The weather was cool, refreshing and calm when Paul Niyonshuti, 28 and Julienne Mukamana, 25 sat outside their small humble mud house near the shores of Lake Kivu. They were home early after the day’s hard work in the fields.
The young couple over the years have lived among the hills of Mugonero village, a small settlement located in Karongi district, Western Province.
Niyonshuti and his wife till their farm land all day and late in the evening they walk back home before dinner time.
They live with their two young children and have planted and harvested enough food to feed their family.
Niyonshuti speaks with a sigh of relief as he narrates an amazing story that clearly explains why the memories of that ‘would be beautiful’ evening will forever stay.
“It was the night of March 16 when suddenly at about 8:30 p.m we heard someone approaching our house,” Niyonshuti said.
They wondered who would be moving around so late at night but as the person came closer, they saw an astonishingly young woman, probably in her early twenties, carrying a tiny baby.
“She told us of how she was helping a sick mother on her way to the nearby health centre,” Niyonshuti recalls.
According to Niyonshuti, the young woman was in a dilemma because the mother of the baby she carried was very weak, and could not walk any further. So she left her lying down a couple of minutes away from where they were.
She went on to explain that it got very late and they did not know where to spend the night. She had walked searching for a place to spend the night and promised to continue walking to their destination the following morning.
“The answer was a clear yes. We accepted and let them stay for the night,” Niyonshuti said.
Later he went to buy some extra paraffin for the lamp, and left Mukamana at home alone with the young guest and small baby. Unfortunately when he returned, the young woman had disappeared.
“She had gone to pick up the mother of the baby who was still lying somewhere on the road,” Mukamana said.
That was the last time they saw her; she never returned.
The baby had been abandoned by the real mother.
In desperation that same night, the young couple left their two children at home and went to the local authorities. They could not look after the new comer since it was already a struggle to maintain their two children.
The local leaders advised them to take the baby to its original destination - the health centre.
It was 3:00 a.m when they arrived at the health centre. The nurses referred them to Mugonero hospital, a couple of miles away.
They could not believe what was happening to them because a cool and calm night had turned out to be an incredibly long night.
They were equally afraid and exhausted.
Nevertheless, after a long walk they finally arrived at Mugonero hospital at 5:00 am.
“Take the baby to the police office,” was the answer. They had been walking the entire night and in frustration they had to walk back.
“What started as a quiet and peaceful night became a horrible nightmare because nobody wanted this baby yet we also could not keep her with us,” Niyonshuti said.
He had finally believed the hard truth that not all that glitters is gold.
“There were many questions in my mind but finally at 9:00 a.m, after 12 hours of fear and anxiety the police sent us to L’Esperance Orphanage,” he said.
It is in this small children’s village that the baby was accepted. A stone’s throw away from the shores of Lake Kivu, far away from everything, the orphanage is so close to many babies who are abandoned by their parents.
The orphanage was established 15 years ago right after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Since it started its operations the orphanage has seriously taken the plight of vulnerable and abandoned children in order to give them hope and a brighter future.
Baby Joy, as she was later named, finally had a place to stay.
Victor Monroy, the Director of L’Esperance Orphanage explains that there are many more helpless infants like Joy who have prompted the children’s home to adopt a special section for babies.
“During the month of April, two beautiful tiny babies were admitted and that included Joy,” Monroy said.
According to Monroy, the orphanage looks after children who have lost their mothers during birth, those whose parents are mentally disturbed and abandoned babies.
“Some of the first children who were admitted are now studying in different schools and universities while others have established families elsewhere” the orphanage Director said.
Today, Baby Joy is five months old and does not know that she was abandoned by her mother because on the brighter side; her life has become a wonderful gift.