13 years after featuring on the Trócaire box, Josiane from Rwanda visits Ireland

March 14, 2017

13 years after featuring on the Trócaire box, Josiane from Rwanda visits Ireland

Her photo has already been in a million homes and schools across Ireland, but this week, Josiane Umumarashavu is visiting Ireland for the first time to say thank you to the people of Ireland for their support.

Josiane at the river Liffey in Dublin

Josiane at the River Liffey in Dublin on March 13th 2017, on her first trip outside Rwanda.

In 2004 she was the girl on the Trócaire box. Back then, she was 12 years old and struggling after the Rwandan genocide had claimed the lives of her father, sister and two of her brothers.

Trócaire’s Lent campaign changed her life. Today Josiane is a university graduate and working as a finance intern for Trócaire in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

Josiane is being hosted in Ireland by Trócaire from March 9th to 20th visiting schools and communities around Ireland to share her story and show how support from Ireland is changing lives in the developing world.

Josiane's Story

Josiane Umumarashavu was a toddler when the genocide took place in Rwanda. In 1994 between April and July almost a million people were murdered, it is one of the most harrowing periods in world history.

Her earliest memory was when she was 3 years old (during the genocide) and her family left their home to find a safe place to hide. Her doll was left behind and she cried a lot wanting to go back but it was impossible.

When Trócaire first met Josiane she was 12 years old and living in a village in southern Rwanda. At that time her mother was really struggling to survive alone with three young children, living off a small piece of land and constantly facing the threat of hunger.

Lent 2014

(L) Josiane on the 2004 Trócaire box. (R) Josiane with her mother and brothers at their home in Rwanda in 2004.

During Lent 2004, Josienne appeared in homes and schools all over Ireland when her photograph featured on the front of the Trócaire box. With the support of the Irish public, the family was able to improve their farm so that they had enough to eat and could earn an income.

The generosity of Trócaire supporters also helped to provide many more families like Josiane's in Rwanda with the farming equipment they needed to improve their food production.

Her visit to Ireland

Her visit to Ireland, her first outside of Rwanda, highlights Trócaire’s Lent 2017 campaign and the importance of its continued work in the poorest communities in the world.

RTÉ News caught up with Josiane as she visited a school in Knocklyon, Dublin.

Josiane described how the 2004 Trócaire Lent campaign changed her life: “When I was a child we struggled to find enough to eat and we faced hunger. Thanks to Trócaire supporters, families like mine were provided with the different farming equipment we needed to grow more food. The support from the people in Ireland continued to help me and my family long after that campaign had finished. Life is definitely better now. We have a home, a piece of land, cows and goats. Because of this support I was able to finish my schooling."

“I still have a copy of the photograph and the Trócaire box in my home,” she said. “It makes me very happy to look at it and to think that people in Ireland saw my photo and thought about life in Rwanda.

“It was amazing to think that people from a different country were interested in my family. I am so happy to be in Ireland to say thank you and I’m very happy to be now part of the Trócaire team making changes in people’s lives in Rwanda."

Josiane at the sea in Clontarf, Dublin

Josiane sees the sea for the first time. At Clontarf, Dublin on March 13th 2017.

Read more about Josiane's story and see photos of her university graduation.

Learn more about this year's Lent campaign