JUC Programs Manager, Julien Rugaba addressing beneficiaries of food relief program

As the whole world continues to come to terms with the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, many families whose livelihoods depended on informal jobs and sources of income have been gravely affected. In Rwanda, government lockdown was partially lifted allowing for some movement and activity; however there are many people who are still unable to provide for their families due to the fact that gatherings and unnecessary movements are discouraged, therefore informal sources of income such as street vending are not allowed. It is in light of this, that Jesuit Urumuri Centre is identifying the most vulnerable families in different communities, and running a monthly food relief program dubbed “Leaving no one behind: Emergency Response to COVID-19 Crisis”.

On Monday, the 29th of June 2020, a team consisting of 4 JUC staff made its way to Saint Peter Cyahafi Parish to distribute food items to members of 25 Catholic communities in the parish. The selection was made with the collaboration of the parish and leaders of said communities. The majority of these families are men and women who previously provided for their families by selling vegetables, fruit, clothes and shoes on the streets, as well as others who had jobs in the service industry such as waiters, cooks and delivery men and women.

Distribution of food items by a JUC staff member

Speaking at the handover of the food items, Father Akatuhurira Edison, Parish priest of St Peter Cyahafi, addressed the beneficiaries thanking them for keeping their faith in the Lord; “Things have been tough brothers and sisters, but we thank the Lord because he never forgets his people. Look at what he has done today through the Jesuit priests!” He went on to thank JUC staff for considering members of his parish. “May the Lord bless the works of Jesuit Urumuri Centre and God willing, we will see you back again to help more members of our communities during these very tough times”. JUC Programs manager Rugaba J. Julien spoke on behalf of the Centre expressing its gratitude for being able to come to the aid of the needy; “Jesuits promote social justice and dignity of all in general, therefore it is our duty to lend a helping hand where there is vulnerability and poverty. We pray that we will be able to reach more people in future”

St Peter Cyahafi Parish priest Father Akatuhurira Edison (3rd from left) with JUC staff members

This month’s distributions were made to over 70 families whose average of members are 7 each, with portions that should sustain them for at least a month. All beneficiaries expressed their gratitude as they collected their portions stressing how much relief they felt at receiving this assistance. Mrs Uwanjye Maria, an elderly lady who takes care of 13 orphans said that before the outbreak of the pandemic she received contributions from well-wishers, but for the past few months she hasn’t received much, due to the fact that everyone is now more concerned about their own families than their neighbors’ “I can’t blame my well-wishers because these times are tough for all, but life has been hard. Thank you to this Centre for this help” Mrs Mukazayire Olive, a mother of 7, is separated from her husband and is her family’s only breadwinner “I too sold fruits and vegetables before the outbreak and when the lockdown was partially lifted I tried to do it again but we were chased and locked up by authorities, it has been so difficult to feed my children every day, I’m glad I won’t worry for at least 1 month thanks to the Jesuits”

Father Patrice Ndayisenga SJ, director of Jesuit Urumuri Centre, hopes that the Centre is able to continue to stand by those most vulnerable during this period of uncertainty, as the government records and deals with fluctuating cases of new infections around the country.