He might not be at University yet but he will fight tooth and nail to pursue his dream career. John Ndahiro, 25, dreams of becoming a lawyer one day. And even though he is not yet where he wants to be, Ndahiro is glad he isn’t where he was a couple of years ago. For him, the future is bright.
After losing both his parents during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, Ndahiro thought he would never have a chance to continue with school. During the Genocide, he was six years old when his grandmother helped him flee to Ntugamo district, western Uganda. The young Ndahiro lived and studied in Ntungamo for a few years and, when he was in Primary Six at Rwera Primary School, Ntungamo, he decided that it was time now to go back home and look for his parents.
Ndahiro came to Rwanda with a friend who knew where his family lived in Ziniya, Kicukiro. Unfortunately for the young lad, his parents had perished in the Genocide. Upon arrival, neighbours confirmed his parents’ death. And all his relatives had also perished, save for his grandmother, whom he had left in Uganda. Despite that, Ndahiro vowed to never live in exile again. Besides, his grandmother had grown too old to continue looking after him.
He decided to brave the situation and stay in Rwanda – on his own. He had to start planning his future as a homeless person.
To the streets
On that day when Ndahiro got the shock of his life that his parents had perished in the Genocide, his dreams were shattered. For a long time, he had dreamed of the day when he would be reunited with his parents. But his dream was over now.
He didn’t know a single soul in Rwanda apart from the friend who had escorted him to the place where his family used to live. However, he was optimistic that his late parent’s neighbours would probably take him in.
They did not. Left with no option, he made Kigali streets his new home.
Ndahiro decided to take shelter on the Giporoso streets, but life would be even harder for him as his fellow street children kept on demanding that he buys them drugs (ibule in street lingo) or he finds shelter elsewhere.
While on the street, one of the street children taught Ndahiro street survival tricks. He advised him that the only way to survive is to carry luggage for people during the day in order to get a few coins to buy something to eat as well as ‘ibule’. The latter, Ndahiro says, kept them strong and warm throughout the cold nights on the streets.
That is how he and his friends survived all the 5 years he lived on the streets. On a good day, he would make at least Rwf800 from carrying people’s luggage, though this could happen once in a blue moon.
One day when Ndahiro and three of his friends were so broke, they hatched a plan to go to Nyabugogo and steal a sack of Irish potatoes, which they could sell off and get some money for food and ‘ibule’. On reaching Nyabugogo, one of his friends climbed up the vehicle that was offloading sacks of Irish potatoes. The plan was that he throws a sack to the ground for the rest to pick and take off.
Unfortunately, in the process of throwing down the sack of Irish, Ndahiro’s friend slid from up the vehicle and badly hit his head on the ground, dying on spot. Scared to death, Ndahiro and his colleagues just took off.
He recounts that moment: “That was when I decided that enough was enough and that it was time now for me to start a new, purpose-driven life. I wanted to get off the street and get back to school but I didn’t know how and whom to run to.
“I and my two friends parted ways.
“One day when I was looking for odd jobs for survival, I met another boy who became my friend. He wasn’t a street child like me but he liked me so much. He took me along with him for his uncle’s wedding one day and I decided to help out with manual work during the wedding preps. I would carry chairs, tables and clean everything for free. One of his uncles noticed me and later asked me about my life and where I lived.
“I told him my whole story and how I wanted to go back to school. He told me to find a school and promised to pay my school fees. I went to Martyrs School in Giporoso where I found the headmaster and also told him my story and how I wanted to get back to school.
“He was impressed with my command of the English language but demanded to see the person who had offered to pay my school fees. I connected the two gentlemen and before I knew it, I was back in school with all the scholastic materials I needed.
“However, the gentleman could only take care of me for only a year. Fortunately, he connected me to Uyisenga n’imanzi, a local NGO that helps orphans who lost their parents during the Genocide.
“Uyisenga n’imanzi gave me everything I needed at that time – school fees, scholastic materials and clothes. They took me to another school called College Monsio Apadem in Nyanza district, where I studied until recently when I completed my Senior Six. This NGO was like the parent I never had. They met all my needs.
“I was a street child but now I have also managed to get a decent education, just like those children with their parents. I have come too far to give up now.
“I am now requesting any NGO or good Samaritan to help pay my tuition at the University. I want to study law and also be a leader in the near future. I want to fight for the rights of the impoverished and voiceless.”
Nothing can stop you if you are determined to achieve something; only you have the greatest power to shatter your dreams, Ndahiro says on the last note.