RWANDA’s 1994 genocide had a devastating impact on communities and left many households vulnerable. Jean de Dieu lost his entire family but through hard work, persistence and partnering with World Vision, he has turned his difficult situation into one filled with hope and promise.
Jean de Dieu Mushengezi, 30, lives in Bugesera District, eastern Rwanda, and is married with a son and two daughters. At the tender age of 15, Jean de Dieu was placed in an orphanage after the horrific events of the genocide. “I found myself moving from one orphanage to another after the genocide, I knew life was going to be difficult,” he says.
World Vision intervened in his life and registered him in its child sponsorship programme. “I told them that I wanted to go back to school so that I could make a future for myself,” explains Jean.
“They took me to school, paid my school fees, bought me a school uniform, and other necessary scholastic materials. I felt so good.”
Jean said he thought the sky was going to be the limit. “I thought I was going to study hard, excel, and be the best, but it didn’t work that way; I instead failed, I couldn’t focus, I was always thinking of my dead parents, brothers and sisters. These thoughts occupied a very big space in my life.”
The situation became more complicated until he couldn’t study anymore. He decided to drop out of school.
“I dropped out of secondary school, I couldn’t focus anymore because memories of my family were always haunting me,” says Jean.
Healing past memories
When World Vision saw that Jean couldn’t continue with school, they took him out of the orphanage and built him a house. They also helped him to work through his experiences and feelings through group discussions to help heal his past memories.
“World Vision did something great for me; they gave me the opportunity to share with other people what was bothering me, my past, the genocide experience that had left scars in my life,” said Jean. “The loneliness ended, and I felt relieved,” he adds.
Jean felt a sense of life come back and decided to marry and start a family. This change in direction forced him to consider how he would provide for his family.
“I had no education for office jobs, I could only use my hands to earn a living; I decided to start cultivating a small piece of land that belonged to my mother,” described Jean. I started with seeds of carrots, cabbages, and tomatoes given by World Vision. God was so good to us, the field yielded much more than I expected.”
He was able to get about US$180 out of it, the most amount of money he had ever held in his hands. “I sold part of my harvest and reserved the rest for home consumption.”
Jean realised that he needed to start selling his produce in town, where the market was more active. “I earned half of what I would have earned if I had taken my harvest to Nyamata market. I therefore decided to buy a bicycle out of the US$180 to help me carry my next harvest to Nyamata market,” he adds.
After doubling and then tripling his income, Jean joined a community cooperative of rice growers made up of 704 members, and used the rest of his money to buy cows to provide his children with milk.
“I prospered a lot when I joined the cooperative; I was even able to open a savings account. There is power in working together; we help our members who are at a lower economic level, vulnerable, and those who or whose children are HIV positive,” confirms Jean.
Jean is happy he can make other contributions to his community such as counselling those who live with HIV/AIDS, sensitising other community members to fight stigma, and supporting them in their financial challenges.
“It used to be a taboo to talk about AIDS in our community, stigma was at a high rate; but things are now different, we consider them as any other sick person, our people—worthy of being treated with dignity,” affirms Jean.
One of Jean’s children, Niyobyiringiro Mannaseh, 8 has been sponsored by World Vision since 2006. He is also a member of the World Vision-supported anti-AIDS club. They create plays and drama aimed at sensitising their fellow students as well as adults to fight stigma and take care of the infected.
Mannaseh loves his father’s cows. “We have been drinking milk since dad bought them, I love them,” said Mannaseh. His father says that one cow produces seven litres per day. Manasseh’s father had bought one cow which has now multiplied into four. World Vision trained him on how to use bulls to till land; they also gave him equipment which he uses in his cultivation.
Jean summarises the change in his life thus: “I would be wandering the streets if it wasn’t for World Vision, my hard work, and the cooperative, he said. My children are able to go to school, eat well, get medical services, and I can also take care of my wife.”
Source: World Vision