First stop Kinyinya parish. First visited in 2009 when we saw almost 90 nursery children crammed in the pastor’s office. The other class was being held in the dilapidated church, a new nursery building was underway. Today this parish boasts a nursery and a new church building.
A Parish project was started here just before Covid, the ensuing lockdown put everything on hold. Today twenty six women involved in the project turned out to greet us. Some were recipients of goats, seeds and training in health, hygiene and nutrition, some were also the parents of sponsored children. They were eager to give testimonies about the difference the project had made to their families and gave thanks to God for the support they had received.
These women meet as a group every week to pray, read the Bible and support each other. We learnt of depression and psychological problems that had been eased by becoming part of this group and having the opportunity to share their stories and the challenges they face. All the women now attend this or another local church.
Then it was off to visit the homes of some of the women. Our first stop was the home of 48 year old Gorretti, mum to sponsored child Shema, aged 12, and 3 other children, two had grown and left home. We had noticed her during the meeting as she looked very sick, we are told she has Cancer but we are not sure if she really knows what is wrong with her.
Her nearest water source is up a steep hill and her home has no electricity, but that’s ok she said, she uses the torch on her antiquated mobile phone which she has to charge at her neighbour’s house.
She is very weak and her reasonably sized plot of land, on which she tries to cultivate some crops is obviously more than she can really cope with. Her three roomed home, which belongs to her late husband’s family, was basic to say the least but she welcomed us in. As we sat on the chairs (probably borrowed) she squatted on the floor in the corner of the small windowless room. She apologised for not standing when she spoke to us, standing too long caused her head to ache.
She showed us the hen Shema had purchased with the gift money from his sponsor, it, and the recently hatched chicks, shared her tiny bedroom to keep them safe, she also showed us the rabbit he had bought with his gift money which lived in another of the tiny rooms, probably Shema’s bedroom.
Despite her desperate situation she praised God and told us she was happy because the gifts have enabled the children to have food and shoes, and she could die knowing they would be alright. Imagine the arrangements you would want to make if you thought you might die while your children were young. Providing shoes would probably not top your list.
We met Shema yesterday at the church, despite our best efforts we had failed to make him smile, now we realise why, hardly surprising given the circumstances he lives in.
Two more challenging visits later we climbed into our Toyota Land Cruiser V8, borrowed from the Archbishop, and were taken to the affluent end of town for lunch by his wife Chantal. The burritos were very tasty but they tended to stick in the throat as we processed the visits we had just made.
As the city grows, the land on which the slums reside is becoming prime real estate, land is being purchased, families relocated and obscenely opulent properties are being built on the doorstep of those like Gorretti. This is the first time I have seen this mix of relative opulence and abject poverty side by side in Rwanda, those who have wealth see it as progress but for those less fortunate it must feel very unjust.
Then it was off to Rutunga to visit the home of Sonia, Pauline’s sponsored child. Having almost put the Archbishop’s vehicle in a ditch trying to cross a narrow bridge, we reached her home. The circumstances for this family were better and Sonia, who was very shy, and her little sister Sandrine were delightful. We were made very welcome and it was good to end the day on a happier note, although I think we may all be crying in our pillows tonight over the visit to Gorretti.