Mugabekezi Petronilla is the mother of two young boys, 10-year-old Ihimbazwe Bruno, and six-year-old Isingizwe Fabrice. Petronilla has faced many unimaginable traumas and hardships in her life. She was orphaned at the age of two in the 1994 Genocide when her father and seven brothers and sisters were killed. Only Petronilla and her four-year-old sister, Ester, survived because a local woman hid them from the slaughter.
Petronilla and her sister eventually were taken in by their uncle. They grew up in their uncle’s house but were mistreated by his wife. They were not allowed to go to school and were forced to do all the housework. At the age of 13, Petronilla left her uncle’s house because she could not handle the abuse anymore. She had nowhere to go and no plans. She hopped on a boat that crossed Lake Kivu and landed in Kibuye. While walking around there aimlessly, Petronilla met an old neighbor from before the Genocide. The woman felt sorry for Petronilla and said she could stay with the woman’s son in Gisenyi and work for him as a maid. At the age of 16, the man started abusing Petronilla sexually and by 17 she became pregnant with Bruno. When the wife found out about the pregnancy, Petronilla was thrown out. From there, she roamed around, trying to find housing and work. Petronilla’s life was very hard once again.
Four years later, she married a man but soon afterward he began mistreating Bruno and Petronilla, beating her, and not giving them food. Feeling she had few options, she tried to stay and be patient but the husband eventually abandoned her while she was pregnant. Currently, Petronilla tries to support her boys by selling vegetables and fruits outside the local market but sometimes she gets arrested by the police for not having a permit. Someone helped her rent a house in Gahinga to start a new life. The rent is 8,000 Rwandan Franc ($8) a month, which is very hard for her to afford. Petronilla has been an Inshuti worker for two building seasons and helped build the Umuryango Family Houses and Zawadi’s house.
For many years, I have been following the non-profit organization that Rosa Marino has built in Rwanda, looking forward each year to the photos and updates that are sent out during the building season. Inshuti of Rwanda has helped many families and it has been inspiring to watch it grow. Inshuti reminds me that we are all part of one global family. Everyone on this planet deserves a safe place to call home. This year, I wanted to do more than simply donate, and asked if I could get involved in a campaign. My daughter Edie, who is a student at UVM and has always had a strong bond with children, also wanted to get involved to help Petronilla and her sons. Neither of us has much experience fundraising, but we are hoping to connect with friends and like-minded people who also feel inspired to get involved and help. Together, we are hoping to raise the $2,800 needed to build Petronilla’s home
Any donation, in any amount, will be greatly appreciated.
Thank You! Love, Susan & Edie