In August 2010, Mukomeze paid a visit to Solace Ministries in Kigali, Rwanda. During our visit, we were able to reunite with almost all of the seventeen individuals who shared their testimonials in The Men Who Killed Me, and had the opportunity to see first-hand how they had used the proceeds of the book to build better lives for themselves and their families. Three of the seventeen survivors are being sponsored by individuals from outside of Rwanda. We met survivors at the Solace Ministries compound in Kigali (where they receive different forms of support including counselling), in their homes, or during a Solace Ministries’ gathering in Nyanza, in the south of Rwanda.
What follows is a short summary of our meetings (for a pdf file of this page, click here):
In memoriam: Françoise Kayitesi †
Tragically, Françoise passed away earlier this year, at the age of 48. Although she had a sufficient supply of nutritious food, her HIV medication was no longer adequately treating her condition. We visited her children at their house and prayed together in remembrance of their lovely and caring mother. Françoise’s children now live on their own, although their aunt – Françoise’s sister – tries to visit them regularly.
Françoise and her children had used the proceeds of the book to renovate their outdoor toilet, build a new kitchen and shower, buy food, grow vegetables near their home, and for school fees and materials. The proceeds will now go to Françoise’s children.
The children expressed their wish to continue their studies and find good jobs so they can eventually support themselves. Françoise’s oldest child is now in his mid-twenties and aspires to study at university, but does not yet have the means to do so; he is currently seeking a job. Françoise’s youngest child is also HIV-positive and received extensive counselling from Solace Ministries after his mother passed away, fearing that his own death would be imminent too.
Françoise, you were loved by us all. May you rest in peace.
We met Faustin, the only male survivor featured in “The Men Who Killed Me”, on two occasions: once, during a Solace Ministries’ gathering in Nyanza, where he also attends school, and once at Solace Ministries in Kigali. It was wonderful to see him again and see first-hand how his English had improved as a result of school, which made it possible for us to better communicate. He still lives alone, and has good friends who help him feel accepted.
Faustin has used the proceeds from the book on a number of things. He has bought a cow, which has provided him with milk, renovated the walls and roof of his house, paid for transport to his boarding school (from which he lives some distance) and for school materials, and purchased materials for farming cassava, beans and ground nuts.
When Faustin is in school, he shuts up his house and permits others to farm his land. Because he has been in school, Faustin has not had the time to sell the vegetables he grows, but he hopes to be able to do so soon.
Faustin feels comforted by the support given to him. He feels that others care about him and this alleviates his fears in life. He would like to further renovate his house, but more importantly, he strives to invest in a future career as he realizes that the sponsorship will eventually end. Faustin’s dream is to become a medical assistant after he finishes secondary school next year.
Ernestine and her two young children are doing remarkably well.
With considerable entrepreneurial skill, Ernestine used the proceeds from the book to establish a coffee plantation near her house, after having bought the plot from her neighbours. The plot is large, and Ernestine continues to nurse it in order to make it more fertile and profitable. Ernestine has also reinforced the exterior walls of her home with cement, bought a goat and a mattress, paid for her children’s school fees, and planted cassava which she sells for profit and to reinvest in the coffee plantation. In the future, she would like to build a kitchen and make other improvements to her home. Ernestine would also like to buy a cow so that her children can have a steady supply of milk, which is considered to be an important source of nutrition in Rwanda, especially for those who are HIV-positive.
The impact of the proceeds from the book on Ernestine’s life, and the lives of her children, is extraordinary. The children perform well in school. Ernestine described how she is often speechless in the realization that so many people, even strangers, have cared about her plight and supported her. Without such support, Ernestine believes she would have remained in a very desperate state.
Last year, we didn’t have the opportunity to meet with Marie because she was very ill. We were fortunate this year to reconnect and today, she told us, she feels strong – in stark contrast to several years ago, when she thought she was going to die. Marie cried when we met. She told us it was because she is happy and feels comforted by the support she has received. Marie cares for her two children and two orphans, who are her sister’s children. They help her on the farm as much as they can. Marie’s eldest had wanted to study, but wasn’t able to secure a scholarship.
Marie has used the proceeds generated through the book to buy nutritious food and milk, renovate her home by installing doors and reinforcing the exterior walls of her home with cement, buy a bicycle, buy two goats, and acquire materials to farm various vegetables, such as onions, cassava, ground nuts and carrots. With the help of a farm hand, Marie yields both food and income through farming.
