176 Directly-Impacted Rwandans

This past Friday night we had our annual fundraising event, Room For Dessert. The goal for the evening was to raise $15,000 to go towards additions to our program in 2018. 

It was apparent that our guests grabbed hold of the impact we hope to make in Rwanda next year! We are overwhelmed and extremely grateful for their generosity! As of right now, we have raised $7,000 over our goal! 

We shared that our plans for 2018 will directly impact 176 individuals, with scholarships or health insurance. Due to the kindness of our guests and others, that WILL happen!

We are so excited for the three changes to our program in 2018! First of all, we will be providing 34 scholarships for primary school! We'll support the younger brothers and sisters of our students. We love the chance to be able to form a relationship with kids when they are young and continue that guidance well into high school. We'll be providing some of the same benefits as our other scholarships - school fees, school materials, health insurance, uniforms, and igikoma. Igikoma is a porridge-like breakfast that each of our kids will get every day before school. This meal might be only one of two the kids will have the entire day. Our Primary school scholarships cost $85/year.

Secondly, we will be adding a couple of Secondary and Vocational School scholarships to our program, bringing that total to 50 kids in Secondary or Vocational School. Our Secondary/Vocational school scholarships cost $400/year or $33/month.

We will also be providing health insurance to all of our students' family members, an estimation of 92 individuals! Health insurance for one individual costs $4/year. 

CLICK HERE TO BE INVOLVED!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATTHEW PETER!

Matthew Peter is five years old! This little bundle of energy and hilarious, non-stop talking was celebrated well this week as he turned the “Big 5”! His day started with a special breakfast of French toast and ended with a special dinner of hamburgers and macaroni and cheese. The icing on the cake, literally, was a sugary feast of a cake complete with sparkler candles, a towering birthday hat on the birthday boy’s head, and balloons all around. It was a grand day!

Part of the reason that we are sharing about this young guy’s birthday with Global Capacity supporters is because YOU had a tremendous part to play in the early part of his life. For that we are celebrating…and saying THANK YOU!

When Jeanette (Matthew’s mama), a Global Capacity-sponsored student found out she was pregnant, there were some complications that caused a need for some special care during her pregnancy and caution when it was time for the baby to be born. Les and Yvonne (of our partner organization, A Voice for Rwanda) generously opened their home to Jeanette but this special care required some financial assistance that was an added burden for them. Upon appealing to the Global Capacity supporters for some additional funding in this crisis, we were so grateful for an outpouring of finances and encouragement! These funds allowed Jeanette to progress to the end of her pregnancy in a good way and covered the costs of a C-section and after care for the baby boy: Matthew Peter!

We are SO thankful that we can celebrate the five years that he has been thriving so far and look forward to the years ahead as he continues to grow and learn and entertain us along the way. I just asked him what he wants to be when he grows up. His answer: “a farmer who milks the cows and then makes chocolate cheese.” An innovator, for sure...he’s amazing!

Thanks for joining us in celebrating Matthew's birthday...in 2012 and 2017!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Student Story: MUHOZI CHRISTOPHE

Muhozi Christophe is one of our students in his first year of secondary school. He is the oldest in his family with several younger siblings still in primary school. Christophe’s family faced the loss of their mother when she left to live in Uganda when the kids were young. While still feeling this hurt, they have been strong together and with the support of their grandfather who is a local pastor.

While Christophe is just starting his years of secondary school, he is an older student at 17 years old. He is glad for this new step on his journey even if there are challenges along the way. He received the honor of being elected a class leader by his peers because they see his discipline and confidence. This is seen at home as he wakes up each morning excited to go to school and helps the rest of the family wake up, too!

Christophe is working hard in his studies with the hope of one day being an engineer working with airplanes. His favorite subject is math which will help him to achieve this dream. In his free time, Christophe enjoys drawing landscapes, people being together, and people singing. He is very talented!

