by Don Egan
The day I met Angelica (pictured) took me by surprise. As usual, on an RSVP trip to Rwanda, we asked our hosts if we could visit the desperately poor with Gifts of Hope – food, mattresses and bedding. Until this day, we had only done Gifts of Hope in the villages – in rural areas. But on this day, our hosts took us to the slums of Kigali.
As you drive through Kigali, the Capital City of Rwanda, you cannot miss these houses clustered on the hills of the city. I’d seen these houses from a car window many times.
But today, we stopped the car and walked into the slums. The first thing I noticed was the precariously steep dirt track into the slums. The houses are even closer together than they look from the road. On this hillside they are almost built on top of one another.
My interpreter took me to Angelica’s house. She was sitting on the floor with one of her children in her lap. Her house has 2 rooms. The second room has been both a blessing and a curse.
When Angelica became pregnant with her first child, her husband left her for another woman. Uneducated and illiterate, Angelica could not get paid work. And now she had a baby to feed. Then she had an idea. She would live in one room and rent the other room to a lodger. Soon an older man became her lodger.
In the darkness of the night he began to rape her. Eventually she became pregnant again. When she did, the lodger left leaving her without an income.
Traumatised by the rape, Angelica didn’t want another lodger. She now had two small children to feed - no education or welfare state. She showed me the house as she told us the story. She slept on a bed-frame with no mattress – she slept on the hard springs. As we explained why we were visiting her, a smile began to spread across her face.
She has a lovely smile – it lights up even a dark room in a slum. We climbed back up to the road and brought her a mattress, blankets, food and soap.
She has lovely eyes too – I remember them because she looked me in the eye as we left and, with her very gentle voice, said ‘Murakoze cyane.’ (Thank you so much). The thing is, I didn’t give her anything. I was only delivering the Gifts of Hope that RSVP supporters provided through their amazing donations. So, to all our RSVP partners - ‘Murakoze cyane.’ (Thank you so much).