Monday, March 9, 2009


In the fall of her 10th year, Emirance was going into the equivalent of grade 5. She had also just become the legal guardian and principal caregiver for her two younger siblings. That was in 1994.

She lives where she grew up - on the outskirts of Gitarama in Rwanda. Her father had died of an illness when she was very young. Her mother, killed during the genocide.

I’ve got to know Emirance over the years when I have traveled in Rwanda. Her circumstances are not unique in that beautiful little country. Many kids have overcome the odds and successfully raised families. Emirance’s story, however, stands out.

With the help of her community and aid groups she was able to both raise her brother and sister and complete school. At different times she has cared for more orphans who have lost their parents to AIDS. Once finished high school she chose to become a hairdresser. She did so well in her course at the government run school that they asked her to become a teacher.

Today, at 25, Emirance still lives in her childhood home. Her brother, his wife and new baby moved back home 3 years ago. The school where she teaches is a three hour walk from her house. Up until recently she walked that every day. Now she has a bike.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Emirance at her house. We drove a long way off the main road, down past all manner of housing. Small shacks of spare tin and plywood. Mud homes with thatched roofs. Little in the way of order, but what I had come to expect in very poor areas. Then down on the right was her place.

The house itself was much like the others around it – mud walls, tin roof. There was however, one significant difference. Arching over her front door was a deep pink climbing rose. It stood out like a flag. The beauty of the bright color against the brown walls, signified that in that home there was hope, in that home there was determination to rise above circumstances.

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