We are grateful that Christophe is thriving in secondary school! Thanks for your support!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Parent Story: TURATSINZE RAPHAEL

Turatsinze Raphael is the papa of a student newly sponsored by Global Capacity this year. While we are still getting to know this family, I’d like to share a little bit of Raphael’s story and how his family is impacted by this opportunity of continued education.

Raphael (55 years old) and his wife, Niwemwiza Ernestine, are not legally married but they have been together as a family with their three children for 21 years. While legalizing their marriage is preferable and they are committed to each other, they are not able to give the dowry that is expected by her parents and so remain unrecognized as a legally married couple. Their daughter passed away suddenly a few years ago and their two sons are both currently in secondary school: Mugabonejo Darius Bienvenu is in Secondary 6 (sponsored by another organization) and Karimbi Lambert is in Secondary 2 (sponsored by Global Capacity).

For several of the past years, Raphael worked as a driver. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a kidney problem and the doctor instructed him to stop driving since sitting for long periods of time was impacting his health. He is feeling better and the kidney problem has improved, but he has been unemployed for about a year and the family is struggling to meet their daily needs. Raphael has also been able to secure a few part-time driving jobs now and then but has not been able to secure consistent income and worries about being able to find permanent work since he is an older man competing with younger men for the few available jobs. Ernestine was able to find a job at a market in another part of town selling fabric for someone else. Thankfully, this has provided the family with some income but the sales at the market have been minimal in recent months.

The beautiful thing about Raphael, seen each time we meet with him, is that he exudes joy and hopefulness. He is indeed struggling to provide for his family and he wishes that circumstances were different. Yet, he does not have the attitude of a victim and chooses to remain actively hopeful that these circumstances will improve. Raphael continues to make efforts to find work, and, in the meantime, spends time at home cooking and doing other household tasks to care for his family. He is deeply grateful for the provision of the school sponsorship for Lambert as this brings peace and lifts a part of the burden from his shoulders.

Thanks for helping to encourage this papa!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Culture: Funerals in Rwanda

In Rwanda…like any other place…death is a part of life. This part of the culture contains some similarities to other parts of the world and some differences. The current average life expectancy at birth in Rwanda is about 66 years old and many of the common causes of death are from communicable diseases and other “problems related to inadequate water, poor hygiene and lack of adequate sanitation systems.” (NISR, 2014)

When someone passes away, the time of mourning (called ikiriyo) begins immediately where family and friends come to the home of the remaining family members to pay their respects. The length of time for ikiriyo as well as burial location, finances to be used for the funeral, and other preparations are decided by the family leaders. This period of ikiriyo often lasts from three to seven days, with many people coming to the house to support the remaining family members. During the night, they build a fire of remembrance and may sit around the fire, sharing Fanta (soda) and some snacks as well as stories about the person who has passed away. Some of these visitors may stay overnight and others generously contribute financially. One person in the family is designated to be the one who “buries” the family member. This means that they prepare the body and put on the burial clothes. The rest of the family decides on a special gift for the person who carries out these difficult duties.

The body of the deceased person is kept in the morgue (with a daily fee accruing) until the family is able to make arrangements for the ikiriyo and burial. Usually, the family tries to minimize the fees at the morgue and within a day or two takes the body from the morgue to the home. There is a time set aside for family members and friends to come to the home to pay their last respects. The bodies are not embalmed or treated in any way with preserving chemicals. The casket remains closed, but they are built with a little window to be able to see the face of the deceased person.

After this time of viewing in the home, the ceremony proceeds at the burial site. Most often the body is laid to rest in a cemetery but in no particular order. Here, they do not purchase a family plot or anything ahead of time and the bodies are just added in the cemetery in the order that whatever unrelated folks pass away. There are different areas of the cemetery for burial based on socioeconomic status. If the family has more money, the grave is dug and lined with cement and tile, the casket lowered, and then sealed with more cement and beautiful tiles and marker. If the family has less money, the grave is dug but not lined and the casket is enclosed in dirt and marked with a simple white cross bearing the name, date of birth, and date of death. At the graveside, the family leaders share testimony and the preacher shares some Scripture and then the casket is laid to rest in the grave.

