Seven groups of needy people yesterday received funding worth US$50,000 from the US Embassy to start income generating projects.
Under the auspices of the ‘U.S Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund,’ the grant is meant to finance small income generating projects developed by the groups.
The Fund provides micro-grant mechanism to reward innovative, self-reliant local communities that are not covered under the U.S. Government’s assistance programmes.
The beneficiaries, who include former commercial sex workers and HIV infected persons, were selected from several parts of the country.
US Ambassador, Donald Koran, signed the financial assistance agreement with the seven associations and community-based groups during an event held at the US embassy.
Justine Munkundiye, 30, a former commercial sex worker from Kamembe, Rusizi District, said that the funds would help transform the “difficult life” she has endured for years.
“This is like a dream come true. I have lived a difficult and immoral life for years. I have suffered for years, but today is my turning point,” said Munkundiye, a mother of two.
Munkundiye, an orphan, whose two children were born out of the sex trade, says she was forced to trade her body due to fate.
“I had no option; I had to survive and there was no one to offer me a hand”.
Like Munkundiye, Chantal Mukazayire, 28, another beneficiary and former sex worker, confessed;
“Life was hell on the streets selling our bodies. I can now afford a smile because I am going to support my family since I have the support to start small income scheme.”
Mukazayire, a mother of two, who also hails from Cyangugu, says the funds will help support members of their association – Ubumwe Women’s Association - who are HIV positive.
“There are so many women trading their bodies, not because they want to, but because they have no alternative. You cannot tell them to abandon this business if you don’t have an alternative for them. Many of them are doing it because they have no alternative; yet they want to survive,” explained Mukazayire.
Ubumwe Women’s Association, which has over 30 members, will get a grant of US$ 7,185, to train in beading jewellery and basket weaving.
Other earmarked projects include pottery, mushroom farming, soap production and bee keeping.
Last year, the same programme funded 19 successful projects.
Koran urged the beneficiaries to learn from the previous recipients who, he observed, were successful.
“Learn about the inspirational work your self help colleagues are doing to ensure Rwanda’s future,” he advised.
“To those of you who have worked so hard to make your projects a reality, I congratulate you. I applaud your efforts to improve the lives of your families and the communities in which you live,” said Koran.