A fortnight ago our country played host to young footballers from seven African countries, who joined our own U-20s to compete for the African Cup of Nations youth championship crown. At the end of it all, Ghana deservedly lifted the trophy.
Like all national teams involved in the two-week tournament, the Ghanaians were here on a lifetime national duty. They had the mandate to make their country proud by lifting its flag higher than the opponents’ on a foreign land.
On the pitch, the young Ghanaians threw everything behind that crucial assignment. But the Black Satellites were equally exceptional off the pitch.
Their captain, André ‘Dede’ Ayew, son to African soccer legend Abedi Pele, demonstrated that anybody can actually reserve time to serve others – to make them happy, and to tell that they too can make it in life.
In an unexpected gesture, 19-year old Ayewe turned his attention to the disadvantaged, donating essential supplies to orphans in Gisimba Orphanage in Nyamirambo, City of Kigali. He also found time to pay homage to the victims of the 1994 Genocide laid to rest at Kigali Memorial Centre.
It’s worth noting that he was doing all that just a day or two before he and his teammates played Cameroon in the final. Yet that was the time he needed to concentrate most on winning the tournament.
For a young man whose coming to Rwanda was squarely over the beautiful game to have also found time for humanitarian work in a foreign country is such a big challenge.
It’s a challenge to many well-to-do and ordinary Rwandans alike who cannot even locate any orphanage in their districts of residence.
It’s a challenge to all who think that the duty to put a smile on the face of a less privileged person lies in the hands of someone else.
That Ayew squeezed charitable activity in his tight national schedule, he sent a clear signal that even the busiest can always find time for the disadvantaged in the society.
Thanks to our recent history, Rwanda is among countries with large numbers of orphans. A few of them are in orphanages while others stay lonely in child-headed families.
They live in our midst – in our Imidugudus (villages) – often without our notice. They live on one meal per day. Others go hungry for longer hours. Yet they – like your own kids – need descent shelter, clothings, education and healthcare.
Such children are some of the most disadvantaged groups in our society. Like vulnerable widows and disabled need everyone’s support.
Yet it appears that we tend to think that it’s the Central Government’s responsibility to give love to these fellow citizens and to provide for their needs.
True, the Government must have a major role in addressing the problems facing these groups. The State must indeed put in place provisions and conditions that are designed to improve the livelihoods of all vulnerable groups.
However, we cannot expect the Government to solve all these problems, on a case by case basis. We have previously witnessed charitable organizations and churches rushing to provide humanitarian supplies to returnees.
One of the most recent cases was two years ago when thousands of Rwandans poured into the country after they had been expelled from Tanzania. The response was impressive. But it was largely due to appeals from the Government and humanitarian agencies.
Several months later, that kindness seem to have ‘dried up’, until probably the Government launches another appeal over another emergency. However, care for the less privileged in the society should not be considered as an ad hoc issue.
In the corporate world, the act of giving back to the community (corporate responsibility) is a mutual responsibility.
In terms of business, a company with a culture of taking part in solving community problems usually gains an edge over its competitors that do less or no of community work.
In the same way, a people who are generous are likely thrive more than the greedy ones. It does not have to be Christmas period for companies to remember that they have street children in their environs.
While giving New Year’s gifts to street children is a good act in itself, it is far better to be part of a sustainable solution to the street children problem.
Your company can for instance help train a few street children or orphans in vocational skills, thereby giving them a good future and helping expand the country’s future tax base growth.
Your rewards or benefits might not immediately come forth, but these people will eventually become your clients, staff or business partners.
We could all emerge winners if only each one of us can rend a helping hand to one needy person out there.
The author is Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA) Marketing & Communication Specialist.