The graveside ceremony is followed by “gukaraba” which is a “washing hands” ceremony. This could take place at the family home or at a location close to the cemetery. There is a ceremonial hand washing as well as a final time of remembering and sharing Fanta and testimony. In the days and years to come, sometimes there is no effort made to remember the person who has passed away and they are forgotten; however, some other family and friends do go back to visit the grave and continue to remember the person’s life and legacy.

Example of a grave marker in a Rwandan cemetery.

Recently, the mama of one of the families and students that we work with passed away. Though she had been sick off-and-on for a little while, she suddenly fell into a coma and passed away within a few days. As a widow, she leaves behind her four children and the oldest, Uwineza Benjamin, is now the head of the household. Mama Muhire’s passing is a great loss but we know she leaves behind an amazing legacy in the way that she loved and cared for her family and many others.

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

(National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. Fourth Population and Housing Census, Thematic Report: Mortality. 2014. http://statistics.gov.rw/sites/default/files/publications/6093d49d-0013-4363-9cdf-ff6eb1a84ed8/Mortality.pdf)

Student Story: UWINEZA BENJAMIN

I would like to introduce you to Uwineza Benjamin. He is a 2012 secondary school graduate and was sponsored by Global Capacity for his last three years of school. He studied in the Physics, Chemistry, and Math section and finished with high marks to continue with a scholarship to university. He has been attending university and recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

When Benjamin chose this university program, it was only the second year that it was offered at any university in Rwanda. He was very interested in this subject and hopeful that he would quickly be able to find a job upon receiving his diploma since there would be minimal competition for jobs with such a new degree program. During his time in university, he was also able to take some additional courses to follow another passion of his: digital multimedia. As an artist, he is excited to use his talents in this way for advertising, television, animation, and other types of projects.

Benjamin is working hard to find a job upon completing his university program. Unfortunately, it has been more difficult than he anticipated to find a job in the biomedical engineering field. While much development is occurring here in Rwanda, there are still only a few hospitals with the equipment that would require the skills of a biomedical engineer for use and maintenance. He is hopeful that as things continue to progress and more hospitals and medical facilities are built that he will be able to find meaningful work related to this degree. He is also looking for opportunities in the digital multimedia job market here to use these skills.

Sadly, Benjamin’s mother (a widow) recently passed away and he is now the head-of-household and caring for his three younger siblings (one in university, one in secondary school, and one in primary school). His mama had been sick off-and-on for a little while but suddenly lapsed into a coma and passed away very quickly. It has been difficult for these children to mourn the loss of their mother and figure out what life will look like in the days ahead. Thankfully, they own their home and have several units within their compound that they rent to other families and have a little bit of income from. We are hopeful that Benjamin will be able to find full-time employment soon! We will continue to support and encourage this family and walk with them on this next part of the journey.

Thanks for your part in that, too!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Grateful for Bosco!

Much of the work that we do in Rwanda would not be possible without the dedication of our Program Assistant, Nsekuye Jean Bosco. He has been working in this capacity for the past ~4 years (as well as also helping with various tasks over the years for A Voice for Rwanda). I would like to share a little bit of his story with you.

Bosco was orphaned when he was four years old and grew up for several years after that with his older sister and brother in an orphanage in Kigali and, thankfully, was able to attend school. Early in his secondary school years, the orphanage closed and he went to live with some of the other older boys from the orphanage in a Remember Me Home sponsored by A Voice for Rwanda. As he progressed through secondary school, he was a fair student but did not excel in the classroom and was otherwise focused on playing football. Thankfully, A Voice for Rwanda encouraged him and was willing to continue paying school fees even when he wasn’t doing his very best, especially during his S-4 year.

When starting school the following year, Bosco changed his focus and began to pay more attention to his classes and less attention to playing football. He switched his section from MCB (Math, Chemistry, Biology) to CSM (Computer Science Management) and began to understand that he wasn’t a bad student but he personally needed to care about his studies and put forth his best effort. At the end of that year (repeating S-4), he was ranked first in his class!

