Janvier and Sandrine Iyakaremye are incredibly resilient – they have already been through so much.
At one point Janvier had lost everything – their house had collapsed due to heavy rains, and his wife Sandrine left him. Yet life improved greatly when a Trócaire project provided Janvier with a new home and helped reunite him with his family.
However, crisis has hit the family again as COVID-19 has arrived in their community. Both Janvier and Sandrine have lost their jobs due to lockdown. With their food running out, they began to skip meals in order to keep the children fed.
“We started hating ourselves and our children were complaining to us about food” says Janvier. “My wife and I felt no hope for the days to come.”
Thankfully, hope has returned again to the family now due to food supplies being provided by Trócaire’s local partner organisation, Kibungo Justice and Peace Commission (CDJP).
CRUSHING POVERTY AND CONFLICT IN THE HOME
Janvier lives in Kirehe district in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. He is 30 years old, and is married with 2 girls aged 10 and 7 years old.
“I was poor to an extent that when our grass thatched house we were living in with my wife and children collapsed due to heavy rains, I could not immediately repair it” says Janvier, speaking solemnly about some of the most difficult times in his life.
When the house collapsed, conflict started between Janvier and his wife. “She said to me – what type of man am I if I can’t get the means to repair my house” he explains. She could not bear the conditions and eventually she left Janvier. He had to move in with a neighbour.
One year later, one of Trócaire local partners, Kibungo Justice and Peace Commission (CDJP) came to support Janvier and helped to turn his life around. They provided iron sheets to build a new house.
Janvier also attended a ‘Gender Action Learning System’ training. Soon he was reunited with his wife and she returned to live in the new home together.
“Life improved and we started feeling relieved of the suffering we once went through” says Janvier.
“THE TWO OF US WOULD SLEEP HUNGRY”
For the last four years, Janvier and his wife have been living happily. They both found work in a nearby local bar. Janvier works as a waiter, and Sandrine cooks food.
However, hard times have returned to the family since the arrival of COVID-19 in Rwanda.
“We were unfortunately heavily affected by Covid-19 because bars and other businesses were closed” says Janvier.
Without any income, they were unable to buy food for the family. They had to ration out their supplies – eating porridge at 10am and having nothing to eat again until the next morning. Some days they ate nothing at all, and eventually Janvier and Sandrine stopped eating completely, so that at least they could provide something for the children.
“The little we could get was reserved for children and the two of us would sleep hungry” said Janvier.
The story of Janvier is not unique. Covid-19 has adversely impacted thousands of households in Rwanda, with those at the bottom of the pyramid most impacted.
The impact has been varied, from lost lost jobs, lost school time for young girls and boys and an increase in gender based violence in some cases.