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We first met Josiane Umumarashavu 12 years ago. She was 12 years old and living in a village in southern Rwanda.
During Lent in 2004, Josiane appeared in homes and schools all over Ireland when her photograph adorned the front of the Trócaire box.
Josiane’s father, sister and two of her brothers were killed during the genocide. Josiane’s mother and two other brothers survived but in 2004 they were struggling to make ends meet, living off a small piece of land and constantly facing the threat of hunger.
Eleven years after appearing on the Trócaire box, Josiane graduated from university in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2015.
Last summer, Josiane sent Trócaire’s Executive Director, Éamonn Meehan, this excited email, and attached her graduation photos below:
“I really appreciate what Trócaire has done for me. I finished my bachelor degree in business management, specialized in accounting. Now I’m a graduate!”
Caption: (l) Josiane and her mother with her Certificate of Graduation, (r) Josiane’s official Graduation Photograph.
We last met Josiane in Rwanda two years ago, and she described for us how the 2004 Trócaire Lent campaign changed her life forever.
“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.
“When I look at the photograph now I think of all the progress I have made. I was in primary school back then but Trócaire helped me to pursue my studies and I feel very proud that I am now in university.
“It was amazing to think that people from a different country were interested in my family.”
Caption: Josiane in 2014, looking back at herself on the Trócaire box ,10 years on.
The generosity of Trócaire supporters in 2004 helped to provide families such as Josiane’s with the farming equipment they needed to improve food production. Trócaire has been working in Rwanda since 1994, supporting families in the poorest region of the country.
However, the support of people in Ireland did not end with the Lent campaign. Trócaire supporters in Ireland continued to help Josiane and her family long after that campaign had finished. By paying her school fees and helping to buy books and other materials, Josiane was able to finish her schooling.
She had always dreamt of going to university but she knew that her family was not able to afford the fees and the cost of sending her to Kigali. Josiane did not think she would ever be able to continue her education but Trócaire offered to pay her university fees and she was proud to study for her degree in business management.
“I enjoyed school and I always wanted to go to university but I did not know how I would be able to,” she said. “My dream has come true. I hope to one day be able to travel to Ireland to say thank you to the people there who made this possible.”
Find out more about how you can join the fight for justice: Lent 2016.