CHRISTINE Uwase believes sponsoring children in need is “saving generations”.
“It’s helping children realise their potential, pursue their purpose and see that hope is more powerful than poverty,” she said.
Ms Uwase, now a child protection officer with Save The Children International, lost both her parents and several relatives in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when ethnic Hutu extremists killed around 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, in 100 days.
Ms Uwase, 28, said her father was working in the fields when the extremists came to Kigali.
She, her mother and her four siblings fled to a Hutu neighbours’ home, but were asked to leave.
“We were being pushed out and the killers saw my mum and ran after her,” she said.
“I was on her back and she let me go free before she was shot. My aunty was behind us and picked me up.”
They fled to one house, then another, before being taken to a safe community of refugees.
She returned with her aunt and four cousins to Kigali, where they lived “with no hope”.
“Education was not something we thought about – we thought about living first,” she said.
“We thought about the next day. You would cry without knowing why you were crying.
“You were living a very different life.”
Ms Uwase was about five when she was registered with Compassion and began to receive monthly allocations of food, soap and cleaning materials plus health checks that helped her family “push on”.
Then an American couple with a young son chose to sponsor her.
“The boy saw my photo and said ‘We don’t have a girl, this one should be my sister’.
“I felt I had someone who cared about me and would write to me with encouraging words I would not hear from my community, saying that life holds a good future for me.”
Ms Uwase finished school, completed a political science degree and is preparing for a Master’s in project management.
She’s aiming to become an ambassador. “I want to make sure what I’ve seen never happens again.”