by Claire Morawski
Shortly after we finished tie-dying and playing games with the children this morning, we sat down where we had church on Sunday. Serge began to ask the children if any of them would like to share their testimony with the group. Many of the older children raised their hands to share. Most of their names were Jean Claude since the actor Jean Claude Van Damme is loved by many Rwandans. One Jean Claude in particular, age 18, shared with us the hardships of his family. His mother passed away after his last sibling was born. He and his four other siblings did not know their father since he was a drunk and was never home. Luckily Jean Claude took it upon himself to keep himself and his siblings alive as well as provide for them: stealing, collecting, and bartering for whatever food he could find for them.
While Jean Claude was sharing his testimony, I realized how different we were. Jean Claude protected his siblings by stealing food for survival. I have and hopefully never will have to protect my siblings to survive. I will also never drop out of school like Jean Claude has for my siblings. My parents love and care for me endlessly, as they have said to me before “I love you way more than you could ever imagine”.
After the testimonies, Jen B asked the children what their thoughts are of education as most of us take our free 12 years of education in the United States for granted and complain endlessly about it. The children’s main thoughts on education was that it is valuable to everyone. Not only does it set you up for success and a good job but it also gives you skills to succeed and become successful. The reinforcement of these ideals of education reminded me of how lucky students in the United States are. Sadly it also reminded me that many other prospective students around the world - including many we met in Rwanda - are not always guaranteed an education but
Dreams of the street children were also expressed after thoughts were shared about education. Many of the children dreamed of becoming soldiers for Rwanda, teachers, and scientists. One even dreamed of becoming a Air Force pilot for the United States.
This new perspective and realization has been humbling. Though it was something I imagined I would receive out of this trip- a new perspective on life, one much more different and larger than the ‘suburban bubble’ I live in - it was incredible how it actually occurred. Children of Rwanda, off of the street, voluntarily and willingly sharing their testimonies, dreams, thoughts, and desires to random strangers they only had met a few hours before. The generosity of the Rwandans, not only children that I encountered will stick with me for a long time.