Youth Testimonials

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Rungano-Ndota is different. In a classroom, the teacher comes and teaches what he or she has to teach. Like putting the food there and asking you to eat the food.  At Rungano-Ndota, we have to know ourselves, believe in ourselves, and develop what we didn’t even know we had before.  When I joined Rungano-Ndota I was afraid and was not confident.  Now you see new Salama. The old Salama before did not care about things that were done. I didn’t have that kind of engagement.

My friends used to make decisions for me. They would choose what clothes I should wear or push me to study Koran. My life was not in a good orientation. When you can’t decide anything for yourself it’s a bad situation.

 

My mind has been expanded and I’m thinking bigger, differently. Being in the cooperatives is a big experience of that kind of empowerment. The program days are just once a month, but the coops meet more.

In the cooperatives, we are becoming strong women. When I decided to go to the vocational school with the salon coop, I didn’t even ask anyone for advice. I already believed in myself and that the right decisions for me have to be made by me. 

 

Another thing was a question they asked us one time at a program day: Can those who are getting help even help others? We discussed a lot and some said no, those who are getting help can’t help others since they need help. Others said even if you need help you can help others. From that moment I realized that I can help others. I found that there is power in working with others. Now I can’t go alone. Now I know that I need other people as they need me too.

I also found that I’m a leader, and I can be a leader, and I HAVE

to be a leader.

- Salama Mukeshemana

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When I first joined Rungano-Ndota I felt a sense of belonging!  The joy and happiness it brought my heart was unsurpassed, and it still is.

I became an orphan at a very young age.  I wasn’t even lucky enough to see either of my parents. My four older siblings took care of me. They were also young and couldn’t afford to pay for my school fees.

Luckily, I earned a scholarship for my education.

 

I had completed ordinary level through S3 (9th grade) and was helping my elder brother with his bar business during holidays. Working at the bar, one of the clients there took advantage of me and I became pregnant. My donors stopped paying for my school fees as soon as they realized that I was pregnant in the first term of S4. I felt ashamed, bitter, hopeless and helpless. I couldn’t see my own future, let alone my child’s.

 

After giving birth, I had to accept my new responsibility.  So I decided to go to Kigali and become a housemaid while my child was with my big sister. The family I worked for didn’t treat me well and sometimes refused to pay me. While I was still in Kigali, I got a call from my local leader back in Ruhango.  She told me that others in Ruhango were offering help to school dropouts like me, and she wired me some funds for my bus ticket to return home. Those others in Ruhango turned out

to be Rungano-Ndota!

 

I was invited to attend the very first Rungano Day where I met a lot of other youths from different parts of Ruhango District. We had a workshop, but we also shared stories, games, food and laughter.

That day, I was convinced that I wasn’t all alone after all.

Eventually, seven other RNI youth and I decided our goal was to open a salon. When Rungano-Ndota told us they could send some youth to trade school (TVET) we asked to study hairdressing. After graduating, we started a cooperative. My peers trusted me and nominated as the president for the cooperative, thanks to Rungano-Ndota’s leadership trainings. I am now able to share my ideas publicly with confidence

and without fear of being contradicted.

 

We started our salon as a “pop-up” shop at Rungano Days and from our homes.  We were saving to open a shop, but then Covid came and we had to delay. We plan to open “Source of Beauty Salon” soon after

Covid allows us.

 

Currently, I am financially independent! I earn income from hairdressing, basket weaving and selling vegetables that I grow. I do all this from my home.  At Rungano-Ndota I learned how to plan for my life and think strategically. 

I am now excited about my future and my child’s because

I have a feeling that it is super bright!

- Odette Nyirahabimana

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Rungano changed my behavior.  It’s the most important thing. It’s hard to track that change because mostly behaviors are from the heart.  People who knew me before, know how I was.  I left boarding school in 2015 and was in loneliness.  I used to be drunk. Having beer was my fun.  I would never think any good things. 

 

If Rungano-Ndota did not exist I would have gone back to that life I was living in Kigali. My life was today. I wasn’t thinking of tomorrow. I never had any idea of saving. I was working but could have 30,000 francs a week and end up with only 1,000 because I used to be a drunk and go to dancing clubs. I hadn’t any respect for anyone. My family abandoned me. I was thinking there was no love in people. 

 

One day I started to really believe in Rungano-Ndota. It was the day we helped out Perrine’s mom, who had been sick for a long time.  

The youth organized the activity of helping her out.  I had never done something like that before.  I was feeling loveless for the people.  

But that day I changed.

 

Since then, I discussed many lessons from Rungano_Ndota – ways we need to build our society, the history of genocide and the role of youth.  It became a very clear responsibility when we visited the genocide memorial. That’s when I started to think that humanity is needed

is everyone’s life. I said I need to change society in a good way. 

