After the 1994 genocide left Rwanda in shambles, World Vision acted fast to provide emergency aid and then transitioned into long-term development through child sponsorship. The first person hired for the Nyaruguru sponsorshipproject, a teacher named Jean Marie Mugwaneza, tells how World Vision’s work, funded by child sponsors, contributed to a decade of remarkable recovery.
“In 2000, World Vision came to Nyaruguru to conduct interviews. I was among the four people who were selected. I was very glad. I liked being with children, advising them and interacting with them.
We in Customer Relations Services were in charge of visiting children and following up with them. World Vision rented a house [for an office], but we outgrew it. The number of sponsored children was growing and growing—we needed more space for file cabinets.
The biggest problem then was that people didn’t have houses to live in. Most of the houses were destroyed by the war. There were no toilets. Many people were scattered and weren’t stable enough to cultivate food. They were hungry. People were fetching stagnant water. The taps were no longer functioning because of the war. It was survival of the fittest.
In 2000, 450 children were registered for sponsorship. The children didn’t understand sponsorship. They didn’t know where the U.S. was. Their faces and their hearts were dim and dark. Maybe they didn’t eat the night before. Others had life problems that affected their inner feelings. World Vision kept going into the community, sharing hope. The peace-building team would come and talk about healing.
The first sponsored child in Nyaruguru was Louise, an orphan, who lived with her grandfather. When sponsorship started, [the focus] was children who had lost one or both parents. There were many kids in that category. We stayed close to them and cared for them.
I remember one family in particular. It was a child-headed household, four girls and two boys. They were emotionally disturbed. The house was very bad, so World Vision built a house for them and trained the older sister in sewing. Now she has a sewing machine and does some sewing in town, and she can provide for the rest. One of the children goes to a school that World Vision built.
Children used to walk very long distances to collect water. We decided to build water tanks and rehabilitate the water canals that were blocked. There are water tanks connected to the houses of sponsored children and to schools.
At first, many children couldn’t go to school because their families had been killed. When they started school, they started under trees. But when it would rain, the children would run home. It was a terrible time when there were no schools. Now World Vision has built three secondary schools and built or renovated eight primary schools.
When World Vision first constructed a school, the community and government authorities said, ‘Wow. I think World Vision is really good.’ [Before that] people thought World Vision was just an organization, that it would just do the usual. When it started doing tangible things, people thought, World Vision is kind of different and special. The parents rejoiced because their children were no longer loitering around.
After the genocide, children didn’t know themselves. They had no confidence. Their minds and hearts were so frightened. When they went to school, they wouldn’t play together. But the government and World Vision came in with programs and built confidence and brought hope.
In agriculture, we trained families to have vegetable gardens to provide food for the children. World Vision provided cows. We would give 50 families one cow. The families would take care of it, sharing the manure to put in their gardens. We identified a good valley, a wetland, and looked for farmers to farm the wetland. It is so productive. Now it’s producing so much corn.
There was a time when I had nothing. But World Vision has been good to me. After getting this job, I was able to marry and have a family. I used to rent, but now I am constructing a house. When this project phases out [in a few years], I am not worried. Let’s talk about everything I have learned: I can now take a picture. I could even work on a Web site.
I am strengthened when we do devotions in the morning. Your behavior changes because of those teachings. Before, I would pass a poor family, and it made no difference in my heart. It was like pouring water on a stone. Now I am moved when I see a poor family. I am filled with compassion. I know them. I know their needs. I work with them and I pray with them.”
Kari Costanza’s blog posts from Rwanda: