Aline Joyce's Corner

Aline Joyce's Corner's is a personal blog with stories about her personal life and her extra-curriculum activities. She features articles related to youth, youth social inclusion, volunteering, peace building in Rwanda as well as global issues.

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Why I Do Believe in Peace Building And Volunteering

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"Une fois n'est pas coutume'' they say in french. I hope i am not giving impression of being good at french because my french is more or less terrible. Une fois n'est pas coutume - because last Wednesday i missed school on purpose. Yes Wednesday is  a school day but it is the day we have less lessons and decided to skip it because my week end is always busy with my private tutor and the church.

I have been planning of going back to Mageragere, a surbub outside Kigali city. This is the place I spent the whole year of 2012 in S4. Since i left and moved to my new school inside the city, I hardly received news about my old school and old classmates. So now you know why I skipped the school right?  At this point anyone reading this is surely thinking that i was missing my old school mates and i wanted to visit them.

That is not the case as i was in fact missing the surroundings. Right in front of the College de Butamwa, there is a settlement commonly known as "umudugugu" of about 100 houses of widows and orphans. So during my time as boarding student at this college, me and some of my classmates used to visit this mudugudu and help the most vulnerable people, mostly elderly women and disabled. Any help was crucial as it could make a difference on their daily life. Some could not walk or cook for themselves. Those who can cook needed water to cook food provided by local authorities. Now you get the point I hope.

Going back home

So I thought i was taking too long to go back and check on them and  see how they were coping with their lives. I was fortunate because my cousin, Cynthia from Belgium was willing to go with me. she has been volunteering at Gisimba orphanage for 2 months but has not visited genocide survivors in their homes yet. I have been saving my pocket money and some other income i get from this blog in advertising revenues. After putting together presents for 3 women i wanted to help we contacted the social worker, a genocide survivor herself. We needed her assistance as she knows them more than anybody else.

Probably because my mum realized  we were planning our visit to Mageragere so seriously, she decided to come with us too. We left so early in the morning because i wanted to go back to school in the afternoon when possible. When we arrived about 10:00 the social worker was waiting for us. we were received in her home for briefing about how to give out the items we had with us. Although, we had identified only 3 eldery women for presents of clothing and food, everyone living in that settlement is in dire need of help. Remember these are genocide survivors with nothing at all. So she did not want anyone to think she was selective and she was the one who recommended who to help and who not to. So we had to be careful and visited each home quietly.

They always need someone to talk to...

When the time came to meet the first lady, I knew what to speak to her before I could even greet her. The last time I was into her house, it was in very bad state. There were holes everywhere and the roof was about to collapse. But today it has been repaired and she has a few more cookery items. I knew she has been getting some help. She embraced me and again with a large smile when I spoke about the house and how I was worried. She always calls me her daughter which gives me a great feeling. After introducing my mum, Cynthia and vestine who has given us a lift in her car, we started chatting.  As I was expecting she was quickly comfortable and started telling us her story during the genocide. It was a terrible ordeal but somehow she survived and she's living. I gave  her some presents and she prayed for us before leaving for our next visit.

Time to forgive and move on...

Going back last year when I was attending the Butamwa college and under the AERG, an association of the students survivors of the genocide, my role was to act as a relative and a mother figure for other school mates who needed advice and support to be able to move on —most  who were of  the same age as me. my experience with AERG gave me advising tools which convinced me I could help even adults and decided to extend my role to these courageous women. With them I needed to listen more and talk less. We mostly shared views regarding government initiatives which encourage them to forgive, build their lives again and move on. It is not like these ladies were abused, raped and tortured by foreigners who spoke Russian or Chinese. Perpetrators were neighbours and former friends. As a Christian my advise was always in the same line: Forgiveness. I am so proud that am now part of their lives. I am also pleased the country is moving forward. It has not been an easy path for survivors nor for perpetrators. After all, you can not live an easy life knowing that you are a convicted killer and some of your neighbours survived your brutality. Some have suggested that convicted killers belong only to prison cells but the general policy was not to punish but to rebuild the society. This is how authorities introduced the traditional courts known Gacaca which favoured both punishment and forgiveness through these steps:

  • The reconstruction of what happened during the genocide
  • Confessing & seeking for forgiveness by perpetrators.
  • TIG -Travaux Internet Generale - or “Work in the General Interest” where those who confessed to crimes of genocide serve sentences rebuilding the country.
  • Reconciliation in Action: community reconciliation process where survivors and former perpetrators participate in a series of dialogues.

Volunteering at Gisimba orphanage

Gisimba orphanage was set up in 1980s by  Peter and Dancilla Gisimba. It is well known for sheltering and protecting over 250 Orphans during  the 1994 genocide in which around 800 000 were killed. Today it is home for 130 orphans and other children in need.

During the summer 2012, my cousin Cynthia chose to come to Rwanda from Belgium for voluntary work for her school holidays. She was going to work with the nursery at Gisimba Orphanage in the morning and evenings she would join my English course at British Council in town. I immediately knew it was my chance to help this centre that has been doing so much for children since before I was born. What I realised is that anyone can volunteer and you don't need any special expertise. You just need that will to help and a bit of your spare time which makes a big difference. Cynthia and I would  wash dishes at first before spending time with children, mostly telling them stories or teaching them new songs.

Most children have only known Gisimba orphanage as their home and Gisimba family as their parents and have no other relatives. We were impressed by how well  they are being  looked after and how well behaved they were despite so many challenges for this modest orphanage.  We enjoyed our  time with these children and I know I won't wait for the next school holidays to see them again.





Aline Joyce Berabose is a keen reader and writer. She writes about issues related to youth and peace building. At 17, she has developed interest in blogging and global issues at early age. One of the brightest scholars in science, Multilingual and good communicator, Aline Joyce is involved in several activities including volunteering and debating.