Esther’s Aid Rwanda is a skills training centre for orphans. It trains orphans in tailoring and designing, banquet skills, catering, and bakery. It started its operations in Rwanda far back in 2000 and operates from Kacyiru but with its origins in New York.
The centre has passed-out so many graduates and its latest graduation was in early January 2009. Sunday Mag met and interviewed some of the centre’s beneficiaries.
Devotha Mukakalisa has fond memories of the centre. She, however, took us through her life before joining the centre, her life at the centre and after completing her course there.
“I lost my parents in 1994 and1995. This caused me to drop-out of school in Primary five because I did not have anyone to support me financially,” she narrates.
“I became helpless and life was at its worst. I was helpless. Since I had nothing to do, I used to move around looking for work so that I could support myself. However, wherever I went, when I would be asked what kind of work I could do, my answer would be ‘Any job.’”
According to Mukakalisa, this was always met with scepticism as the would be employers would conclude that she either didn’t know what she wanted or that she couldn’t carry out any work at all.
“It was a really hard life for me,” she recalls. However, one day on a visit to one of her relatives in Kigali, she saw a notice mentioning the mission of Esther’s Aid Rwanda.
“Immediately, I contacted the concerned authorities and by luck I was admitted,” she says with a smile on her face, apparently relishing that moment of release.
“I opted for Tailoring and Designing. This was in January 2008. I managed to successfully complete my course and acquired a certificate this year in January,” she discloses.
Mukakalisa explains that during the training, her life changed completely. She says that at the centre, she acquired friends who were important during and after her training.
“But the most important achievement which I have attained from Esther’s Aid Rwanda are the skills in Tailoring and Designing. This has made my life”, she says, adding that even before she completed her course she used to be employed by some other tailors who would have many clients and needed to complete their consignments on time.
“I used to be paid for my work. They especially wanted me to help them because of the good quality of my work, having been trained both theoretically and practically at Esther’s Aid Rwanda,” Mukakalisa reminisces.
She further said that even now as she saves money to buy her own sewing machine, she is working with some people and earning some money which was not the case before acquiring her skills.
“Esther’s Aid has totally changed my way of life to a desirable one compared to that I had before,” she adds.
“I have thought of a way of showing my appreciation to Esther’s Aid Rwanda and what I have decided is that whenever I get some free time, I go and do some work at the centre. That’s the only way I can express my appreciation,” she says sombrely.
In her message to all people faced with hard moments of life, helpless orphans, some who have lost hope, and all others with related hardships to first of all put God as their first choice saying, “In God everything is possible. She adds that they should not just sit at home.
“They should move around to find opportunities, chances of getting out of the hard life, burdening situations and avoid situations that might cause them loneliness as it might bring back the negative memories,” she advises.
The Sunday Times also caught up with Edson Habineza, another beneficiary from Esther’s Aid Rwanda. He says he joined the centre in 2006 having completed senior six and a teacher training course in DR Congo.
At the centre, he trained in catering, house keeping and banquet skills and still carried out his profession as a teacher. He completed and graduated in January 2009.
“Ever since I graduated, chances of getting more jobs in the field of catering have shown-up,” he said.
He teaches at Esther’s Aid from morning to 2p.m and then goes to work in some hotels. Amongst the hotels is Novotel Hotel where he did his internship. He adds that he sometimes works as a waiter at Bethel Hotel in Nyamirambo.
His greatest delight right now is his new job of supervising waiters at the soon to be officially opened Sports View Hotel in Remera opposite the Amahoro National Stadium.
According to Clare Effiong the International Director Esther’s Aid Rwanda, the centre is a non profit organisation helping orphans acquire vital life enhancing skills.
“When they have the skills, they will most likely become job makers than job seekers,” Effiong asserts. She further explained that in the centre, learners are categorised depending on which course is to be taken.
“We as much as possible make efforts to make sure that learners complete their studies when they know what exactly is in the field practically not only teaching theory” she said.
Effiong adds that the centre does not just train and leave the orphans to face the harsh world after that but goes a mile further.
“If we just left them on their own, then all that expensive training would come to nothing. We however, try and get them where they can work from and encourage them to save for their own equipment which they can use to establish themselves,” she explains.
Effiong gives credit to the government of Rwanda and the American people whom she says have played a great role in the implementation of Esther’s Aid Rwanda plans through their financial support.