He also decided that switching from being a day scholar to a boarding student would allow him to continue focusing more consistently on his classwork. It was in this S-5 year that Global Capacity started providing secondary school scholarships for the kids in the Remember Me Homes. At boarding school, Bosco worked hard and did his best, competing with the other students for high grades and a high ranking at the end of each trimester and school year. He also greatly appreciated the visitation at school by Global Capacity staff members as it encouraged him to know that someone cared and thought about him while he was at school.

In his final year of secondary school (S-6), Bosco was very focused on his studies and worked hard to try to get a government scholarship to attend university the following year. He had that goal in mind so that he would go one step further in his education than anyone else in his family had previously. He finished the year and scored well on his national exams but was just a few points below the threshold for a scholarship for university. Thankfully for him, Global Capacity was focused on investing in the lives of the students more than just providing school fees.

Upon finishing secondary school, he began looking for a job. He was offered a part-time position with A Voice for Rwanda helping with some office tasks and an after-school program for primary school kids. He was grateful for this opportunity to invest in the ministry that had greatly invested in him. While in the office, he would also occasionally help the Program Assistant (at that time) working on Global Capacity tasks. When that Program Assistant resigned, Bosco was recommended to fill that position and continue helping with Global Capacity activities. His compensation for these efforts: fulfilling his dream of going to university!

In the past four years, Bosco has learned a lot in working with the families, secondary students, school administrators and teachers, and local government officials on behalf of Global Capacity. Even in some challenging times, he is grateful for all that he has learned through this working experience, and, upon completing his university classes and degree, he will be continuing as a paid employee as Global Capacity’s Program Assistant! He truly knows and believes that we are touching the hearts and minds of the students that we sponsor, allowing them to have great peace as they progress through secondary school. We are so glad to be able to come alongside these students and appreciate how Bosco helps us continue to encourage their hearts and help them build a strong foundation for life.

Thanks for joining us in changing the lives of our sponsored students...including Bosco!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Student Story: NDATEBA IVAN

I would like to introduce you to Ndateba Ivan, one of our Secondary 6 (“senior”) students. He is in his final year of traditional school in a section that focuses on Biology, Chemistry, and Geography. Ivan has been one of our sponsored students since beginning Secondary school in 2012. He has a couple of older siblings and a couple of younger siblings who are also past and present Global Capacity students.

Secondary school here in Rwanda can be very difficult for some students. During the first three years (S1 - S3), they can be learning up to 18 different subjects at one time. At the end of those first three years, they are required to participate in a national exam that tests them on as many as 13 of those subjects.WOW! Much of the time spent in the classroom consists of copying all of the notes that have been written on the chalkboard by the teacher and memorizing all of this information, without access to textbooks to supplement the material. With so many different subjects, it is not surprising that many students do not fare well on these exams.

Upon passing this national exam and moving ahead in the last three years of Secondary school, the students are placed in or choose a concentration of study. This is often based on the classes that they scored highest in for the national exam at the end of Secondary 3. The section is sometimes a combination of three subjects (i.e., Biology, Chemistry, Geography [BCG] or Computers, Economics, Mathematics [CEM]) or it could be something that is a more technical trade like Construction or Electricity or Hotel Management. In this upper level of Secondary school, the students can focus on their section as well as usually just a couple of additional courses like English and Entrepreneurship. Once again, at the end of Secondary 6, the students participate in a national exam that tests them on everything that they learned from S4 - S6. This is an extremely stressful undertaking as future possibilities can be dependent on these exam results.

Ivan struggled during the first few years of Secondary school but was promoted to continue into the upper levels in the section of Biology, Chemistry, and Geography. His overall average improved slightly with the focus on a smaller range of subjects, but he has struggled in the main courses for this section which are what his national exams will focus on at the end of this school year. When we met with him prior to the beginning of this school year, we could tell that he was discouraged and worried about his performance especially looking ahead to the national exam. So, we wondered if we might be able to get some assistance from the teachers at his school to provide some extra coaching (tutoring) for him. Thankfully, the headmaster and the teachers were agreeable and willing to spend some extra time with Ivan (and two other GC students at the same school) to help them improve in these main subjects (with some supplemental pay).