In the future, Marie wishes to be able to buy a cow so that she can have a constant supply of milk. She would also like to intensify her farming activities so her children can have the life they wish. Marie feels she no longer suffers from stigmatization, or at least does not allow it to negatively affect her. She feels strong and goes to public clinics for HIV medication.
Clementine is doing better than when we last met in 2009. Then, she was suffering from depression, had recently left her husband and was living in solitude. Today, she is comforted by the counselling she receives at Solace Ministries. The headaches she used to experience have disappeared. Clementine no longer wishes to have a man in her life and feels more confident and content with her daughter. Her former husband wanted to have more children with her, but Clementine did not want to.
Clementine used the proceeds from the book for various projects, such as establishing a trade in vegetables, buying a calf, planting a grass lawn, and re-establishing her previously bankrupt farm. Solace Ministries has paid for her children’s school fees and materials.
Through the proceeds, Clementine has also been able to buy nice clothing again and socialize in public places. She feels more confident.
In the near future, Clementine would like to make better use of her farm and her cow. She hopes the cow will provide her with milk, fertilizer and calves. On the farm, Clementine is aided by three others because she is not able to farm on her own. She believes that if she is savvy with the resources she currently has, she will soon be self-sufficient and no longer dependent on outside help. Clementine believes the proceeds are the seed for her empowerment.
In 2008, Hyacintha married her cousin, who is also HIV-positive. Her new husband helps Hyacintha with the activities on the farm, and buys and sells cows for profit. Hyacintha has grown to love her child. She is proud of her daughter because she is performing well in school.
Hyacintha has used the proceeds from the book to acquire a plot of land, build a house, and install a metallic door in her home for safety. She generates income through the sale of produce from her plot of land. Because her home is situated near a road, she makes brisk sales, though she hopes to improve her selling capacity by expanding her shop.
Today, Hyacintha feels happier and is more confident in life.
Marie Jeanne Murekatete
Marie Jeanne and her children are doing relatively well. Marie Jeanne is not as sick as often as she was before.
The proceeds from the book have been used for Marie Jeanne’s farm. There, she grows different vegetables, which she both eats and sells. She also bought pesticide for the farm, and nice clothing for her children. Through a government programme, she was able to acquire a cow, which has provided her family with sufficient milk. Her children look healthier now. Two years ago, her house and kitchen were repaired with funding obtained through the Rotary Club Utrecht International, the Netherlands.
In general, Marie Jeanne is satisfied with her life. Whenever she has a problem, she visits Solace Ministries, which she has described as her mother, father and husband. A big wish of hers is to provide her son, who had an accident a few years ago, with hospital treatment.
When Gloriose first received proceeds from “The Men Who Killed Me”, she had no other source of income. So she used the money to buy food and pay for her two children’s school fees and materials. When Gloriose received more support, she enrolled in a sewing course, where she also made clothing for herself and her children, including the very dress she was wearing the day we met with her. She is still studying and will complete the course in about 6 months. After she graduates, Gloriose hopes to make a living by sewing and selling clothes, for which she would require her own sewing machine. With her sponsorship money, Gloriose was also able to buy shoes, school bags and books for her children and pay for her own transportation when she travels.
Gloriose has also saved some money in her bank account, which she plans to use to pay her rent. She is now looking for another house to live in because she doesn’t feel completely at ease in her house and the neighbourhood in which she’s living.
Gloriose feels the impact of the proceeds on her life has been immense. Before, she told us she had nothing to eat and would sometimes go without food for three days. Now, she is able to eat everyday and so is also able to take her HIV medication. Gloriose feels much stronger, although she still suffers from sleeplessness and headaches.
Gloriose’s dream is to one day own her own sewing shop and house. She is determined to work hard so that her children will have a better life than she has had.
Pascasie lives in a small two-room house that was given to survivors of the genocide by the government. There, she takes care of two orphans in their twenties who also live in the government-subsidized house. Pascasie has numerous health problems as a result of the trauma she experienced during the genocide, including asthma and stomach problems.
With the proceeds of the book, Pascasie has employed others to plant beans, cassava and corn on a large plot of her own land. She is not physically strong enough to do all the work herself. Pascasie is generating income through the sale of these vegetables, though her neighbours sometimes steal crops from her land. She also bought seven goats and a calf to breed, clothing and shoes, and skin cream to treat an ongoing rash.
Pascasie told us that she is much more confident about her future than she was one or two years ago, though she feels lonely sometimes because she has no children of her own. Still, she feels positive about her future now that she is able to support herself and would like to build her own home one day.
