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International Catholic Entity in Rwanda Recounts Success Story in Fight against Poverty

Epiphany became the main caregiver for her two younger sisters at the age of 13. Credit: Trócaire

The experience of Epiphany, the 18-year-old Rwandese girl who was forced to drop out of school five years ago and has turned around her life has been recounted as a success story in the fight against poverty in the Great Rift Valley country. 

“When she was only 13 years old, Epiphany was forced to drop out of school to become the primary carer for her two younger sisters following the sudden death of her parents,” the leadership of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in the country, Trócaire Rwanda, recounts in a recent report.

It is not uncommon to find young girls dropping out of school to take up family responsibilities, the leadership of the Catholic international entity observes, and adds, “Despite an increased focus on girls’ education in the country, blocks still remain and the cycle of poverty continues as it did for the generation before.”

The native of Gikungu village in Rwanda’s Nyamagabe District that is covered by the Catholic Diocese of Gikongorostruggled to adapt to her new role providing for her sisters,” the leadership of Trócaire Rwanda says in the October 8 report, adding that one of Epiphany’s two sisters “has physical disabilities.”

While Epiphany did receive some financial assistance from the Rwandan government, the funds were not enough to meet the basic needs of the orphaned family of three.

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Finding it hard to make ends meet, Epiphany “also farmed the small piece of land left by her parents and worked as a farmhand for other families,” officials of Trócaire Rwanda recount.

Unfortunately, all of this combined still didn’t cover basic living needs,” they say in the October 8 report, adding, There aren’t many opportunities for girls in Rwanda.”

On daily basis, Epiphany was preoccupied with providing for her two sisters, the leadership of Trócaire Rwanda notes, and emphasizes, “She wanted to do everything she could to build a better life for them.”

She knew that having a business of her own “would be the best way to lift her family from the poverty they were living in,” officials of the Catholic entity in Rwanda note, and add that while Epiphany “had the ambition” to start a business, she lacked “capital or access to a loan to support her.”

Other members of families in Rwanda’s Gikungu village “shared the same hopes, and through dedicated community mobilization, three Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) were formed in the area to help community members make their dreams a reality,” the leadership of Trócaire Rwanda recounts.

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Epiphany was among those selected to participate in the formed VSLAs, an initiative that received support from Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA).

Established “to empower and support communities in southern Rwanda,” the VSLA initiative was implemented by Trócaire in collaboration with BIOCOORUNICOOPAGI and ICRAF.”

Officials of Trócaire Rwanda report that “After joining the VSLA, Epiphany took out a small loan of €14, which she used to buy Irish potato seeds, a piglet to help her with manure, and avocadoes to sell for a profit.”

“Selling the avocadoes helped her to fully pay back her loan. After the first month, she earned €15 and was able to add other varieties of fruits to her small business and increase her shares in the saving group,” they further report, adding that the loan and business have “transformed life for Epiphany.”

“I have realized that there are so many opportunities through the saving group. I have learnt that even saving 9 cents can help me achieve something big over time,” Epiphany has been quoted as saying in the October 8 report.

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The 18-year-old Rwandan girl “is now happily waiting for the harvest of her potatoes so that she can earn more money. She is excited about the new opportunities, which have opened up to her since joining the VSLA,” Trócaire Rwanda officials say.

Epiphany’s dream, they add, “is to start a piggery project and to purchase a cow in the second cycle of her VSLA.”

The leadership of the Catholic entity is reaching out to well-wishers for support saying contributing to such a course will go a long way in helping Trócaire “to build a brighter future for people like Epiphany in Rwanda.”

“We help people earn better incomes and grow more food,” officials of Trócaire Rwanda say, and add, “We help women, men and young people become more resilient. We also help people overcome trauma and build a future of peace and hope.”