It was a joyous occasion on Monday 31 May 2021 when Jesuit Urumuri Centre concluded the project dubbed “Long Walk to Recovery – Post COVID19 Period”. This event was graced by the director of JUC Fr. Patrice Ndayisenga SJ, the Parish priest of St Peter Cyahafi Fr. Edison Akatuhurira, CLECAM EjoHeza Manager Mr. Jean Bosco Habimana and Mr. Jean Louis Hakizimana from St. Peter Parish.
While the medical effects of COVID-19 have been harrowing, the economic effects of the pandemic have been no less so. In 2020, the pandemic saw many families who already had so little have even less. It is for this reason that Jesuit Urumuri Centre ran “Leave No-one Behind” project through which the Centre supported around 170 families with emergency food packages and payment of rent arrears. When this project was launched, Jesuit Urumuri Centre partnered with local authorities and St Peter parish’s commission for justice and peace in identifying the neediest families in the slums of Nyabisindu, Nyagatovu and Cyahafi in Kigali surburbs.
As the pandemic continued however, longer term solutions were required. The emergency relief approach morphed into a developmental approach and as a result, November 2020 saw a 2nd phase of the project introduced. This 2nd phase was named “Long Walk to Recovery – Post COVID19 Period”. It would come as a response to the hunger crisis that befell a number of families whose breadwinners lost their sources of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The beneficiaries were selected from the initial pool of 170 families. During the course of this phase of the project, 50 beneficiaries consisting of 45 women and 5 men from said families were selected and were taken through training on financial literacy and soon afterwards vocational training in baking, tailoring and hairdressing.
Speaking at Monday’s event, JUC programs manager Mr Jean Julien Rugaba thanked the 47 beneficiaries that saw the program through, for their enthusiasm to learn new skills for their self development, adding that he hopes they will take full advantage of their formation “During the food distribution project that JUC ran last year, we realized that families must continue to survive beyond that temporary relief. This is why the Centre implemented this program for you, so that you may be able to continue providing for your families even beyond your current crisis period”.
After a short ceremony during which the Centre handed over sewing machines and hairdressing kits to the tailoring and hairdressing groups, the director of Jesuit Urumuri Centre Fr. Patrice Ndayisenga, SJ addressed the beneficiaries encouraging them to learn from this tough period of the COVID-19 pandemic “We have a few strategies which we have used to assist you in beginning to use your skills and gain income. Some of you have received sewing machines and hairdressing kits but others will receive endowment funds to start businesses through the microfinance institution CLECAM EJO-HEZA LTD. We will not hand over the funds in cash, because we want to introduce you to the banking system to balance out your spending and savings; as we all saw with this pandemic, the future is never certain”.
Beneficiaries of this project reacted to this initiative positively remarking that it is like a godsend to them. Sophie Uwingeneye is a young lady who dropped out of school after O level and had been sitting at home for 3 years, not knowing the direction her life is meant to take; “My mother is the breadwinner of our home and she and my older sisters braid hair for a living. I have been interested in doing the same thing and now that I have been trained professionally, I have even started making a bit of money. I am grateful for this opportunity as I begin to help my mother and older sisters to take care of my younger sisters.”
Pascal Kwihangana lives with his mother, and younger sister who is in high school. His mother is a vegetable street vendor and he has been hoping to begin working to assist her with bills around the house; “Because I have baking skills now, I sometimes get temporary work in bakeries and this has been a huge relief for my mother. I am also so fortunate to be a member of a cooperative which the JUC has promised to assist with capital to begin our own baking business.”
Yvonne Mukasine was working as a house help to support her mother and younger siblings when she was selected as one of the beneficiaries of the project; “My father died several years ago and my mother is unemployed. This sent me into doing housework to assist my mother and siblings but things have not been easy. Having taken part in this project, I now know how to sew different types of clothing, and on top of that I will receive a sewing machine to start working and gaining some income. God is good!”
In his concluding remarks during the event, Fr. Patrice assured beneficiaries that the Centre will continue to assist them and advise them on their journeys to developing themselves and taking care of their families. He added that he will also be looking forward to listening to their encouraging and success stories in the near future.