At the end of the first trimester, I was eager to see if there would be a noticeable difference on Ivan’s bulletin (report card). There was!! I was so proud of him as he had improved his scores compared to last year in his three main subjects…AND all other subjects, too. It seems that having some extra and individual attention has made a great difference for Ivan. Possibly more importantly, I think that Ivan is encouraged in knowing that we believe in him and that he is capable of improving even if it’s in small steps. I’m grateful if this is what he learns through this experience.

I'm grateful for your partnership in helping to encourage Ivan in ways that I hope will impact his confidence for the exams as well as hope for his future ahead!

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

Round 2!

And, we’re off at the start of the second trimester in schools here in Rwanda. The students were able to have about a two-week break from their studies and spend some time at home with their families. Those who are enrolled in boarding schools traveled back to their schools during the early part of last week. Classes should be back in full-swing now! We met each of the students just before they were heading back to school to give them their bank slips (to show we had paid their school fees), some transport money, and a bag of personal items to keep them smelling clean and fresh at school! :)

Creating the packages of personal items: bath soap, laundry soap, lotion, toothpaste, and Kotex (for the girls)!

Creating the packages of personal items: bath soap, laundry soap, lotion, toothpaste, and Kotex (for the girls)!

While a break from the rigors of studying is always nice, part of the reason for the timing of this school break is to coincide with a week of remembrance that begins on April 7. This week is a somber time where Rwandans remember the genocide against the Tutsi that occurred here in 1994, spanning one hundred days and killing over one million men, women, and children. All were affected by these horrific events whether directly or indirectly and it is something that has shaped the past, present, and future of this country and its people. Over the past 23 years, there has been an incredible amount of healing and reconciliation amongst the people as they focus on being unified in hoping for a better future. During this week of remembrance, there are many gatherings, often by small villages. The people assemble together to share testimonies and parts of their stories and the local leaders share messages of how the community can and should be working together towards peace. Sadly, there are some who still maintain the genocide ideologies, which are also addressed during these gatherings with the hope they will be rejected and unity can be promoted among all Rwandan people. May it be so!

The official remembrance logo and motto this year.

The official remembrance logo and motto this year.

The Easter holiday also fell during this break, so the students were able to be with their families for this special time. I joined a few friends in going to a Rwandan church (instead of the church I usually attend with English services) to experience the way that they celebrate this holiday. In some ways, the Easter message can be associated with that of this time of remembrance of the genocide—that darkness and evil had some time of reigning yet through much sacrifice comes a new day full of hope.

During this break, we also arranged a special time to celebrate our recent graduates. We had five students who finished traditional secondary school at the end of 2016 and four students who completed vocational training by February of this year. It is so exciting to see their journey so far and the efforts that they have made! We will continue to encourage and guide them as we can and have great hope that they will soon be able to secure employment that helps them to continue moving forward in independence and self-sustainability.

At the graduation ceremony, Yvonne shared a special message for both the graduates and our other current Global Capacity students who were also in attendance. She has a gift for speaking words that are encouraging and challenging and even convicting…to really help our students understand the gift that they are given in pursuing an education and that it also requires their best efforts and follow-through on their responsibilities. We also had a few local government officials in attendance and several of them were able to address the students. After these speeches, we handed out certificates to each of the graduates and offered Fanta (soda) and amandazi (little donuts) for everyone! The final portion of the celebration was taking the graduates and their parents or other family/friends out to lunch to share a special time with just the graduates. It was a fun day!

Our graduates! (The man at the far right is receiving the certificate in place of one of the graduates who was traveling in Kenya and unable to attend the celebration.)

