She wrapped her fingers around the plastic handle of a green rolling bag.
Alice had never owned a suitcase before. And until then, she had no need for one. For 18 years, Alice and her family have been living in a mud hut in the Gihembe Refugee. After violence forced them to flee their home in the DR Congo, seeking safety in the refugee camps in Rwanda was the last time she had crossed borders.
Rolling the suitcase through the rock-covered courtyard, Alice looked up and smiled. A new journey was before her, and this time, crossing borders would not be a matter of escape, but a matter of adventure.
At the end of January, Alice, a freshman engineering student at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, took first place at the university’s science competition.
While Alice believed in the value of her hard work, she was stunned. Just a year earlier, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to attend university. When These Numbers Have Faces heard of the brilliant students in the Gihembe Refugee Camp, Leadership Loans were offered to 12 of Gibehmbe’s brightest students — Alice was one of them.
Being supported through her time at university was a victory unto itself, but winning the science competition was beyond her wildest dreams. Things became more unbelievable when she discovered her prize for winning the competition — an all-expenses-paid trip to India to represent her university at an International Information and Computer Technology Conference!
Alice went to visit Tina, These Numbers Have Faces International Programs Director, to share the incredible news. Together, the two rejoiced.
“Do you need anything?” Tina asked.
“A bag and a suit.”
Tina reached for a green suitcase, which had been given to her by a friend, hoping Tina could find some use for it. Handing it to Alice, Tina realized this green bag had been meant for Alice all along.
The journey from Kigali to India was a long day of travel — but Alice said the six-hour plane ride was one of her favorite parts of her journey!
While in India, Alice attended various workshops and meet other engineering students from around the globe. She was immediately impressed by how engineering is changing India. It gave her hope for what she will one day be able to do for her community in Africa.
Now that she is back in Rwanda, Alice said she sees her university classes in a new light.
“The trip inspired my studies, and now I have a connection to other students who I can share ideas about engineering. I’ve learned that with hard work you can dream big, because everything is possible!”
Eddyne doesn’t remember much about her birthplace.
Her family called the DR Congo home for more than 40 years, yet when ethnic conflicts forced them to pack their bags, Eddyne, only 6 years old at the time, was left with few memories of Congo.
Rwanda would be her new home, now, and it has been home for the past 15 years. It’s where she and her siblings have played games to pass the time, where she began her education, and where she grew in deep connection to her neighbors as she worked with Rwandan genocide survivors.
From an early age, Eddyne was drawn to people’s stories. When someone spoke to her about their challenges, she listened. It didn’t matter how old the person was, or where they came from - Eddyne wanted to listen to them all.
‘Does everyone have a heart that opens to those experiencing pain?’ Eddyne wondered, for it was truly the case for her.
She can’t pinpoint it to one moment, but Eddyne has always known that she was meant to be a counselor. When it came time to choose her course of study at university, psychology was the obvious choice.
Throughout the last four years at the National University of Rwanda, Eddyne has learned countless skills in her classes that have helped her better understand how the brain works, and how debilitating emotional trauma can be.
Beyond the classroom, Eddyne has also had several internships with international counseling organizations.
Little did she know that one of the most profound experiences of her education was waiting for her back in her birthplace in the DR Congo, where she would intern with Gratia Counseling Centre.
In December 2014, Eddyne went to North-Kivu, a city in eastern Congo that has been ravaged by violence and political unrest.
Listening to the children's stories and walking with them through painful parts of their past solidified for Eddyne that this is exactly what she is supposed to do - help heal the hearts of those who feel broken.
Eddyne shared with us more about her decision to study psychology and stories about her internship in the DR Congo. We are so excited for Eddyne’s future and thankful that she is investing in the lives of African youth!
How did you decide to study psychology and counseling?
I decided to study psychology and counseling for three reasons:
1. There were many people in my country, and still now, who needed psychological assistance to survive, including my friends, family members, colleagues and neighbors because of genocide consequences and other past experiences.
2. I realized that despite how people had been in miserable life circumstances, psychotherapy and counseling would release them so they could restart the normal way of living.
3. People trust me and come to see me for advice. They told me that I could be a good psychologist, so I decided to start in clinical psychology.
