A Roof For One More…

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Housing

In September 2011, a small team traveled to Cyanika, Rwanda on behalf of Village Makeover and Comfort My People.  (Visit www.rwandavillagemakeover.com and www.cmpafrica.com for more information.)  As a member of the team, I interviewed a widow that had received a roof from these organizations. I had heard the roof was a smaller part of a bigger story.

We met in the village church.  Martin, a member of CMP, served as our translator.  Jacques, also a member of CMP and a resident of Cyanika, added his perspective.  The widow, Mukadepite and her son, Mugisha enter the church.  Mukadepite is beautifully dressed with a deep red head scarf, a bright yellow blouse and a colorful, wrapped skirt.  The young boy, who appears to be about three years old, comes and sits quietly by her side.

She is formal and reserved.  She looks at me but her face has no expression.  I ask Martin to thank her for doing this.  I mention that her story has been told in my church in Colorado.  I share a bit about myself and that this is my first trip to Rwanda.  While I have heard about her from others, I would like to hear her story in her own words.  We begin.

Did you grow up in Cyanika?  

Yes.

(Jacques said she lives in the sector of Cyanika.  She is in the village of Nagahinga, near the volcano.  She lost her husband many years ago.)

What did your parents do for work?  

They are farmers.

Do you have brothers and sisters?

Yes, one brother.  My other brothers died.  I have three sisters.  With me, there are four girls in our family.

As a child, did you work or go to school?

First, I went to school …

(She does not finish and looks down at the floor.)

How did you meet your husband?

I met him farming.

(Her face softens for the first time.  Her eyes grow bright.  She smiles and becomes more animated as she speaks.  Martin translates only one sentence and I wonder what more was said as she reminisced.)

Can you tell me what life was like with your husband?

It was good.  It was fine.

What did he look like?

He was short but big!

(She moves her hands across her chest and shoulders and draws an outline of how broad he was.  She laughs.)

How many children do you have?

I have four sons and two daughters.

Do your children still live with you?

One daughter is in Uganda farming.  The other children are with me.

After your husband died, what was your life like?  

You know, when my husband died, it was not good…A bad, bad situation.

You worked in Uganda?

I went to Uganda in the morning and came back in the evening.

(Cyanika is close to the border of Uganda.)

Tell me about the house you lived in and what happened to it.  

The roof fell in because of the rain. Not a big house.  We lived under an umbrella.

(She had spoken for some time and what Martin translated was brief.  I asked Martin to tell me again what she said.  Martin described her house.  He drew a circle on the ground around him.  The circle was about five feet in diameter.  He said it had walls.  The roof was made of grass and it leaked.  She used an umbrella to cover herself and her children when it rained.  One day, she came back from working in Uganda.  There had been a heavy rain and the roof collapsed.  Martin added this is where they ate, where they slept, where they sat and he drew the circle again.  He cast his eyes away and shook his head.)

How did you get a new house?

The pastor came and asked me to come to the church to pray.  We go to the church and pray for a house for me.  Then, the pastor told my story to the church.  He said that my house had fallen down.

There are poor people in the church.  We have many that are poor.   The church has a list of names of all the poor that need a home. Because everyone knew this situation with me, they chose me to be with the first (group) to get a house because of my situation.

(Jacques said she was in a bad way.  Her children had run away at first because there was no house.  She wanted to kill herself.  Others told her she cannot kill herself because she is a Christian.)

You wrote your name on the list and then what happened?  

After I write my name, Jacques and the members of the church say they would like to help me.  Members of the church ask where I live now.  They go to visit where I live. When they see this house, everyone is not happy.  Because they see me with my children with no food, no clothes…they say “this woman is dead.”  (Both Mukadepite and the translator put their hands on their hearts simultaneously.)

After visiting my house with others in the church, Jacques said we can build the walls but how do we get money for a roof?  Jacques called CMP and asked for the roof.  Then, CMP made a roof!

Tell me about your new house.

Now I thank God, praise God, when I see the house I live in!  I go down on my knees and praise God for my house.  No more umbrella – No!

Tell me about a meeting you attended regarding a child that had been abandoned.

There is a wife, she was living in another place and she is a friend of mine.  She went to the hospital to have a baby.  I went to visit her with another friend after she gave birth.  We were coming back from the hospital and walked near the school where there was a meeting.  We went into the meeting as it was happening.   The Mayor (of Cyanika) was asking whose baby is this?  Who will take care of this baby?   Everyone was quiet.

I remembered the bad situation I was in with rain coming down on me, no clothes, and no food.  Now I have clothes and food.  I say, I will take this one because of what God did for me!  I cannot refuse to do this.  I am going to take this child and care for him.

(Jacques said the Mayor had called the meeting after a boy had been found on the side of the road.  In the meeting with the Mayor, it is asked who can take care of this boy?  No one answered.  Not one.  The rich, even they refuse.  Mukadepite came forward and said, “What God did for me, I will take care of him.  I will give him food.  I will give him milk.”)

How long has this boy, Mugisha, been with you?

Nine months with him.

(She smiles and gently rubs his back.)

What is Mugisha like?  

He likes to share with others.   He rejoices.   He smiles with others!

Anything else you’d like to say about Mugisha?

I tell you.  Now, I know Jesus.   I believe Jesus now!    When I take this child, others were saying to me– your own children – they need food and other things – why do you take this one?  Because I believe in Jesus, He will provide.  I cannot.   I am excited to take Mugisha and support him.  I believe Jesus can do anything.  With everything, God is with me.  I pray that God will continue to be with me to support my children.

Is there anything else you would like to share?  

Even though I live in a good house, it is not easy.  Other farmers give us food.  Some (of my) children still need to go to school.  Some are in school.  Those that are in school, it is difficult to find uniforms and shoes to stay in school.  Other people give things to me because I took the boy in.  They give to me but it is still not easy.

What impact has Village Makeover and Comfort My People had in Cyanika?  

In the village, there are so many poor.  They find the poor and they help.  They make roofs.  In the church, everyone thanks them.  When someone sees their house, so many people are so very happy!  Everyone prays to God that God will help them!  We are very thankful and praise God.

-J. Paquette