The New Times (Kigali)

30 January 2013

Rwanda: My Dream Is to Be a Rwandan Citizen - Briton

A Green Card and other attempts to get permanent residence or citizenship in the US and other Western countries is usually every one's dream. That is why Rebecca Shrubsole's decision to leave England for Rwanda received mixed reactions.

Now called Rebecca Usabyamahoro and applying for Rwandan citizenship, the 28-year-old started dreaming about coming to Africa at a tender age.

"I used to tell my mother that my children will be Africans and she encouraged me to follow my heart. but my father was against this," Rebecca said during the interview at her home in Nyamirambo where, in 2010, she married Evode Usabyamahoro, alias Commando, 37, a former street child, who was running humanitarian services.

The two met in 2008 when Rebecca travelled to Rwanda for the first time.

"When I was six, my classmates chose me to visit the survivors of the Jewish Holocaust.

The motto I found there was 'Genocide, Never Again'. This confused me because I read about other genocides in Cambodia later."

She later heard about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and the 'Never Again' slogan.

"Many things came into my mind. Like how do these survivors live, who cares for them and many others," she says.

So in 2008, while an undergraduate in the Faculty of Sociology at Goldsmiths College University of London, she resolved to visit Rwanda. Here, she met Usabyamahoro, who was helping street children.

"The Youth for Christ Organisation linked me to Usabyamahoro, who was struggling to look after children he had picked from the streets. I understood this was my call to support the community; God had told me earlier before that He would give me a great family; they were my children."

The beginning of Usabyamahoro's project was hard. Rebecca could only afford Rwf30,000 per month to rent a house for the 30 children. The first house had neither water, nor electricity and the latrine was run down.

Rebecca returned to school in England in September 2008 and started rallying support to help street children. After graduating in 2010, she returned to Rwanda to marry Usabyamahoro.

Now a mother of nine-month-old Jennifer Lucy Usabyamahoro Keza, Rebecca is also a 'mother' of many former street children in their 14-bedroom house in Rwezamenyo cell, Nyarugenge district.

The project

The children in this rehabilitation centre dubbed Ubaka u Rwanda (Build Rwanda), registered in Nyarugenge district and in England, are aged between 10 and 22 and have all been taken off the street since 2002.

As part of rehabilitation process, they send them to school with support from well wishers.

So far, 28 children have graduated from the centre and returned home. Others (28) are in primary and 10 attend basic education.

Usabyamahoro spent Rwf18m to put up a library, sports room, living room, three dormitories and reading rooms, a computer room equipped with three laptops and kitchen facilities for his 'family'.

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