukeshimana Igiraneza, only six years old, fled to the Congo with her parents. They were constantly moving around, living in camps and hoping for food. She met Mahoro Sherma in Congo, where they married and had their three children; Niyozera Dansila, Indengera Solange and Niyomufasha Germaine, now 14, 12 and 10 years old. This couple found Niyigena Wilson roaming around with no family. He was 12 years old at this time and is now 17. He never met his real parents, but luckily this family adopted him as their own. Wilson has no recollection of his time wandering the camps alone, however, when asked about it, he starts to cry. It seems as though he can remember, but the memory is too hard to think about.
The family decided to move back to Rwanda because their life in Congo was too hard. Throughout his time in Congo, many people had told Sherma who his parents were and where they came from. Sherma and his wife were having a difficult time earning money and were treated poorly for being Rwandan. Afraid to let others know they wanted to return to Rwanda, they secretly entered a United Nations (UNHCR) refugee camp where they asked for help. When UNHCR asked Sherma where he wanted to return, he told them Murara where his family was originally from. Five months ago, UNHCR assisted in their return to Rwanda. On arriving in Murara, a village meeting was held and it was confirmed that Sherma’s family is from the village.
The three youngest children had some schooling in the Congo, but since their return, the family has not been able to afford uniforms or books. Therefore, none of the children are in school. The oldest daughter, Dansila, cannot attend school as she was diagnosed by the local clinic with a liver problem. Five months ago, Dansila developed swelling in her lower extremities along with shortness of breath during exertion. Unfortunately, the family still has no identity cards which prevents them from getting health insurance. Dansila has had no medical testing in regards to her poor health.
Even though their life is still hard in Rwanda, they do not regret their decision to come home. In Rwanda, at least they are now living amongst their own people and are accepted in the community. As the mother Igiraneza says, “If I am without water, at least my neighbor will give me some. In Congo, we are all alone.” It is easier to struggle with a community to support you than to struggle on your own.
At the beginning, the UNHCR supplied them with some food, which is long gone after being eaten or sold for house rent. This family of six rent a dilapidated house for 6,000 Rwandan franc a month (about $6.50). They have no regular income and are barely surviving. The father, Sherma, is extremely ill and cannot work. Therefore, Wilson is the only source of income for the family. In Rwanda it is already difficult to find work as an adult. Can you imagine how hard it is for a 17 year old? Wilson was brave enough to approach our Project Coordinator and ask for a job. Luckily he was hired and has become one of our best workers. Meeting him and his family has allowed us to learn Wilson’s story and decide to help his family.
The strength and bravery that Wilson showed me will inspire me for many years to come. Wilson taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I know I have to do whatever I can to show Wilson he is capable of doing anything he wants to do as well. By giving him access to a safe shelter from the elements, I feel we are helping to enhance Wilsons future. Your donation can change lives.