Françoise and her children are doing well.
Before Françoise received her portion of the proceeds from the book, she wasn’t able to employ workers on her farm. She is able to do so today, and this is crucial because Françoise is physically not able to do all the work on the land on her own. She grows cassava, which she eats and sells. Françoise has also purchased materials for a house, but has yet to start construction on it. Once she is making sufficient profit from her farming activities, Françoise will begin construction. Françoise has also invested in a goat and in school materials for her children. Prudently, Françoise has saved some money in the bank.
The financial support has had a significant impact on Françoise and her children. Before, Françoise had no source of income and she felt no hope for the future, being HIV-positive. Now, Françoise told us she has regained hope for the future because she has an income and is able to take her medication with good food. She also feels she has a family of brothers and sisters at Solace Ministries.
Adela and her children have used the proceeds of the book in diverse ways, having built a toilet, reinforced the exterior walls of their home with cement, grown sweet potatoes and beans on their land, paid for school fees and bought oil and petrol. Still, Adela wishes to make additional repairs to her home.
Adela’s oldest child sells second-hand shoes and clothing. The family eats cassava and bananas that they farm themselves. They also own a goat that was provided to them by Solace Ministries and a cow that was given to them as compensation by people who killed their family members.
Adela’s life has changed for the better because of the support, although she can still not write and read. She also suffers from severe headaches.
Béatrice’s health has improved since last year, and she looks much better and happier. Because she feels mentally better, she generally also feels more secure.
Béatrice has used the proceeds from the book to repair the roof of her house, reinforce the exterior walls of her house with cement, and install electricity in her house. She was also able to build two additional rooms, which she is now renting to make an income.
Béatrice feels these changes have had a very positive impact on her life. In the future, she would like to sell fruit again. She had her own fruit business before, but it was interrupted when someone stole her money and her bicycle, with which she used to transport her fruit to the market.
Marie Odette Kayitesi
Marie Odette and her children are all in good health.
Through a Mukomeze sponsorship, Marie Odette was able to buy a cow, shelter for the cow, and grass for it to eat. She also used the money to buy food for herself and her children, as well as clothes and shoes. Marie Odette lives in a house that was provided to her, as a survivor of the genocide, by the government.
The impact of the sponsorship on Marie Odette’s life has been positive. Before receiving financial support, she thought she faced imminent death, but Marie Odette is now able to take care of her children. Marie Odette has not yet established a means to be financially self-sufficient, in the event that her sponsorship ends.
Solace Ministries will continue to discuss this issue with Marie Odette.
Jeanette has thrived with the help of a Mukomeze sponsorship.
She runs a successful business selling fruit and other food. One of Jeanette’s children is also being sponsored and all of her children have sufficient clothing. Jeanette is also saving money for her children’s future. With the sponsorship money, Jeanette was able to build another room adjacent to her house so she could have visitors.
Jeanette completed studies in Restaurant Management. Sometimes, she works as a cook in a restaurant and this provides her with good income, when coupled with the income she earns by selling food.
Jeanette feels the sponsorship has brought her many blessings. She has regained hope and strength and feels confident. Since Jeanette seems to be fairly self-sufficient now, her sponsorship will soon be transferred to someone else in greater need.
Marie Louise Niyobuhungiro
Like Jeanette, Marie Louise is doing much better.
With the sponsorship from Mukomeze she was able to buy a goat, build a shed for the goat, build an outdoor kitchen, and reinforce the interior floors, exterior yard and floors of her house with cement. Marie Louise also renovated part of her house, which she is now renting to another person. Unlike Jeanette, Marie Louise has not yet established a means to be financially self-sufficient, in the event that her sponsorship ends.
Marie Louise is taking much better care of herself and her children. She told us she enjoys life much more than before and is able to laugh again. She also feels much stronger, more confident and has regained hope for the future. We were thrilled to see Marie Louise and her children at Solace Ministries and in her home.
Immaculée Makumi and Marie Claire Uwera
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see Immaculée and Marie Claire this year.
We were told that Immaculée was hospitalized because of difficulties associated with her asthma. With the book’s proceeds, she was able to repair her kitchen. She also rents part of her house to someone for a steady income. Marie Claire is doing well. She is trying to generate additional income through sewing and handicraft activities.
For more information about the Mukomeze Foundation, a Dutch organization that supports women and girls who survived sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide through its partner Solace Ministries in Rwanda, see www.mukomeze.nl/eng
For photos of the survivors we met with in August, click here.