They dream of a better future
By Katrin Piazza
Rwanda, February 2011 - Just like in any other family, each sibling seems to have a particular task. Monique – the more outgoing of the 17 year-old twins – welcomes the visitors, her sister Denise – quiet and shy – attends to some chores behind the house, and 14 year-old brother Charles chops some rough grass and feeds it to the goat. The three brothers and sisters live in Eastern Rwanda. Their mud hut is far away from any other building, perched on a steep slope and only accessible by foot. It consists of two small, modestly furnished rooms. In the living room are three chairs and a little table. A small cross on the wall and a faded calendar on the door are the only items of decoration. There is no electricity. In the yard is an open fireplace where the children cook their meals. Chickens run around pecking, a goat is tethered by the side. A few steps away from the house is a latrine, a makeshift construction consisting of a few branches covering a simple hole in the ground. Water has to be fetched from a well some 500m below in the valley.
Monique, Denise and Charles live alone. Eight years ago their mother died, but they do not know the reason why. “She might have died of sheer exhaustion,” says social worker Dinah. Dinah works for AVSI, a UNICEFsupported local organisation that assists and links hundreds of vulnerable children in the Gatsibo region with local government structures to ensure that their situation is monitored.
Dinah began visiting the three siblings when their mother died. Their father died during the genocide in 1996. The twin girls were only nine and the boy was seven when they had to start to cultivate the small family plot around the house. They also began helping their neighbours whenever they could in order to get hold of little cash. “All three of them work hard in school and they get good grades,” says Dinah. They even attend voluntary additional classes offered by a school located half an hour away. However, studying at home is rather difficult because the house is so small.
Dinah tells the children everything they need to know. “We also discuss women’s topics.” Charles on the other hand – of that she is sure – has chosen the school’s headmaster as his role model and prefers to discuss with him. Everybody in the neighbourhood knows andlikes the three and an elderly neighbour has been visiting and helping them regularly since their mother died.
Monique is vivacious and likes to laugh and chat but Denise and Charles are more reserved. Monique tells us she would like to become a doctor whilst she fastens her veil before going to a course at the Islamic school. She is a Christian but she is not prepared to miss an opportunity to learn. Denise in contrast dreams of a career as a singer and we don’t have to beg long to get a glimpse of her talent. Charles who hardly spoke a word during the entire conversation has his own agenda, but he too knows exactly what he wants to become: Minister of Defence!