Early one morning 11 year-old Mukangarambe was shaken awake by her mother. Bands of hard-line Hutu and Interhamwe were sweeping their neighborhood, killing Tutsi and moderate Hutu families. Before she was fully awake, Mukangarambe and her family fled their Kigali home. Taking refuge in the village of Rushashi, on the outskirts of Kigali, they added to the over one million people displaced within Rwanda.
After the war, Mukangarambe and her family, all of them miraculously alive, returned to find their home damaged beyond repair. Her father tore down what remained of the ruined house and began constructing a new home for his family to live. "A few months later he died," Mukangarambe reveals. "Not long after, my mother died from the same sickness." All of the family's relatives, except for her grandmother, who has difficulty caring for herself, left Rwanda during the war, never to return. Mukangarambe, now 16, cares for her four younger siblings.
Complete families live within an arms reach of Mukangarambe's home. They are kind to her and her brothers and sisters, but have little to share. "In the beginning, our neighbors gave us small amounts of money to buy food," she remembers. "But they have since stopped. We don't know why and it is not polite to ask."
Adding to her difficulties is Mukangarambe's lack of any income to attend school. Particularly when most of the neighboring children of her age have the means to do so.
Nyirandegeya, also 16, is Mukangarambe's friend. The dirt path she walks to school each day winds past Mukangarambe's house. "We say hello and always talk, but never about school. She has the opportunity to learn and I do not."
This is about to change.
Mukangarambe has enrolled in hairdressing school. World Vision offered to provide school fees and related materials and she enthusiastically accepted. Gaining a new skill is important to her, as is the chance to improve her family's status in the neighborhood. "We have passed so many days and nights without eating that the emptiness in our stomachs is no longer a bother," Mukangarambe shyly states. "What hurts more are the memories of when our parents were here for us."
She is eager to begin school, make new friends and expand her horizons. "Like other kids in our neighborhood, I want to play sports, learn about different cultures, talk to boys," Mukangarambe laughs. "Becoming a productive member of our neighborhood would make my parents proud."