Janyis Watson – getting straight to the heart of our work.

Janyis has been settling in to life at Munezero House and has started to visit our projects. Here she tells us about meeting some of the women who have benefited from our hostel for sex workers. Once trapped in a life of poverty and prostitution, these women are now learning new skills and a facing a much brighter future.

Munezero House is home but it’s also work and it’s impossible to find the seam that joins the two. Rwanda seems to absorb you in the same way and one week in, it’s already difficult to separate one day from another. My first outing was to take a walk around town and then down to the lake for a pot of African chai. I was surprised to see the fish market completely empty, but apparently fishing has been stopped in Lake Kivu while stocks are allowed to recover. This meant the black kites and eagles were not circling in their usual numbers but I was treated to a pair of Ross’s Turacoes perched close by in a tree while I enjoyed my spicy hot brew. They really are spectacular birds in flight as they lift rich blue wings to reveal bright red linings.

My favourite spot for tea is right next to Baho Neza Mwana so I called in to see Claudette and Marcel and received the warmest of welcomes from the boys currently living here. This time I was also interested to meet several young women who are attending sewing classes at the street children’s village. When I arrived they were in the process of sewing the collar on a shirt – I was really impressed! They sew on treadle machines, which means only basic stitches but their pattern cutting skills and accurate stitching after only two months are excellent.

We went to see their home, a house which Rwanda Aid has set up to help five of them transition from a life of prostitution. Three have very young children living at the house with them, who were very friendly and confident once they got over the surprise of my ghostly pale skin and strange hair (which they are fascinated to touch). We had a tour of the house and they described their daily routine. Mornings start at 5.30am and while they are in their classes a house girl comes to look after the children. The garden was planted with vegetables and the house far tidier than mine! They seemed to be forming close friendships with each other and I really hope that this support will help to sustain them as they move towards independence.

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There are two other young women supported by the project, but living in their own homes. They each have two children and huge challenges in life but despite this they display great determination to make the most of this opportunity. They each have to look after their children and also walk a total of 3.5 hours a day to get to class and home again. I really hope that life keeps improving for them as they are working so hard to achieve their goals.

Each of the seven young women talked about how life was before they joined the project and how much they valued this opportunity and how lucky they feel to have been selected. Poverty makes people vulnerable and prostitution is a fate that befalls people of all ages so there is great competition for the support that Rwanda Aid is able to offer through this pilot project. It presents its own set of complex challenges but everybody involved is so determined to make a success of it that I felt really uplifted and inspired.

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