Charity, the old saying goes, begins at home, and for local radio/TV personality Bujyacera Jean Paul, that home is in Ngarama Sector of Gatsibo District, in the Eastern Province.
As a journalist with Radio and TV Isango Star, Bujyacera is better known to his followers as Gutermann, German for ‘good man’, a nickname that was bestowed upon him by some German friends.
In Gatsibo district however, and in particular Ngarama Sector where he was born and raised, he is better known for his charitable initiative, the Nufashwa Yafasha Organization (NYO), of which he is Founder and Legal Representative.
On a recent morning, after a four hour drive from Kigali, our car ushered us before a group of about 50 school uniform-clad children standing neatly in short rows, waiting for the cue from their teacher to break into song.
They are beneficiaries of the center’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, which caters to about 60 youngsters from the surrounding community.
After welcoming our small group with song, the teacher now embarks on an energetic question-and-answer session to test her charges’ grasp of the English language. It is a routine they have all grown accustomed to, as it is repeated every time there is a visiting delegation to the school.
Also watching the action from their seating positions is a handful of women, who have to divide their attention between the singing and their weaving. We are told these women are the mothers of some of the children at the center.
To boost household incomes and foster social cohesion, the center provides space for these women to make crafts for sale.
Talking of the center, it is a small residential house that doubles as classrooms and administrative officeS. The center is a work in progress, going by the construction works that abound on the sight, and the ubiquitous presence of construction materials scattered all over the compound.
Here, apart from the children, there is a small volunteer staff of about four, in charge of teaching the children, cooking for them, while another lady is an administrator.
Bujyacera reveals that the center caters for different categories of beneficiaries, with the Early Childhood Education lot the biggest percentage. These are children in the 3-5 year age category. Other beneficiaries are primary and secondary school students, and the last category of beneficiaries are the parents.
However, only the Early Childhood lot attends school at the center, while those beneficiaries in primary and secondary are facilitated in their education from different public schools. According to Bujyacera, the pioneer class of beneficiaries is now in S2, in various schools.
In all, the center supports 60 nursery, 50 primary, and 14 secondary school students from around the community.
Every once in a week, the women in the crafts club converge at the community center to share craft skills, and also socialize.
Bujyacera reckons that; “crafting together not only reduces social isolation, but can also provide low pressure opportunities for those that experience social anxiety. It also boosts confidence as they learn new skills and ways of expressing themselves.”
Stepping into the community center building, one’s attention is immediately drawn to a mini book library in one corner, health and educational charts, and a sewing machine that was recently donated by a German volunteer to the center.
Since the arrival of this machine, the center has registered reduced strain on its scarce resources, as school uniforms and cardigans can now be made from within the center.
With additional equipment, the center intends to extend sewing services to the local community and thereby turn a small profit.
Bujyacera is currently pursuing his Masters of Development Studies at Mt. Kenya University, having bagged a Bachelors of Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Rwanda in 2015:
“It (Development Studies) is an interesting course because it teaches things like how to avoid the cycle of poverty, the reasons why there is rampant poverty, and the effects it has on communities.”
The craft club was launched following a seed capital donation from the organisation.
He kicked off his media career with a one month unpaid internship at Isango Star Radio. Because of his dedication to the job, he was retained on probation for another two years, before eventually inking a contract.
“After one month internship I worked for about two years without pay, just transport facilitation to and from work. My purpose was not getting a salary at that time. My purpose was growing my career to become a great journalist who is all round. Journalism had always been my dream from childhood.”
Asked what his organization’s journey has been like since 2014, he remarked:
“In the beginning I didn’t think of an organization. I was thinking of getting a few children, maybe ten, who I could support personally with the help of a few friends. I was looking at just basic needs like clothing and food. Little did I know we would grow into an organization.
But gradually, I started realizing that it required more resources to keep supporting these children beyond just their food requirements. I realized that basic needs like food and clothing were not enough. What they needed most was education.”
The center’s main challenge however still remains that of finances, with the current sporadic donations from Bujyacera’s circle of friends and foreign volunteers not sufficient enough.
With improved funding, he hopes to acquire more land for the center and equip it with more amenities like better classrooms, community spaces for the students and community, outdoor and indoor play areas, storage and food service space, and a first aid clinic, among others.