Rwanda is located in Central Africa, just east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It also borders Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi. The climate is temperate with two rainy seasons. Frost and snow are possible in the mountains.
In 1959, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and 150,000 were driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war culminated in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus. In July 1994, the Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing. Rwanda's increasing government control, the Hutu extremists across the borders, and involvement in two recent wars in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to thwart Rwanda's efforts to rise above its bloody history.
Rwanda's ethnic composition is 84% Hutu , 15% Tutsi , and 1% Twa. Rwanda is 56.5% Roman Catholic, 26% Protestant, 11% Adventist, 4.6% Muslim, with the remainder following indigenous beliefs.
The life expectancy in Rwanda is 39.2 years. The infant mortality rate is 101.68 deaths per 1,000 live births, a shocking ten percent. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. However, its population estimates are sharply affected by excess mortality due to AIDS.
Rwanda is a poor rural country with 90% of the population engaged in subsistence farming. It is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. The 1994 genocide destroyed Rwanda's fragile economic base and caused severe poverty, particularly affecting the women and children.
Children of Promise in Rwanda
The Children of Promise sponsorship program began in Rwanda in 2005. This ministry serves extremely poor children in the central and northwestern areas of Rwanda. The children ministered to are often orphans, many having lost their parents in the war or due to AIDS. Others are part of very large families in which most parents are unemployed. The families often work hard to grow enough food just to survive.
The Church of God was established in Rwanda in l985. Children of Promise works through the Churches of God in Rwanda to provide educational assistance, food, basic health care, and Christian nurture to the sponsored children.
For $25 per month per child, you are providing a hopeful future for a Rwandan child who would otherwise not have such an opportunity.
Extra Toes, Extra Care
by Paul Maxfield, Children of Promise
Excitement was running high in the Children of Promise office one day last April. The first packet of applications had just arrived from the new program in Rwanda. Brenda and I, along with our office associate, Kristi, and a couple of Anderson University volunteers read through the applications and peered through the photos of the children. Our excitement was quickly tempered. The children in the photos looked so sad and destitute.
We usually encourage program directors to send photos that do not show the children in tattered clothing. We don’t want to exploit their condition in seeking sponsors. However, the photos of this first batch of children from Rwanda were so discouraging. The children were in ripped clothing, rags really. We just shook our heads at the circumstances in which these children must live. We couldn’t wait to get their sponsorship folders created so that we could find sponsors for all of them.
As we looked through the photos, one of us suddenly said, “Hey, this little girl has six toes on each foot!” Sure enough, barefoot little Tuyisenge had an extra toe sticking out of each foot, almost like a thumb protruding from the inward side of each foot. We knew we had to do something.
In correspondence with Colleen Stevenson, director of Children of Promise in Uganda and Rwanda, we learned that Tuyisenge (age 9) had never been able to wear shoes. When asked about her condition, she shared her dream, saying, “I just want to wear shoes like everyone else.” This broke our hearts. We asked Colleen and Jean Pierre Nkurunziza (local program leader in Rwanda) to investigate the procedures and costs involved. We knew this was the exact type of thing for which our emergency fund exists. We were so excited when later we heard that the toes could be removed without structural damage to her feet.
You can imagine our joy when a couple of weeks ago we received a photo of Tuyisenge standing on her bandaged feet – each with five toes only! She has an enormous smile on her face. It took four visits to the hospital (she was rescheduled three different times), but her patience paid off. She can now have her dream. We can’t wait to see her in her first pair of shoes when we visit in February!
Perhaps not “all God’s children have shoes” yet, but Tuyisenge does, and she couldn’t be happier.