My story is one of survival, of loss but also of finding purpose. I survived the most terrible event in history: the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
It was stressful before it even started. We weren’t treated as human beings. It was hard to watch how my parents struggled to the point where they couldn’t send some of my siblings to secondary school. Myself I was still in primary at that time. At school, there wasn’t a day without humiliation. The teachers would start with a small census asking all Tutsi pupils to stand up. Imagine that moment when you realise that you are the only one standing in the entire classroom, all faces staring at you with disgust. The next thing I remember is being at home crying thinking that being Tutsi is a sin. That was our reality before the genocide, so you can imagine how bad it was when it actually happened.
In April 1994, I lost absolutely everything. I lost my biological parents, my siblings and my relatives. By the end of it, almost everyone was gone except for me. One of my brothers also survived but we didn’t grow up together. It felt like going to hell at that time, but I came back stronger. For a while, I kept wondering why me? Why was I the only one left behind? I held on to the thought that there must be a reason for my survival. I believe that we are being sent to earth to accomplish a mission. That kept me going.
Growing up with hardly anyone caring for me was tough. While coming to terms with what happened, I also got a lot of time to reflect. I got to know myself and what I stand for. I realised that I cannot escape my past, but that the past doesn’t have to dictate who I become. Of course, having a shaky foundation with cracks and emotional wounds affected me, but I did not allow it to take over my life. Cracks can be repaired with support from people around you. In my case, I couldn’t have made it without my adoptive father. He makes my life complete. I am who I am because of him.
My past didn’t make me bitter, but compassionate and kind. Most of all, it made me appreciate what it is like to be valued as a human being. We are all born with different physical appearances, but in the end all of us share the same DNA. I believe that my looks don’t define who I am. Saying this so confidently makes me realise how far I’ve come. On the inside we are all human, beautiful and unique, that’s what matters. I do really believe that in essence our hearts are good, but when we focus so much on what sets us apart, we allow awful things to happen. Simply because of that, I force myself to keep learning from the past.
At the moment, I am sitting at my home in Kigali because we are in lockdown. I’ve always worked really hard but working from home has truly turned me into the type of workaholic who eats behind her laptop. The lockdown coincided with the Tutsi genocide remembrance which happens every year in April. It reminded me that I am alone and brought back memories I thought I had folded away for good. The simple fact that I could not go outside to meet people and chat made me realise that there is nobody else with me in this intense journey on earth. I truly wish I’d have a family of my own one day. I dream of raising my kids into positive human beings who grow up to have a positive impact on others in their community.