I learned on saving and having humanity in the community. I tried to analyze how we are living together in Rungano-Ndota and saw that it was good.  It gave me a chance to think back on how I need to live in the community with everyone. For example, I used to consider Muslims as terrorists.  But now most people think I am a Muslim because many of my friends are Muslim, due to the friendships we created

in Rungano-Ndota. 

 

Far from just being part of Rungano-Ndota at the Youth Center, it’s helping my image to grow in front of the community.  When the corn co-op started paying our workers, I was excited.  For those who never knew about us, they saw me searching for capable workers and they were thinking, “Oh, Fils will not pay us.”  I told them who we are and that we would pay them after 6 days of work.  On the 6th day after asking for their ID’s and paying everyone the money, they started saying,

“Fils is serious!” 

 

That day I saw a man older than me and he said, “How are you, boss?”

 I felt good, but I told him that I was not the boss and he can make the land even better than I can, to encourage him.

I was happy to see the team that was working, going with confidence.  I was telling him that if Rungano-Ndota didn’t come I wouldn’t be able to make this happen.

- Fils Vedaste

When my dad was about to die, he told me to be a man since I am older in the family. When he died I left school since I had no hope of affording the school materials. Also my 7 siblings would have lacked a way to eat and live.  It was a struggle. When I started at Rungano-Ndota, the only thing we had settled in the family was that we had a place to live in.  

But in Rungano-Ndota, I started to get self-confidence and realize business creation.  Rungano-Ndota opened our eyes to look far and create opportunities.  As you can see, in Ruhango life is tough if you don’t have a job. I thought that if I don’t think of something then the cause I was fighting for my family would not go well. I had to think of something. I had done businesses before, but they had failed. 

 

After Rungano-Ndota brought back my confidence I had an idea of what to do after they taught us about business and saving. I wanted to make a business to do packed lunches for people. I had only a small capacity to rent a place, but I realized that I could serve lower-income people who work construction on the roads or fix cars in garages. I saw

I could make them my customers. I had the idea, but I had thrown it away because I thought I couldn’t do it.  After getting to Rungano-Ndota and learning that I could start small and grow, I thought I should go for it.  10% was my idea, but 90% of the idea I implemented because of Rungano-Ndota. If I wasn’t in my Rugnano-Ndota family and shared and learned about all this, life would have been very hard for me.

I think I would have gone crazy.

 

Rungano-Ndota opened our eyes to look far and create opportunities. When we came in, we were shy and our eyes were closed to what is happening in the world. We have learned a lot and our eyes are opened to opportunities.

Rungano-Ndota is special because it unifies the youth in love.

 - Idris Mutuyimana

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Most other groups focus on what they want to do, not on the people they are working with. For example, if they have youth for a meeting they focus only on the agenda of the meeting. Rungano-Ndota does both.  For example, if we go on a trip of course we focus on the site, but

I am chatting with the leaders about my personal life too. The focus is building the capacity of youth to build for our futures.

 

Rungano-Ndota first and foremost built my confidence. Before you do anything, you need confidence.  And I learned how to cooperate with society.  If you don’t cooperate with society, you fail. For example, if you are selling something you can’t succeed and make money if you don’t cooperate with the people around you. I’m learning also how to plan for businesses and implement those plans. 

 

I’m learning socializing with people. I never used to do that before.  Rungano-Ndota taught me how to live with people who have different behaviors. Before, I was that shy person who used to preserve my personal life and not share it. 

Now I’ve learned to share and chat with others.

Overall, I’m learning leadership.  

Martin Habimana

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I am one of the youths who came back from the National Rehabilitaiton Center at Iwawa. After I returned to Ruhango I was not trusted. I was thought of as someone who wouldn't be productive at all. But then

I was invited by Rungano-Ndota staff to join the Rungano -Ndota community. At my first Rungano Day, I was thrilled to join members

of my new generation!

 

We connected and became friends. Rungano-Ndota became a community that opened up my heart and led me to self-acceptance.

I healed from the trauma caused by the losses I incurred from spending more than a year at Iwawa. I also found support to plan for my future.

I was taught how to develop business plans for small businesses. In addition, I earned a loan from Rungano-Ndota which helped me improve my agricultural activities. I invested the money in buying fertilizers which boosted my cassava harvest greatly. 

 

I am so grateful to Rungano-Ndota for walking closely by my side.

They connect me to valuable friends who I can count on today for good advice and help whenever I am in need.  And it seems that the society's perception towards the youths from Iwawa has amazingly shifted, as some people approach me for advice and opinions now!  I am someone who socializes and works with others towards the development of our community.

 

I am always joyful being part of the Rungano-Ndota community.  

I would wish it to spread its wings to as many youths as possible who would love to benefit from its opportunities.

I appreciate the entire Rungano-Ndota community and the leaders who work tirelessly to strengthen all our activities.

- Emmanuel Kalisa

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