Kayonza – Student
You can easily imagine Emmanuel as a high school quarterback and a leader on his team. He is someone you want to root for. He’s right at the intersection of adulthood – muscles and a slight mustache -- but he still has an easy smile and childlike curiosity. His energy and enthusiasm is all the more remarkable for a 16 year-old whose life has seen such hardship.
“God is transforming me. Many years ago, I used to live in a family that was not saved. These days, God is working through my family. Then I moved here and I found pastors, teachers – all of them are like my parents. Many years ago I used to take drugs because life was too hard for me. I started when I was 12 years old, three years after the death of my mom. Then I lived here and they told me how God is good, how God can change lives."
Emmanuel readily shares his story and how his family’s lives have been marked by poverty and loss, but, more importantly, how they’ve been redeemed. You can tell that he is eager for a solution, and that he wants to be a change agent for his community and his country.
“Many people have no food. I ask anyone who can help to help,” he says.
Hunger and malnutrition cost the Rwandan economy $820 million in lost productivity every year. Hunger cost Emmanuel three years of his life without attending school. His family couldn’t afford food, let alone school fees. He once spent three entire days without food, which still haunts him. When he wasn’t in school, he was isolated and lonely. Two years ago, Africa New Life matched him with a sponsor and he moved into the Umucyo Home on campus, which allowed him to attend school and eat regularly for the first time in years.
Emmanuel now has a best friend and roommate, Dan, whom he studies with every night. He went on a class field trip to Akagera National Park and saw an elephant, which was the highlight of his young life so far. His life is filling up with the kinds of things that kids should be doing – studying, playing, growing – and he’s no longer alone.
Emmanuel now fasts regularly as a discipline; it reminds him of his life without food and how far he’s come. Even though he was behind several grades, he recently tested as fourth best in the eastern province on the national exam. He works hard in school to help himself and his family attain a food-secure future.
“Without food, you can’t get a good future. I feel something important in my future. A great man is a person who takes care of his family, poor people, orphans and who does everything God wants. I feel I will be a great man.”
Emmanuel has become an advocate for himself, his family and his community through opportunities at his Africa New Life school. His education, which includes both spiritual and physical sustenance, has allowed him to grow into a young man who can dream, and that’s something worth cheering.