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Josiane says she still looks at her 12-year-old self on the Trócaire Lent box from 2004 to remind herself of how far she has come
When she was just three years’ old, Josiane Umumarashavu lost her father, sister and two brothers in the Genocide against the Tutsi. Her memories of that devastating time include being forced to flee her home in search of a safe place, and crying for the doll she had left behind.
This was 1994. Between April and July of that year, almost one million people were murdered in the Genocide against the Tutsi, in one of the most harrowing periods in world history.
The next year, Trócaire featured Rwanda in its annual Lent campaign. Josiane’s mother was struggling to provide for her three young children in the aftermath of the Genocide – and Josiane ended up featuring on more than one million Trócaire boxes that reached homes across Ireland.
Thanks to donations from the public during the 2004 Lenten Appeal, Josiane and her family, along with thousands of others, received support which helped improve their lives, and in particular supported farming. This meant they could feed their families, earn an income and continue to attend school.
“Thanks to Trócaire’s support my mother was able to start a shop selling sorghum and the family was able to afford a home and a small piece of land. My brothers and I were able to attend school. I used to wake up very early so that I could fetch water for my mother before going to school. During the weekends, I helped my mother in her agricultural activities hoping that someday I will be able take care of her.”
Today, 18 years later, Josiane (31) is now married with two children and lives in Kigali City in Rwanda. After graduating with a qualification in business management and accounting, Josiane now works as a Finance Assistant in Trócaire’s office in Rwanda.
“I still have the 2004 Trócaire box in my home and I look at it now and again to remind myself of how far I have come. I get very emotional when I look at it still, because I know I wouldn’t have finished my schooling, or have the job I have today, or be able to look after my family, without the generosity of the Irish people,” Josiane said.
“When I look at myself on the Trócaire box, I remember the challenges we faced as a family after the Rwandan genocide. My 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,” Josiane added.
Josiane said her life changed after appearing on the Lent box in 2004.
“The generous support from the Irish public allowed my family to improve our farming so we had enough to eat and could sell extra to earn an income. My school fees were also paid for and I will forever be so grateful that I was able to finish school and now I have a job with Trócaire. I’m able to support my mother, and my brothers have finished their university studies and are working as well. I’m grateful that my children are not facing the same struggles I faced when I was a child. My dream for them is that they will receive a good education.”
“The generosity of Trócaire supporters also helped to provide many more families like mine in Rwanda with the farming equipment they needed to improve their food production and sell at markets.”
Josiane added that working with Trócaire now allows her to help her community in Rwanda.
“Trócaire is like another family for me. I work hard hoping that my efforts are benefiting other girls like me in one way or another. I love hearing success stories and how Trócaire’s work is changing lives out there.”
“I would like to thank the people of Ireland for their generosity to Trócaire’s work. Your support saves and changes lives, I am the proof. Your support is a lifeline to millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. I was so blessed to have your support, it is something I will never take for granted.”
Caoimhe de Barra, Trócaire CEO, said that Josiane and her family is just one example of how the generous support from Irish people is having a massive impact on those in the developing world.
“Since Trόcaire was set up 50 years ago in 1973, Irish people have been unstinting in their support of the work we do and the difference that support has made cannot be underestimated. The number of lives not just changed but, in many cases, saved is huge.”
“We work in countries that are most at risk of conflict, climate change and poverty, and the work we do is as important now as it was when Trόcaire was set up. We will continue to support and work with those who are most vulnerable both to develop long-term solutions to the challenges they face and in times of crisis.”
This year’s Lenten Appeal is focusing on Somalia, where repeated failed rains have led to almost eight million people – almost half of Somalia’s population – struggling to find food.
“Millions of people are facing starving to death. This is a shocking scandal,” said Caoimhe de Barra.
This year’s Trócaire Box will tell the story of one Somali family who are struggling to survive. Ambiyo, her husband Mahat, and their eight young children are among hundreds of thousands of Somalis forced to flee their homes due to a fourth consecutive year of drought which has ravaged the country.
After their crops failed and the last of their goats died their only option was to leave or stay and face starvation and death. After walking for three days, they arrived at a camp for displaced people with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Ambiyo was pregnant when she arrived at the camp and when she was giving birth, she experienced serious complications. She was taken to the nearby health centre run by Trόcaire where she and the baby received life-saving treatment. Trócaire runs all of the health services in the Gedo district of Somalia. In recent months the number of young children presenting with malnutrition has trebled, and there is growing pressure on the services.
“This is the work that the generosity of the Irish people supports,” said Caoimhe de Barra.
“Our work in Somalia and other countries around the world is absolutely vital and I would ask people to support the Lenten Appeal in this 50th anniversary year so that we can continue supporting Ambiyo and millions of others like her.”