When Jean-Damascen was a young man,both his parents died and he inherited family land. Newly married, Jean-Damascen built a small home in which he still resides in today. It’s a small, three-room house that is missing adobe bricks allowing rainwater to flood in during bad weather. The roof has holes, the floor is not cemented and made of dirt.
Jean-Damascen’s first wife and all seven of his children were murdered in 1997. Most likely from FDLR gorilla soldiers coming into Rwanda, from the Congo, during raids after the Rwanda Genocide. A tragic loss that still affects him to this day. Eventually, he met Vestine and started a second family. Currently, they are all living in the same house where he lost his first family.
Jean-Damascen is sixty years old and now has young children to care for with his second family. He works as a pit-latrine digger where he can earn a good wage of 10,000 RWF ($10) per hole but it is often hard to find a job. Digging pit-latrines is a physically demanding job and over the last several years it has become harder for Jean-Damascen to do this type of work. Sadly because the family can not afford books and uniforms, none of the children have ever attended school.
In an attempt to help this poor family, the government gave them a cow but this has turned into more of a hindrance than a help. Jean-Damascen is worried the cow will be stolen if left in a field. It remains tied up in front of the house creating a very unsanitary environment for the family. Because the cow does not have grass to graze on, it requires the entire family to collect food. Often this prevents them from working at a job they could normally be paid for. The cow is still young and not producing milk therefore it provides no source of income for the family.
After hearing Jean-Damascen’s story, I was astounded by his resilience and dedication. His story particularly resonated with me due to his relentless strength. The strength to continue and reconstruct his life after losing his family, as well as his strength to continue to provide for his family despite luckless circumstances. With the children unable to attend school and a family that has overall been through so much, a newly built house will provide so much more than a shelter for this family. To me, building a house for Jean-Damascen’s family is a symbol of his strong will and a reminder to myself of what is possible if you never give up.
Please help me build Jean-Damacen a new house by making a donation. Love, Melanie