How did you choose your internship to work with children in the DR Congo?
I chose to go to Congo because in different conferences I attended I could hear people from there telling about psychological disorders due to everlasting wars and conflict, especially in youth. I was motivated because I wanted to help my neighbors, but also to learn from caregivers about their strategies to keep their people alive. I went to Gratia Counseling Centre and I have been in Congo two times - for an internship and community service.
What were some of the most powerful moments from your time in the Congo?
I met a young boy who had participated in different criminal actions and he was there to give testimonies of how the school center helped him to change attitudes and to heal his heart. I was at the same time scared to hear what he did to innocent people and also thankful to God for His work in his life.
How has your internship confirmed or directed what you want to do with your future?
I have learned that helping people with psychosocial problems doesn't only require knowledge and skills, but also interest, empathy and engagement. My experience from there and challenges I’ve experienced will help me to become a good clinician and later a good psychotherapist.
How has the support from These Numbers Have Faces prepared you for your internship and university courses?
Since I was accepted to be a These Numbers Have Faces scholar, my life has changed. I can realize my dreams because of the support I receive. For example, I think it would not be possible to go to Congo if These Numbers Had Faces had not sponsored my internship to Congo and my other academic internships are well done because of These Numbers Have Faces facilities. I am thankful I can now see how some of my goals are achieved.
Eddyne couldn't have said it better -- when we support each other, we help each other rise!
Outside of a house in the lush Rwandan valley, little feet thumped along a red dirt road.
It was a seemingly typical afternoon for Jeanne d’Arc, the middle child in a family of three girls. Most days, her home buzzed with the laughter of siblings and neighbors playing games, the clatter of pots and pans as her mother prepared the evening meal. As a computer-engineering student at the National University of Rwanda, Jeanne d’Arc was often busy with her books, deep in her studies.
Today, however, was beginning to feel different.
In the distance, she could see them coming, a van filled with several of her classmates and a group of Americans. They were to be her family’s guests for a meet-and-greet of sorts -- or so she thought.
Jeanne d’Arc introduced her mother and siblings to their visitors – among them, Justin Zoradi, the founder of These Numbers Have Faces. Several years ago when Rwandan government scholarships were cut short, Jeanne d’Arc thought her dreams of finishing university would be, as well. However, when she heard of the opportunity to receive a Leadership Loan and support through These Numbers Have Faces, her hopes were rekindled. For the last two years she has been a These Numbers Have Faces scholar.
When Justin asked everyone to gather around for a special announcement, Jeanne d’Arc watched as cameras were pulled out of bags, neighbors coming out of their homes to see what all the commotion was about.
“What we’re so excited to announce is that Jeanne d’Arc has now been fully funded by Lab126,” Justin said, revealing a certificate with Jeanne d’Arc as the Lab126 Scholar. “And this company has also offered Jeanne d’Arc an internship next summer in California.”
Jeanne d’Arc brought her hands to her eyes, wiping the tears that began to roll down her cheeks.
For a young woman from rural Rwanda, the opportunity to intern for one of the world’s leading technology companies was never supposed to be part of her story. As her desire to help her community through the power of technology has grown over the years, however, Jeanne d’Arc could only trust that those dreams would someday come to fruition, even if she wasn’t sure how.
As her mother and sister came to join her in front of the now small crowd, Jeanne d’Arc began to realize the potential of what was to come.
Yes, this was an unlikely story, but Jeanne d’Arc knew that this story was indeed the beginning of her own – the story of a future filled with hope.
Watch the video of Jeanne d'Arc's internship surprise here! http://youtu.be/dObY2bmXXJA
**Jeanne d’Arc and the staff at These Numbers Have Faces are so thankful for her opportunity to work with the engineers at Lab126 in summer 2015. This week, Jeanne d’Arc took time to talk with us about her inspiration and what she hopes to learn from her internship.**
Have you always been passionate about technology?
Yes, I have been passionate about technology from the time I was in high school. I would say the internet started my passion, because every time I would get access to the internet I would fall in love with every bit of a computer, thus creating my passion for technology.
Did your childhood influence your desire to pursue a college education?
Yes, my childhood influenced my desire to pursue a college education because I could see how much my parents struggled to put food on the plate for me and my siblings until they went back to school to get a degree, which made me realize that a college degree, or education in general, can change your life.
