CHEMUS’ STORY

I was born in Gisenyi, but although my father was a man of wealth I did not have the benefit of a middle class life because I grew up with a harsh stepmother.
I did not know that she was not my mother; but I was treated differently, and was wakened at 5am to do household chores. I walked to school and was beaten if I did not do as she wanted. I still bear scars on my left leg from beatings with an electricity cable. I ran away on many occasions but this made things worse.

When I was 15 a neighbour told me that my real mother lived in the South, she said that my mother had come for me, but my father had beaten her and driven her off. I ran away immediately and although I had no money I travelled to Giterama,, found my mother and lived with her. But this was April 1994 and 2 weeks later the soldiers came to the village. My aunty was killed in front of my eyes and my uncle’s head was cut off with a Panga.

I ran into the forest with the other children and hid until the RPF soldiers came to save us. I was taken to an orphanage. I liked the life there, made friends and went to school. In 1997 the government closed the orphanage. I was taken in by a lady who treated me just like my step mother had. She would not let me go to school and I had to work all day. She was harsh and beat me.

As a child I had not trusted or loved anyone. I had thought that I had found my mother, only to lose her, and now I was losing my home and school again. I had no hope.

That lady’s treatment of me grew worse day by day and I ran away sometimes to wander on the streets. I began to take drugs, alcohol and party. These things made me happy when I did them, but I started to feel ill again not long afterwards the illness worsened and one day when that lady was shouting at me to do the washing I collapsed on the floor and fell into a coma.

I was taken to hospital and was treated for 7 months. The doctor explained that I had kept all the hurt inside me. I had found out that I was pregnant and when there was talk of my release the Doctor said I needed a friend. A kind old lady took me and helped me care for the child.

Later I met a man and feel in love with him and he paid the bride price. We are married and have 8 children together. Life has been hard, my husband is too old to work and although I went back to Gesenyi and Giterama, none of my relatives would welcome me. I was often ill and took medication.

In 2011 I heard Sam on Radio Rwanda, he spoke straight to my heart and I went to find him. He helped me to understand that I could find a different life. I immediately formed a NOUSPR group and found out that I have so much strength and energy to be an Advocate for others, to find and bring people from the streets and without friends into our homes to care for them. To help sick people at a time of crisis and reach out to those in need.

My group has grown so much that we have divided to make new groups. I have found energy and commitment, to help Sam as much as I can and was recently elected as President of NOUSPR.