Rungano-Ndota is different. In a classroom, the teacher comes and teaches what he or she has to teach. Like putting the food there and asking you to eat the food. At Rungano-Ndota, we have to know ourselves, believe in ourselves, and develop what we didn’t even know we had before. When I joined Rungano-Ndota I was afraid and was not confident. Now you see new Salama. The old Salama before did not care about things that were done. I didn’t have that kind of engagement. My friends used to make decisions for me. They would choose what clothes I should wear or push me to study Koran. My life was not in a good orientation. When you can’t decide anything for yourself it’s a bad situation.
My mind has been expanded and I’m thinking bigger, differently. Being in the cooperatives is a big experience of that kind of empowerment. The program days are just once a month, but the coops meet more. In the cooperatives, we are becoming strong women. When I decided to go to the vocational school with the salon coop, I didn’t even ask anyone for advice. I already believed in myself and that the right decisions for me have to be made by me.
Another thing was a question they asked us one time at a program day: Can those who are getting help even help others? We discussed a lot and some said no, those who are getting help can’t help others since they need help. Others said even if you need help you can help others. From that moment I realized that I can help others. I found that there is power in working with others. Now I can’t go alone. Now I know that I need other people as they need me too. I also found that I’m a leader, and I can be a leader, and I HAVE to be a leader.
When my dad was about to die, he told me to be a man since I am older in the family. When he died I left school since I had no hope of affording the school materials. Also my 7 siblings would have lacked a way to eat and live. It was a struggle. When I started at Rungano-Ndota, the only thing we had settled in the family was that we had a place to live in. But in Rungano-Ndota, I started to get self-confidence and realize business creation. Rungano-Ndota opened our eyes to look far and create opportunities. As you can see, in Ruhango life is tough if you don’t have a job. I thought that if I don’t think of something then the cause I was fighting for my family would not go well. I had to think of something. I had done businesses before, but they had failed.
After Rungano-Ndota brought back my confidence I had an idea of what to do after they taught us about business and saving. I wanted to make a business to do packed lunches for people. I had only a small capacity to rent a place, but I realized that I could serve lower-income people who work construction on the roads or fix cars in garages. I saw I could make them my customers. I had the idea, but I had thrown it away because I thought I couldn’t do it. After getting to Rungano-Ndota and learning that I could start small and grow, I thought I should go for it. 10% was my idea, but 90% of the idea I implemented because of Rungano-Ndota. If I wasn’t in my Rugnano-Ndota family and shared and learned about all this, life would have been very hard for me. I think I would have gone crazy.
Rungano-Ndota opened our eyes to look far and create opportunities. When we came in, we were shy and our eyes were closed to what is happening in the world. We have learned a lot and our eyes are opened to opportunities. Rungano-Ndota is special because it unifies the youth in love.
Most other groups focus on what they want to do, not on the people they are working with. For example, if they have youth for a meeting they focus only on the agenda of the meeting. Rungano-Ndota does both. For example, if we go on a trip of course we focus on the site, but I am chatting with the leaders about my personal life too. The focus is building the capacity of youth to build for our futures.
Rungano-Ndota first and foremost built my confidence. Before you do anything, you need confidence. And I learned how to cooperate with society. If you don’t cooperate with society, you fail. For example, if you are selling something you can’t succeed and make money if you don’t cooperate with the people around you. I’m learning also how to plan for businesses and implement those plans.
I’m learning socializing with people. I never used to do that before. Rungano-Ndota taught me how to live with people who have different behaviors. Before, I was that shy person who used to preserve my personal life and not share it. Now I’ve learned to share and chat with others. Overall, I’m learning leadership.
The lesson that says we need to know ourselves is different. I didn’t hear that anywhere. I’ve gotten advice on how to behave and act positively, but no other place in my life has someone encouraged me to know myself. But at Rungano-Ndota lessons come from us. Mostly the answers come from us.
I’m feeling special because now with all the things I have learned in Rungano-Ndota I feel capable to share these things with others. That’s extremely different. I used to be alone. I never wanted to be with others. I never used to spend most of my time with people due to my historical journey. This program is the only place where I met many people. It requires me to think a lot. Rungano-Ndota helped me build my confidence. It helped me to say that life is possible. When you have people then life is possible.
Now that my confidence went up, it’s different. Now I’m raising rabbits. Before I never thought of saving money. Now if things go well then I’ll do business. I learned that rabbits increase quickly and many people need them, so I chose that business. Now I don’t have to go ask others for money to buy lotion and other things. I can buy things for myself.
Another thing is that now I’m trying to experience helping others. Now I’m thinking that if someone is in trouble I reach out and visit and try to help with what little I have. There are things that you have and you didn’t know you had them. Rugano-Ndota added something. Now I know more and have more deep constructive ways to help.
Rungano changed my behavior. It’s the most important thing. It’s hard to track that change because mostly behaviors are from the heart. People who knew me before, know how I was. I left boarding school in 2015 and was in loneliness. I used to be drunk. Having beer was my fun. I would never think any good things.
If Rungano-Ndota did not exist I would have gone back to that life I was living in Kigali. My life was today. I wasn’t thinking of tomorrow. I never had any idea of saving. I was working but could have 30,000 francs a week and end up with only 1,000 because I used to be a drunk and go to dancing clubs. I hadn’t any respect for anyone. My family abandoned me. I was thinking there was no love in people.
One day I started to really believe in Rungano-Ndota. It was the day we helped out Perrine’s mom, who had been sick for a long time. The youth organized the activity of helping her out. I had never done something like that before. I was feeling loveless for the people. But that day I changed.
Since then, I discussed many lessons from Rungano_Ndota – ways we need to build our society, the history of genocide and the role of youth. It became a very clear responsibility when we visited the genocide memorial. That’s when I started to think that humanity is needed is everyone’s life. I said I need to change society in a good way.
I learned on saving and having humanity in the community. I tried to analyze how we are living together in Rungano-Ndota and saw that it was good. It gave me a chance to think back on how I need to live in the community with everyone. For example, I used to consider Muslims as terrorists. But now most people think I am a Muslim because many of my friends are Muslim, due to the friendships we created in Rungano-Ndota.
Far from just being part of Rungano-Ndota at the Youth Center, it’s helping my image to grow in front of the community. When the corn co-op started paying our workers, I was excited. For those who never knew about us, they saw me searching for capable workers and they were thinking, “Oh, Fils will not pay us.” I told them who we are and that we would pay them after 6 days of work. On the 6th day after asking for their ID’s and paying everyone the money, they started saying, “Fils is serious!”
That day I saw a man older than me and he said, “How are you, boss?” I felt good, but I told him that I was not the boss and he can make the land even better than I can, to encourage him. I was happy to see the team that was working, going with confidence. I was telling him that if Rungano-Ndota didn’t come I wouldn’t be able to make this happen.