Chemus MUREKATETE Chairperson

I was born in Gisenyi, but although my father was a wealthy man, 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 awakened daily at 5 am 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 traveled 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 Auntie 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 invading 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 it was time for my discharge, the Doctor advised that 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 Gisenyi and Gitarama, none of my relatives would welcome me. I was often ill and took medication.

In 2011 I heard Sam Badege speaking 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 better 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. I realised that I could 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 smaller , more manageable groups. I have found energy and commitment, to help Sam as much as I can and was recently elected the  President of NOUSPR.