Vestine’s story

Vestine MUKESHIMANA Advisor

When I was just 18 months old my Mother died giving birth to my brother. My father remarried and went on to have 10 other children. My father was a farmer but we were poor and my stepmother did not like my brother and me.
When I was 12 years old my Mother’s brother came and took us to live with him. He was a kind man and he looked after us well. We went to school and became part of his family.
I was 23 years old and had a fiancé at the time of the Genocide, my Uncle and his family of 4 were killed right in front of me. The soldiers came and we all ran away to try and escape. Those who were caught were slaughtered with Pangas.
I ran off and wandered around in a daze. I then learned that my brother had been killed, I was homeless and without friends or family. I remember little of where I lived or how I survived. I was alone and ate from discarded garbage. By chance I reconnected with my fiancé, but when I later told him I was pregnant he ran away from me. A friend gave me a home and helped me deliver my daughter safely, but I could not stay with her and roamed alone again, without purpose or hope.
After 4 years my Cousin, from my mother’s sister, heard I had survived and came to look for me. She had become a nun and took me to her convent. She took me to the doctor who gave me some medicine, which I took. The Doctor said that I suffered from trauma. I never asked or talked about it.
With my cousin’s help, I went back to school and finished Senior 6. But I could not find a job when I looked and so started making and selling Chapatti to keep myself and my daughter. I was never taught to do this; I just watched and perfected my own attempts. Later, I had a son, and again the father deserted me. But during all this time I fell sick on many, many occasions especially in April each year in the mourning and remembrance period.
In 2008 Celine heard about me and visited me. She told me about NOUSPR and began to mentor and counsel me. I slowly came back into the world as I talked about and shared my story with her. Then later I myself visited other suffers and their families as Celine had done for me, to share my story and encourage them to open up and find some peace. Next I was chosen to be a Patient Expert and trained to help others. There are so many people in my area to help, who are alone and without friends as I once was. I can now help them.
My NOUSPR group is like my family; the handicrafts and weaving we make together keep us engaged and busy; they help us support each other and our families. And now we have the Culture Tours to bring people to us to meet and see the lives we live. I support my children and pay their health insurance myself. I continue to make and sell Chapatti and dig gardens for people. My daughter who is 20 is in the 3rd year of University and my son is at school.
I was recently elected as a group leader and attend all the meetings and trainings, so that I can continue to help my group members and reach out to others.