Meeting my sponsor sister, Brigitte
Our Executive Director, Brita Fernandez Schmidt, had the chance to meet her sister, Brigitte, whilst visiting our inspiring programme participants in Rwanda. A single mother of two, Brigitte told Brita how the Women for Women International programme has helped her provide for her family.
One of the over 500 women currently enrolled in our programme in Nyaruguru, Rwanda is my sister, Brigitte, who started her programme in January this year. I was so excited to meet her and her little son, who is one year old. I had received a few letters from her. We spoke and she told me how happy she is to be part of the programme. She used to feel so alone, particularly as a single mum. I didn’t know how hard and socially unacceptable it is to be a single mum in Rwanda. Brigitte also has a daughter who is four years old.
Brigitte has already had such a tough life and she is just nineteen. Her parents have always been extremely poor, so they didn’t have enough money to send her to school. Even though there are no school fees in Rwanda, parents do have to pay for school uniform and books. Brigitte’s parents couldn’t. So when she was just fourteen she decided to move from Nyaruguru to Kigali and become a house maid. At the house where she was working there was also a young male house boy and he took advantage of her. When she found out that she was pregnant, he asked her not to say anything and go back to her parents; he promised he would come and find her and marry her. When she returned to her parents, they were very angry and treated her very badly, the young man never came to find her.
After she gave birth to her daughter, she returned to Kigali because she had no money and she felt rejected by her family. In Kigali, she met another man who promised to marry her and look after her. She fell pregnant again only to find out that he was an alcoholic, abusive and not interested in caring for her. She returned to her parents with her two children, feeling very sad and desperate. It was then, just eight months ago, that she heard about Women for Women International. She enrolled in January and has since been learning practical skills, including how to run a small business. She is now selling avocados and is already making a good income, which means she can sustain her family.
Meeting her, hearing her story, it reminded me just how powerful our work is, we create real connections, not just between the woman and the sponsor – in this case Brigitte and me – but among the women who come together through the year-long programme. So many of them become close friends and end up setting up cooperatives together. Combined with the practical skills we teach, our programme transforms lives for good.
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