Our graduates!
(The man at the far right is receiving the certificate in place of one of the graduates who was traveling in Kenya and unable to attend the celebration.)

Feasting with the graduates and their family/friends...enjoying goat brochette (skewer of meat), a plate of chips (French fries), and another round of Fanta. Yum!

Feasting with the graduates and their family/friends...enjoying goat brochette (skewer of meat), a plate of chips (French fries), and another round of Fanta. Yum!

And, personally, this graduation celebration allowed me to host my first overnight guests: Yvonne [our prior Program Director] and five of her kids! It was quite a bit of chaos but SO fun to have some extra activity in the house and share some fun meals together.

Thanks for partnering with us to make a difference in the lives of these students and their families.

Hannah Ingram
Program Director

That's a Wrap!

Creative use of the exterior walls of a classroom building at a school near Kayonza.

Today is the official end of the first trimester here in Rwanda. Many of our students finished their end-of-term exams a week ago and have been eagerly awaiting their bulletins (report cards). Recently, as we have been doing student visitations at various schools, it has been apparent that our students were trying to finish well with their exams. The students at boarding schools remained at school this week even after finishing their exams to give the teachers time to grade them and produce their bulletin for them to carry home. We expect a flurry of students to visit our office next Monday to give us a copy of their bulletins!

This is the shortest term of the three in a school year as it begins in late January and finishes in time for all of the students to be home for the week of mourning (remembering the genocide against the Tutsi tribe that occurred in 1994) from April 7-14. I have not been here during the week of mourning before and will see what the week holds, but generally everything closes on April 7 and 14 and in the days between businesses are only open in the morning, allowing for special services and time spent with family in the afternoons and evenings. It will be a solemn time of remembering this difficult part of the history in this country but also celebrating the reconciliation and restoration that has happened since. I’ll share more in the next update!

We will also be hosting a graduation ceremony on April 5 to celebrate our five students who completed secondary school last year and our four students who completed vocational school training. I look forward to sharing more about this celebration next month, too!

See below for a student highlight and recent video!

Thanks for your support,
Hannah Ingram
Program Director


STUDENT HIGHLIGHT: MASENGESHO DAVID

Masengesho David is in Secondary 5 and studying Electricity at a school about an hour and a half southwest of Kigali. When we met with David before the start of this new school year, he told us that he was enjoying being at boarding school and was proud of himself for how well he was doing in his classes; he could focus and not worry about paying school fees thanks to Global Capacity’s sponsorship. However, he also told us how he struggled last year with sickness (malaria) while at school and had to return home several times to recuperate. This creates a difficult situation for students at boarding school as they miss classes and have to pay for their transportation home and back to school. David’s family struggles to pay their rent without these added expenses for transport when David became sick. He is one of the older children in his family and, thankfully, was able to find an internship to help earn some money during the long break from school. His mama is extremely hard-working but has had some health issues herself and has not been able to find on-going work. While David enjoys being at boarding school, partly because he consistently gets three meals a day, it also makes it difficult to return home where his family often eats only one meal a day. However, when he is away at school, he worries about how his family is doing.

Prior to this new school year, we tried to find a different school for David that would be closer to home in case he continued to become sick and could have reduced transport costs. Unfortunately, we could not find another school that would do well in David’s section of Electricity, so we enrolled him at the same school as the previous year, praying that he would have less sickness this year.

We visited David at his school this past Saturday and are grateful that he is doing so well. He told us that the school is doing well in taking care of them and David has not been sick at all during this first trimester! What a good report! I’m so grateful that he has remained healthy and is thriving at this school and hope this continues for the remainder of the year!


Bosco (Global Capacity's Program Assistant) and I have attended a few parents' meetings at schools our students attend. These are not especially fun (sitting for ~4 hours on a skinny wooden bench), but they have been helpful for me in learning more about the education system in Rwanda in general and the ways that our schools operate specifically. And, sometimes, they have a little bit of pre-meeting entertainment (see the video below!). :)

Pre-parents' meeting entertainment at one of the secondary schools in Kigali.