When young men and women took to the podium to relive the misery that was their life in the past, telling of how the world was too busy to notice the effete cries in their deep squalor, the audience was touched. Some fought back tears.
The collective regret of not doing anything that a widow, Fatier Kabasinga, has done for the children haunted the audience who had come to witness the inauguration of Samaritan International School Kabasinga.
This was on March 29, when a pre-primary and primary school was inaugurated by Tomio Sakamoto, the chancellor at the Embassy of Japan in Rwanda, for the residents of Nyirangegene in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province.
The story begins in 2007 when Kabasinga met a Japanese JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) volunteer, YuikoWatamoto, at Karangazi Sector offices.
“It is while meeting her that I heard someone sobbing and sought to know who it was. I found two boys standing outside, one of them sobbing. They had missed out on O-Level scholarships and were sad because of the uncertain future ahead without an education,” Kabasinga says.
The experience moved her close to tears and she resolved to do something about their plight. The problem is that she wasn’t with the means as she was just another average citizen with no house or farm, but only a sewing machine. At the time, she was actually servicing a bank loan.
“I was moved because I didn’t have an answer that would help these boys, but I promised them I would help them much as providing for my family was already too challenging,” she says.
A chain of hands for support
Kabasinga shared her concern of helping the boys with her family members. They accepted, and even donated their mattresses to the boys to go to school.
At school, the head teacher, on realising Kabasinga’s determination to educate the boys, offered them free education for some time.
Her Japanese friend Yuiko later offered to sponsor one of the boys.
When Yuiko went back to Japan, she also told her family the story of the miserable boys and girls who needed help. Her sister accepted to support the other boy Kabasinga was helping.
Yuiko did not sit back. She mobilised her friends and relatives and in the end the chain of sponsorship grew to cover 40 students, including Kabasinga herself, who is now in her last year at college.
Making grief of strangers your own
Yuiko does not realise how significant she is in the story. In fact, while Kabasinga hails her for the commitment to seek help for the needy children, Yuiko, on the other hand, hails the heroism of Kabasinga.
“Kabasinga has a good spirit. My simple accomplishments were a result of her courage to do more than she could afford,” Yuiko began.
According to Yuiko, no government has all the solutions to our challenges and therefore one of the best ways out is to share without expecting returns.
Ambroise Agaba, one of the beneficiary students, says he had dropped out of school because of lack of funds.
He is now in his final year at Kigali Independent University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Law.
Agaba recounts a story of how he almost became a vagabond, offloading beer and soda crates during the day and spending nights in the dark allays of his small home town of Nyirangegene in Nyagatare District.
“Being an orphan, many times I would fail to figure out whose home I should spend a night. I would then look for any open kitchen or dark corner and spend my night there,” he says.
It was in this situation that Yuiko found him while she was volunteering with JICA in the area.
“She probably had noticed my situation before because she used to look for me to translate for her while shopping. She would then offer me some money probably as a pay for my services,” Agaba says.
When Yuiko returned to Japan, she convinced her sister to help support him for further studies.
“I had never expected I would get someone to care for me. When Kabasinga told me I had got someone to support me at school, I froze in disbelief,” he adds.
In 2014, Yuiko suggested to Kabasinga about starting a pre-primary school. She advised Kabasinga to apply to the Embassy of Japan in Kigali for funding. The embassy approved the request.
Construction began in February 2015 and the school was inaugurated on March 29.
The project is now a source of employment for six teachers and higher education coordinator, with 134 pre-primary and primary children, among whom some 85 are children from vulnerable families under Little Scholars Foundation scholarships Kabasinga sought from the US.
“Forty students are in secondary school and five are in university. This brings the total number of scholarships to 130, but the struggle of helping more continues,” Kabasinga says.