It is a short way to her home. Kagugu, Kinyinya. The family N. lives with already had seven children when she moved in. N. is a girl full of vitality, she loves to sing and dance and laugh. One day, she wants to be a mother that cares. Her biggest dream is to become pilot, visit every country of this world. She doesn’t want to be named in the story of her life, because she is afraid of the impact this evening may have on her future. Her life… the reason why we met and sit together today.
“The story of my life… Honestly, I grew up with sadness. My mother was studying in secondary school when she got birth of me. I was born and raised without knowing my father. And my mother… she never loved me. She was a drinker and dancer in nightclubs and she lived with another man who wasn’t my dad. Whenever she came home from the nightclubs, she was very aggressive and used to beat me. My mother never showed me any love. Not because she was poor, but because she didn’t feel anything for me, she refused giving anything to me. She never cared about the kids she had birth of. After few years she got another child of another man. She cared about my little brother but not about me. And I kept asking myself: Why is he doing that? But I never got an answer.”
“I remember the day – I was studiyng in P4 – my mum put me out of school. In that time we had many housekeepers. And she told me: ‘Get out of the school and help them.’ I was sad and to accept myself became very hard for me. And thinking about the things she was doing to me made me hate myself.
Once I had 100 and I went to buy some sumu ya panya.
I couldn’t take any more. The security guard of our home protected me from killing myself. He had a conversation with me about how bad I was living. I listened to him, because he was an old person. But life was still the same. Then the husband of my mum went to work in Canada. In that time my mum was drinking, shouting, fighting – even more than before.
I went to my room and locked, took a rope and hung it up.
That time I was trying to kill myself with another technique, but again it didn’t work out. I started to take weed. I started to drink all kinds of beers. During that time I became too skinny. I thought taking weed was the only good way of living I could have. And being a drinker can be the only thing giving me peace. Unlike everyone else around me, the new man of my mum was taking care of me a little and whenever my mum saw it she said we are sharing a husband. Said I were the mistress of him. It was nauseating.”
N. leaves the place she stayed at for her whole life and goes to street. To raise herself, she tries to get into sexual intercourses and sell her body at the age of 13. Because this decision doesn’t become as profitable as expected, N. continues working in several street jobs until she finds herself at the border of Rwanda and Burundi.
“They asked me: ‘Where are you going?'”
Being forced to stay in her homeland and not allowed to enter Rwanda gives N. the feeling of universally being hated. She impugns God. Several suicide attempts follow. Then, by fluke, N. meets a rwandan police woman to whom she tells all her problems. Illegally, she offers her the opportunity to enter Rwanda and live with a host family, being fed and going back to school. “I came there and seemed to have a perspective.” But still… I kept having that anger in me I am grown up with. I kept being a bad child and felt like studying was not necessary for me. One day I just left it all behind again and went back to Burundi because I missed my family. It was a huge disappointment.
‘That bastard is coming back?!’, is all she said.
She refused to put me back at school. And all the hatred, hidden or forgotten, was back. I just left again, left and never came back until today.”
Her way guides N. back to Rwanda, but the former host family now refuses to shelter her. Why? – N. is born with HIV, an Illness that always isolated her and was one of the reasons for many suicide attempts. “It all came back to me: I tried to be a prostitute and live in the streets. I tried to take core (glue). I tried to raise myself. Another time I got the chance to live with two families, but my disease must have scared them… They kicked me out. The neighbours started gossiping about me, telling them I would die in their house because of HIV.”
N.’s mum, silently waiting until now, pipes up: “I feel horrible about the fact that all the people she stayed with before kicked her out because of HIV. Whenever I think about it I feel so sad. Being ill is not her fault. But God will treat her kind and he will be the one who cures the disease she has.”
It was the time N. met Patrick. He was the one who brought her to Root Foundation and back to school. But N. stayed close-lipped, wanted to be alone. Step by step, by the patience of time, she opened up. She again lived with a family treating her bad, refusing education and aiming to have her as a housekeeper. “In the meantime I found a friend called Martine whom I used to tell all my stories. She invited me to talk to her mum. Her mum then was guiding me, giving me advice, explaining me not to tell anybody I had no parents and was ill…” When we ask her if she sometimes misses her mother, N. answers:
“I hate her. I try to forget her. Now I have a new mum who loves me so much.”
“Martine was the one who made us meet last year. She always came home and said: ‘Mama, there is a friend I study with who has a lot of problems and all the places she stayed at, people treated her badly. They don’t give her food and she always spends her time at school, because she doesn’t want to go home… she only stays there at night.’ I asked her: ‘What’s the reason? Doesn’t she have a family and parents caring for her?’ But Martine denied. I decided to consult me with my husband and see what his opinion is. And I asked Martine to bring this friend here. I talked to her and I asked her:
‘What if I take you from the place you are staying at right now? Wouldn’t it be a problem?’
She answered that they were not treating her well and don’t want her to go to school, they only want her to stay at home as a housekeeper. Also, when it was time to go to the hospital to get her medicine they didn’t want to let her go but stay and work. It seemed like they wanted to kill her, so I just told her to come and stay with us.
What they eat is what you will eat, what they wear is what you will wear and all they don’t have is what you will not have as well.
I wanted her to feel free and have the affection of real parents.” After few days N. moved in. She went to school even if her host family told her to make sure not coming back again if she does so. Martine’s father agreed with raising N. He said: “Not all of us are raised by our own parents, so it’s fine, she should come and stay.” N.’s new parents want to make sure she doesn’t feel lonely and protect her from thinking about her past too much. “Whenever she started to remember her past, she sat lonely and didn’t talk much, so I always went and talked to her that she should play with the other children and feel free. I didn’t like her staying in that mood.”, her mum explains. “I also requested her to join us at church. Now she is a church’s student and will be baptised soon. I make sure she takes her medicine. In normal life she is helping us in the household and she knows how to cook very well. Whenever I want to eat something I ask her to cook for me.” She laughes.
This moment, the door creaks. Her husband comes home, hurried on his way after work. He has to say something, too.
“I lost my parents when I was very young too.
So helping this child is a matter of course for me. I can understand her situation. I had this picture of my own childhood in my head and then saw this girl and thought: Why not helping her? I don’t understand how a mother can treat her own child like this. What kind of a mother must she have been? – I would never say this is not my child. I wish my daughter to have a happy life which makes her forget all the horrible things of her past. We want her to have a good family and feel at home and that her dreams become true. Actually, I would love to help even more children. I am glad Root Foundation offers N. the opportunity to go to school and be a happy child.” He believes:
“Our help and the help of Root Foundation can achieve even more.”
“These people became good parents for me and I always thank God for how my life has changed. They give me everything they have and they take me to the church, even if I never thought believing in it would be possible. But now I thank God for having good plans for me. I am grateful Root Foundation raised me and took me to school when I didn’t have anybody. This gave me a lot of self-confidence. And I thank these parents for accepting me, being aware of this is a big task. So honestly, my life’s story is very long…”
She ends. It becomes silent. A look out of the window tells us: It became late. Time to leave. There is only one single question left for us. “If you had the chance of meeting your mother again, what would you like to tell her?” “I wouldn’t tell her anything. All I would say is ‘These bad things you wanted for me didn’t work out.'” She closes her eyes, then looks up straight.
“I would forgive her and look her in the eyes, say: ‘See, I am better than you are.'”