A sparkling light at the end of the tunnel

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, many children were left homeless without parents or next of kin to shelter them and meet their needs.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, many children were left homeless without parents or next of kin to shelter them and meet their needs.

Some of them opted for the street life while others were within communities but helpless and living impoverished lives.

However, with efforts from different stakeholders, many Genocide survivor orphans have triumphed through the difficulties, gotten an education and are now living a better life that is worthwhile.

John Ndahiro, 25, is one of the orphans who lost his parents during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

He was six-year-old when his grandmother helped him flee to Ntugamo district, in western Uganda in 1994. He lived there for a few years and when he was in his primary six at Rwera Primary school, Ntungamo he decided to come back to Kigali and look for his parents only to get the shock of his life.

Ndahiro came to Rwanda with a friend who knew where his family lived in Ziniya, Kicukiro only to find that his parents and relatives had not survived the 1994 Genocide.

He wasn’t able to find any of his relatives and was informed that all of them who were slaughtered, so he was only left with his aged weak, and helpless grandmother in Uganda.

Ndahiro decided it wasn’t wise to go back to his grandmother who could no longer cater for any of his needs since she was so old.

He looked for someone who could shelter him but all in vain and was only left with one option; the street life.

“I was a street kid for five years and struggled all through while sleeping on the street. I admired other children who had parents to take care of them and give them an education. I wished I could be like them and had hope that someday I would also go back to school,” he added.

That is when a friend connected him to Uyisenga n’Imanzi, a local NGO that helps orphans who lost their parents during the Genocide.

Uyisenga n’Imanzi helped take him back to school and cater for all his scholastic needs and others, including clothes.

Ndahiro,the orphan who lost his parents during the Genocide and former street child  has now completed his senior six and hopes that luck will come his way again and he’ll be able to join university where he intends to study law.

If it wasn’t for Uyisenga N’Imanzi, Ndahiro says he would still be struggling on the street and may be picked up some bad habits to help him survive.

A ray of hope

Uyisenga n’Imanzi programme was established in 2002 by individuals who wanted to help Genocide orphans out of the misery they were facing such as child headed households with siblings, trauma and lack of education, among others.

Orphans were being identified through the help of local leaders in communities and the NGO would take them up and help them within their communities.

After carrying out a needs assessment, Uyisenga n’Imanzi started with 200 orphans with the aim of helping them overcome trauma, provide shelter for them, give them career guidance, life skills, education and also help them improve their living conditions.

Ancilla Mukarubuga, the Planning Advocacy Head of Department at the NGO said that they also provide psycho social healing for these children by helping them overcome the trauma that was a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“Some of the orphans we got don’t even know a single thing about their family background; they don’t know any relatives or the villages they hail from. Others would be abused by their relatives who would claim them from orphanages only to take their inherited property then have them return to orphanages,” she said.

Extreme trauma

There are some cases the NGO found of orphans who could not even say a word, they would never talk at all because of the trauma, but now they are recovering. Others wanted to commit suicide, according to Mukarubuga.

Through counseling sessions and support in different ways, many of the orphans have been able to recover from the wretchedness of their past.

The NGO has a presence in Kigali, Huye, Rwamagana, Nyanza, Gatsibo, Nyaruguru and is currently taking care of 3,000 orphans.

It also runs the Niboyi Peace Village which has over 20 modern homes and others being built.

“We currently have over 800 Genocide orphans in secondary schools, over 30 in universities and others acquired technical skills. We also have alumni for those who we started with and they come in to help with the others who came in after them,”Mukarubuga said.

Chaste Uwihoreye, a clinical psychologist and national coordinator of the NGO, said some  get traumatised because they lost their parents during the massacre, so they always imagine their lives would be better off with their parents alive.

Some have heard a lot of horrific stories about the Genocide, while others witnessed the scenes when they were young.

Uwihoreye said that the orphans too can overcome the tragedies of the past and become great citizens who contribute to the nation’s development.

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