When did you first get the idea to create an app to help Rwandans buy bus tickets via their mobile phones?
I first got the idea of creating a mobile app last year in an innovation competition. I got my inspiration from my dad because he always tells me that I should always try and do something that can help other people.
When Justin told you that Lab126 was offering you an internship, what was the first thing you thought of?
Honestly, I don't even know what was thinking. A lot of things were running through my mind like, ‘What if this is all a dream? What if it's really true? Is this really happening?’ But all in all, I was so happy beyond measure and I am still glad that I have this amazing opportunity.
What you expect to learn from your internship? How do you think it will help with your future?
I expect to learn a lot from my internship, like learning more about how Lab126 manufactures their products, connecting with people that can help me in any problems that I may have, and boosting my work experience.
I think this internship will help me in the future because after this internship, I suspect that I will have learned a lot of things that I may have never known, otherwise. This will greatly improve my skills, which I believe will lead me to a bright future.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your inspiration and hope for the future?
I would to tell all my fellow people to always have hope and trust in God because there is nothing we can do without his love, grace and Mercy.
I would like to tell everyone that hard work is the key to success. No matter how smart anyone is, without hard work, nothing amazing can be accomplished.
Be a man of your word.
It’s a lesson Duma learned from an early age growing up in Eastern Cape, bouncing from house to house when tragedy struck his family, a value practiced even when needs were great and resources few.
With little access to electricity, clean water, and some days, food, Duma’s childhood was spent working hard to support his family: mother, grandmothers, aunt and sisters.
When he wasn’t helping out at home, Duma poured himself into his studies, believing that if he excelled he could one day go to university.
With the help of a Leadership Loan from These Numbers Have Faces, Duma is now studying chemistry at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
While his college studies have him some 1,000 kilometers away from Eastern Cape, Duma is still closely connected to his home. In fact, his dream of bringing positive change there is stronger than ever.
Last year, when Duma learned about the high rate of rape and murder of women and children in his hometown, he was appalled.
According to a humanitarian news organization of the United Nations, there is an estimated 500,000 rapes committed annually in South Africa. The country also has one of the highest incidents of child rape in the world.
The facts and figures were a devastating reality to Duma.
“Every time I hear or read on the media about crimes against children and women, I just get touched and feel that this is not OK,” Duma said. “After all, we live in a country where we say we are free, but some people are not, as they fear for their lives and sexual purity.”
As a brother to two younger sisters, as a son and grandson to women who had sacrificed so much to raise him, Duma refused to let the statistics go unchanged. He was determined to do something about it.
Despite the distance and the long hours required of his studies, Duma conceived the idea of a protest march in his hometown, Sterkspruit. More than a demonstration by the community, Duma wanted the event to be an opportunity for men to stand against the crimes committed against women.
With support from his friends in Sterkspruit, Duma wrote to the Department of Social Development and contacted local law enforcement to obtain permission for the march.
Some days it seemed as if the march was a distant dream, too much for a college student and his friends to carry out. But Duma persisted, determined to fulfill his promise, to be a man of his word.
On the day of the march, a bright September morning, Duma and other men from his community walked through town, holding a banner that read, “Stop Women and Child Abuse.”
Together, they demanded mercy and morals.
Together, they challenged men to serve as protectors.
Together, they called for change.
At the end of the march Duma handed the police station commander a memorandum he drafted. A journalist was close by to capture his words on live radio.
In his message, Duma stated,
“As men of Sterkspruit at large […] we need to change our behavior […] this march is not a complaint to the civil servants or any governmental department, but a call to us to restore our dignity. Let us bring back ubuntu in us.”
Ubuntu is a sacred word in South Africa meaning compassion and humanity, a word that Duma believes can change his community. We believe so, too.
Duma plans for the march to be an annual event until the abuse of women and children in his community has been eradicated.
“I want to have another one next year because I want this to sink in people’s minds that we need to have peace with one another and morals as men,” Duma said. “Even Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took Nelson Mandela and other heroes years of fighting for this freedom we are enjoying today.”
Duma serves as a role model in his community and we feel so fortunate to know him as a These Numbers Have Faces scholar.
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