The first meeting between Jennie and Don of New Dawn Association and Paul Ntayomba, a young Rwandan pastor, took place in England in September 2009. Over the period of several months that we got to know him, he shared with us about his heart for the impoverished people of his community near Butare (now Huye), in a country which has unfortunately suffered repeatedly from a vicious cycle of wars and also drought. Pastor Paul and his wife Annet, have a small church community on the outskirts of Butare, which is populated by a number of needy young and single mothers and heads of households, many of whom have been victims of genocide and sexual abuse. Due to their current financial situation of extreme poverty, most of these women are very vulnerable to further sexual exploitation, for although the city is home to several important academic institutions, a large portion of the local population lives under extreme poverty.
In January 2011, sponsored by NDA, Paul travelled to Kenya, Kisumu to attend a “Community Empowerment” seminar jointly hosted by New Dawn Association (NDA) and Nancy Okoth, leader of the “Arise and Shine” Orphanage and Community project in Kisumu. Following this, New Dawn Association donated a sum of money to enable Paul to establish three empowerment groups, totalling thirty women, in his home community.
At the beginning of 2012, New Dawn Association was able to donate another sum of money to initiate a small weekly feeding and necessities program for the poorest and most needy people in his community. This program has had a life-changing impact upon the community. We are happy to say that it has been possible to extend this program and it is still running on a weekly basis.
A small ”School Fund” was also successfully initiated at the end of 2012.
These modest actions have already brought big changes to the lives of needy children and adults in this community. Pastor Paul writes- “Thanks for the support that continues to make these tremendous and fabulous changes to the lives of our extremely needy women, children and old men.” He also wrote, “Elderly people who were ashamed to come to church have now received new clothing; children unable to attend school because they lacked certain things are now receiving pens, exercise books, and certain school clothes. This is such a beautiful action going on in our community because so many people can lose hope...”
In February 2015 we made our first trip to Rwanda and were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and dedication of Pastor Paul, his wife Annet and his team of delightful helpers. On our first day when we were able to attend and help serve the Saturday meal, we were able to witness for ourselves, first hand, the dramatic and amazing impact this small program is having on the community as they gather together, on a weekly basis, to share a good meal. For many, it is the only time they will get to eat meat. Not only is food prepared and shared but food- bags are prepared to be taken home to assist the neediest families. These weekly meetings are also such rich times of fellowship and comfort to many people.
Although this community is situated quite close to a thriving university, we were shocked by the level of poverty we encountered. We were moved by the plight of a lady called Alphonsine who lives in a very basic dwelling with her six young children. Alphonsine and her children all slept on the bare dirt floor. New Dawn has now provided this family with beds, mattresses, and bed linen. Alphonsine’s wayward husband is reputed to be a drunkard and a drug addict. However, we have since learnt that because of this unprecedented kindness shown to his family, there are positive signs that he is trying to reform.
We also met another family whose son, Andrew, had been sent home from High School because they could not pay his school fees and his mother told us that he was about to leave home to become a “street-boy”. With a donation given to us just before we left France, we were able to pay the 2015 High School fees for this boy, enabling him to return to school. We have since, received his school reports every term, and after a short catching- up period, he seems to have settled into his studies very well.
In the future, we hope to be able to help other needy children to attend school, in this community. We were also able to provide medical enrolment cards for 42 very poor people of the community, without which they would not be able to receive free, state medical treatment and because of this, in some cases are left to die. We became aware of this area of need during a visit to the local hospital.
2015 Receiving medical enrolment cards
These things may seem very small, but we know that such actions can radically change people’s lives, and bring new hope to people in desperate situations.
With the desire to continue to encourage Paul, Annet and their team, in their tireless work in their community, we asked Pastor Paul to share with us his areas of greatest need and how New Dawn Association could further help his community. He suggested that the setting up of Nursery School (kindergarten) would meet the most pressing need, offering many side benefits to the poorest families.
Following our return home, our board agreed to launch the “NEW HOPE NURSERY SCHOOL” in January 2016, which will be set up in the Life Transformation Church, Butare, Rwanda. The initial three-year project will be for 20 children from very poor backgrounds who otherwise would almost certainly not be able to go to school. Many of these small children are suffering from a high-protein deficiency, due to a very poor diet, so a daily provision of sugared milk-tea, porridge and bread has also been built into the school budget.
New Dawn will provide the financial resources to fund the setting up of the project and the running costs for 2016.