It was late afternoon when Hope for Life’s (HFL) Learning Trip participants arrived to the Nyabugogo neighborhood of Kigali, Rwanda. Chantal, HFL Rwanda’s Executive Director, had driven the car as fast as she could, trying to beat the dark rain clouds looming over the distant hills.
We were scheduled to meet Daniel, an 8-year-old boy in HFL’s Community Sponsorship Program. Daniel’s neighborhood was unlike any others we had seen or visited. Small huts were aligned in narrow rows with tin roofs. Women and children sat outside, huddled around small stoves, just starting to make supper. Laundry hung on lines strewn between the homes. As a group that included three white people, we were used to the curious stares, but walking to Daniel’s home, amidst great poverty, I became acutely aware that I was a stranger and prayed we were not intruding.
Daniel’s mother soon arrived and my anxious feelings dissipated. Carrying a one-year-old on her hip, she welcomed us to her neighborhood and happily lead us through a narrow path between two rows of crowded huts. We suddenly arrived and peered into a dark, 4×6 foot room, roughly half the size of their house. It took several seconds for my eyes to adjust to the darkness before my eyes saw Daniel, sitting in his wheelchair in the corner of the room.
Daniel, the oldest of the three children, was home on school break. Right away, he began making jokes. While I couldn’t understand his punchlines due to the language barrier, he had everyone else in stitches. I instantly liked him. One of the first things I noticed was the bond between Daniel and his mother. It was obvious she deeply loved her children and that Daniel deeply loved his mother.
Living in extreme poverty with three children, one of whom has special needs, is a struggle that I cannot fully comprehend. Additionally, Daniel’s father suffers from addiction and is often absent or abusive.
Six months ago, before finding HFL, Daniel often spent his days home alone. Unable to push a wheelchair through the narrow alleys of their neighborhood while also carrying two small children, Daniel’s mom would have no option but to leave him home while venturing out to find work to feed her family. Daniel didn’t have friends in the neighborhood and dreamed of going to school like other children.
Today, thanks to your support, Daniel gets to spend the school year at a special boarding school for children with disabilities. His family receives regular visits from HFL’s Social Worker who provides holistic support and ensures they have the resources they need. This year, Daniel will begin physical therapy with the hope that one day he will be able to walk with crutches.
Daniel eagerly began sharing how he and his family are doing. He spoke of being glad to spend time with his mom during school break but also of looking forward to returning to school the following month. While he is at school he has friends, more mobility, and is achieving his dreams. At home, he is surrounded by his mother’s love, the resources he needs, and support from HFL staff members.
We left Daniel’s home just as the rain started to sprinkle down. I felt a deep sense of appreciation for our community of supporters, for you. Because of your care and generosity, Daniel has the opportunity to attend a school just for children like him, and his mother doesn’t have to worry about paying for the tuition. While he is at school, she is able to work and help provide for her family. And slowly, because of your partnership, the cycle of poverty is breaking. As we reached the car, I knew one thing for certain: Daniel was loved, by people near and far. And that is a pretty amazing thing.
– Ally Shook, HFL US Assistant Director