Every night, 13-year-old Emmanuel cried himself to sleep. His parents had died of AIDS, and he was left to care for his young siblings. When the Rwandan government stepped in and separated the siblings, Emmanuel’s dream of keeping the family together was shattered.
Child-led households are common in Rwanda where HIV&AIDS infections and the effects of staggering poverty often claim the lives of both mother and father. Frequently the eldest sibling, in an effort to keep the family together, takes on the roles of both father and mother, along with sister or brother. This was Emmanuel’s burden.
Despite his steely resolve, Emmanuel lacked both the financial and emotional resources to keep his family from drowning in a sea of poverty. Worried about their squalid conditions and the dilapidated home, government officials eventually separated the family. As each member was transported to a different orphanage, Emmanuel’s heart broke. The tears dripping from his eyes stung with the overpowering sense of failure, still he promised himself that one day they would be reunited.
The Rwandan government is working closely with local churches to empty all orphanages across the country, and place all of the children with families of their own. Part of that process is locating biological family members and connecting them with these children. The results can be nothing short of miraculous. Through the transforming power of Saddleback’s Sponsorship Program, hope has returned to Emmanuel’s heart.
The government searched for a home for Emmanuel’s siblings, and when they found Emmanuel, now grown with a wife and child of his own, he was ecstatic at the chance to bring his brother and sister back home.
Today, Emmanuel earns a meager wage and lives in a mud brick home in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali. With Saddleback’s scholarship, the children receive basic necessities, medical insurance and school tuition. But with Emmanuel’s love, they are thriving.