This post was originally titled Peace and Freedom, because I got Frida’s name wrong. Across a crowded dinner table, in a noisy room, spoken with that beautiful Rwandan accent, it was easy to mistake “Frida” for “Freedom.” I was at a dinner in Rwanda hosted by ANLM (Africa New Life Ministries), where I would hear the stories of young men and women who had been sponsored when they were younger. My co-author, Rebeka, is a sponsored student. I know sponsorship makes a huge difference in a child’s life, and I couldn’t wait to hear more inspiring stories.
Honestly, the writer in me was disappointed to discover Frida’s real name wasn’t Freedom. Freedom would have been perfect for a Fourth of July post! And not only is the fourth a celebration of independence in the US, this year the fourth also marks Liberation Day in Rwanda, the 25th anniversary of liberation from the genocide against the Tutsi minority in 1994. There is much to celebrate in both America and Rwanda. Like Frida.
At dinner, she was wearing glasses like me. She was quick-witted with excellent English, obviously intelligent and probably mischievous. Frida works as a pharmacist now, and her hope is to someday go back to school to become a therapist. She also expressed an interest in writing. We were kindred spirits, two bespectacled women across the table, talking fast and sharing stories. Her younger sister sat to my left.
Peace. Wearing dangling gold earrings and a black leather jacket, she works as a lab technician at the new Dream Center Hospital. As we ate she jotted in her journal, notes to herself about the story she would share after dinner. Peace and Freedom lost their father a few months before Peace was born. Their mother died shortly after Peace’s birth, and so it was just the six children, alone. Peace’s eyes filled with tears as she told us about those hard times. With no family to support them, the older siblings looked out for the younger ones to find food and try to provide. School was an expense they couldn’t afford.
When both Peace and Frida got sponsors for their schooling, the trajectory of their lives changed. They were not only allowed, but encouraged, to dream about their futures. They were able to graduate from high school and attend college. Now they are changing their world for others as they both work in the medical profession. It was a joy and a privilege to hear Peace and Frida’s story, and others who gathered that night. ANLM hopes to encourage many more people to sponsor children through this campaign. You can read more stories like Peace and Frida’s here.
Children like Gatesi Queen are one of many awaiting sponsorship so she can make it through high school, and beyond.
For my recent trip to Rwanda, I came to film Rebeka so I can create a video to share with people once our book releases. I left with so much more than footage. Peace and Frida’s stories were an unexpected gift, two more bridges across the ocean. Our stories connect us. My hope and prayer is that HER OWN TWO FEET: A RWANDAN GIRL’S BRAVE FIGHT TO WALK will be yet another bridge for many readers to connect with Rwanda. Student sponsorship is another way that can happen. Letters and pictures will be sent back and forth as you get to know your child, and a new story begins.
Happy Peace and Freedom Frida Day to you!