They say charity begins at home. But giving this adage the perfect meaning has never been any easier in active form for many. Not so for Faith Uwantege, though. The 24-year-old has beaten all odds to live a childhood dream of engaging her “poor” neighbours to socially and economically transform the society where she lives.
From two villages in Kinigi Sector, Musanze District, Uwantege has organised a group of people, including 45 vulnerable children and 40 widows, who occasionally gather to receive community classes on hygiene, parenting, proper diet and infant care among others.
Uwantege says the people are drawn from the villages of Nyagisenyi and Kanyampereri where they were randomly chosen from lists submitted by local authorities as vulnerable and poor members of the community.
The widows are organised in groups involved in income generating activities such as tailoring, weaving famous Rwandan baskets (Agaseke), vegetable farming and raring of goats and chicken.
Under her initiative dubbed Faith Foundation, Uwantege has enabled her neighbours create home-grown solutions for local challenges within the community thereby positively impacting society.
“We all together actively participate in developmental initiatives which generate sustainable income as a way of building more capacity,” she says
Uwantege says special emphasis is put on children aged between five and 10 where they separately receive extra English lessons, considering that it is especially helpful for them to be competitive in school.
“Yes, we provide them with all the required scholastic materials and challenge each student to academic excellence,” she says glumly.
She points out that her inspiration is derived from the desire to fight poverty through improving children’s lives by exposing them to experiences and opportunities which enable them to create solutions for themselves and their community in future.
And true to her word, Uwantege has succeeded in uniting the community around her, an achievement she passionately describes as a long-term childhood ambition.
“I have always wished for such a thing since I was a little girl and for me, there is no better Christmas gift than this,” she exclaims.
On a usual school day, children reciprocate between their study periods to attend “private classes” at the Faith Foundation premises.
Last weekend, friends of the Faith Foundation met their beneficiaries at an event organised to celebrate Christmas, where fruitful discussions were held and gifts exchanged to windup the year in a memorable way.
Margaret Murekatete, a parent member of the foundation involved in basket weaving says there is a closer social relationship that has developed since people get opportunities of spending more time together.
“Eventually we have developed cooperation and hard work amongst ourselves bearing in mind that we jointly work for the development of our own community,” she asserts.
Murekatete says that she decided to join the weaving group because being a touristic area; Kinigi would offer ready market for all baskets once their project grows into a booming business.
Most members are optimistic that they will no longer have issues with enrolling into various government programmes such as Health Insurance Scheme (Mituelle de sante) as well as fending to solve the educational needs of their children.
“In addition to the immediate economic benefits, challenging children to excel in academics opens doors into many other ventures,” Murekatete says.
For most of the community members, significant strides have been made through home grown partnership but Uwantege insists “the journey has just began.”