“I used to spend all day in my house alone. I was very lonely and talked to no one, and no one talked to me,” says Siforo. “Now because of ADRA, I am part of a community. Everything is different now.”
Through a project that ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) began in the western mountains of Karongi, widows, who were the victims of the Rwandan genocide, have been given a brighter future. The genocide brought widowhood to 500,000 women, many of whom moved to remote rural areas. ADRA was the only organization to answer the pleas of the Rwandan government to work in this nearly impossible-toreach mountaintop village.
The first step ADRA took was to empower women in the village by teaching them how to read and write. At the end of the training, women were asked to identify the widows in their communities and then visited the widows to see which of them may be interested in starting their own businesses.
“I have been a widow for 17 years raising my four children. There was no one to help me,” says Siforo. “First, ADRA taught me to read and write. Now I am teaching other women to learn too!” With local ADRA workers, these communities of widows formed cooperatives (co-ops) to work together— planting vegetables and herding goats.
In farming communities, not only are crops valuable, but livestock as well. Goats, sheep, and cattle often provide milk, meat, and skin for household use and, if there is excess, the families can take them to the market for additional income.
“ADRA also helped us to build a goat house! And because of this, our cooperative really began to see hope and a future,” adds Siforo, who was selected by her peers to be the local coop president. Through the assistance from ADRA, the co-ops were taken to the market where, together, the women selected those goats they wished to be part of their livestock.
“We are one of 15 widow cooperatives in this area,” says Rachel. “ADRA taught us how to read and write, they helped us buy our goats, they taught us how to make our own organic compost for our vegetable gardens, and they taught us the right way to sell our produce and goat milk so we have money for our families.”
The co-ops have repaid their goat loans and have continued to add to their goat farm. “We have decided to improve our stock and, when it is time to sell the older goats, we will have money for our families and communities.” Because of this project, the widows are able to obtain health care for their families and education for their children. The women also continue to pass on the blessings to other women by serving as teachers and helping to set up other co-ops in the surrounding communities.
“This is our way to repay our thanks to ADRA—We show our gratitude to our fellow widows,” says Siforo. “We believe that ADRA was our miracle sent by God, and it is the reason our lives are better.”
To learn more about the many ways ADRA is positively affecting lives and communities around the world, visit www.adra.org.