How a former street vendor charted a rags to riches journey
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Anastasia Abambuzimana is the true definition of persistence. Neither fate, nor circumstances linked to her humble background, could stop her from achieving her dream.
Known to most as Mama Pacy, Abambuzimana is a businesswoman in Kigali and a gospel singer who ‘built herself’ from scratch to where she is now.
Her journey in life serves as an example, that anyone can become who they wish to be if they persevere.
A P5 dropout, former housemaid and a street vendor, Abambuzimana now owns houses in Kigali, a business of her own,and a car, among other things.
How it all began
Growing up in the outskirts of Gisenyi in Ngororero District, Abambuzimana was the first born of seven children. Life was beautiful and as a young girl and she was full of dreams.
However, she woke up one day and all that was gone.Her father passed away and that was it.It marked the beginning of a cruel chapter in her life.
“I had a good life growing up. I had both my parents but around 1994, my father passed away. That was the beginning of our suffering,” the 38-year-old recalls.
Her mother was a second wife and this, as she recalls, worsened their already bitter situation as the first wife took all the inheritance leaving them with nothing.
“By then I was about to join P6 but I had to drop out of school because we couldn’t even afford the school fees. All my siblings dropped out of school too, from then on, life became a relentless hunt for survival,” she says.
Abambuzimana then took up small farm jobs, and made minor handicrafts to ensure that her siblings got something to eat.
Amid all that she was facing, without knowing when or even how she would make it, she had belief that one day things would get better.
Her mother was in a distraught position because of the tragedy she went through coupled with the mistreatment from her co-wife.
“That period left my mother traumatised; the whole process of trying to save our land left her devastated with nightmares she still fights to this day,” Abambuzimana says.
As the first born, she knew it was her turn to take over.
Moving to the city
In 2000, Abambuzimana made her way to the city; she started working in Kigali as a maid earning Rwf 3000 per month. She was later given a better offer, earning Rwf 5000 but still as a maid.
It was hard but what kept her going was the promise she made to her mother, to take their family out of suffering.
She worked tirelessly, and her efforts paid off because life back home seemed to improve, but only a little bit.
She started street vending, selling tomatoes, carrots, green pepper, among other vegetables. With a profit of Rwf300 or Rwf1000 on a good day, she supported her siblings and her new family, four kids and a husband.
She met her husband two years after moving to Kigali.
“My husband was a porter, we earned the same amount, things were hard and I had to do something. On top of my vending, I started selling roasted maize, but still, money didn’t add up. Finding what to eat was by chance, in brief, surviving was more of God’s grace. When things got really bad, I would join my husband and help him with his construction, every coin counted,” she recalls.
As if the despair wasn’t enough, her husband passed on, leaving all four of their children under her care.
She was a widow and life as a street vendor had its own misery, enduring either the scorching sun or rain, but she stayed focused.
She says that at some point,she lost her patience, almost gave up and burst into tears,wondering if her destiny was endless suffering.
“That day, my kids had gone hungry; I had failed to make any money.A customer parked near me and when I approached her, she stared at me in disgust and sent me away from her car.When I went back home, I burst into tears because life was becoming too much for me to handle.”
Then God answered her prayers. Through a friend, Abambuzimana started supplying tomatoes to the then Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) now College of Education University of Rwanda. This opportunity marked her turning point in life.
From earning a mere Rwf 300 a day, she started earning Rwf 100,000, then Rwf 300,000 to so much more.
Later, through a cooperative the mother of four managed to secure herself a plot of land in Kibagabaga, and constructed two houses of her own. She opened up a salon and constructed more houses for rent.
She also managed to construct a house for her mother in Kigali and brought her siblings, one by one, from the village and now, they all have families and are living decent lives.
Abambuzimana believes that the hardships she went through were a training ground for bigger things God was planning for her in life.
“The life I went through was more of a lesson that would lead me to where I am today. God knows each one of His people and they should never give up,” she says.
Regarding her Gospel music, some of the proceeds are used to help the needy, she also helps pay insurance for the poor.
Her plans involve opening more businesses; another salon, because she believes anything is possible with God.
“People in trying times should be patient because regardless of what you encounter, have faith in God and things will finally work out your way. Embrace who you are and the situation you’re in but believe in the Creator and also, work hard,” she advises.
What her employees say about her
Yasin Ndayambaje has known Abambuzimana since 2001; he says that her story gives hope to those that are going through trying times.
They were both street vendors in Kimironko and he has witnessed her move from one step to another.
“When you explain this to someone, it is hard for them to believe. But this lady has been a hardworking woman, she has set an example for all of us and we believe that one day it will be our turn to thrive,” he says.
Janviere Mukahirwa says she has been working with Abambuzimana for over seven years now. She says that the lessons she has learnt from her are priceless.
“I started working with Mama Pacy in a very small salon but she has kept progressing. God has been on her side. She is a good person and she has taught us to be hardworking,” she says.
“She always tells us about what she went through as a way to motivate us. She is the kind of person who corrects our mistakes and encourages us to learn from them because she wishes for us to get to where she is today. I have learnt a lot from her and I pray that God continues to bless her.”