Even in Canada, a mother with nine children would likely struggle to feed them all. In Rubare village, Rwanda, 40-year-old Gaudance and her husband were desperate about theirs, aged 5 to 22. “Because I could not feed my children I thought they would die,” Gaudance frankly admitted.
What could she do? There was no almost employment available. The one daughter old enough to help simply couldn’t find work. Her husband, a casual labourer, rarely fared better. With the national unemployment rate at 16.7% in 2017*, it was clear that they would need to generate income themselves. With just four of her nine kids in school, housewife Gaudance had almost no spare time but mended and weaved baskets which she’d sell. But each one earned her just 300 Rwandan francs (44¢ CDN) — a drop in the basket.
Their circumstances weren’t an issue of resources or drive, but education. She needed training to make the farm work more efficiently. “I had everything but, because I was ignorant, I could not do it.” The family was poor but one of her twins, the couple’s youngest, was significantly malnourished. She worried chronically.
Then the EMBRACE project came to her community. EMBRACE is a four-year project funded by the Government of Canada to improve the lives of approximately 100,000 people in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Rwanda, especially women and children. The program trains community volunteers in better nutrition, healthcare and household agriculture and more. The program is facilitated by ADRA, a Canadian charity, part of a global network of offices working to alleviate poverty.
The ADRA volunteers taught Gaudance the skills she needed to maximize what she had, plus basic but vital skills for better health. Simple things like washing hands after using the latrine and using an energy-saving cooking stove that doesn’t allow smoke to affect her health … plus more complicated lessons in financial planning, including how to save money individually and as a group … sensitive lessons like birth spacing — before EMBRACE, she was pregnant every year. Suddenly, everything changed. “When they started to give us this training I realized that nothing was hard.”
Gaudance learned about good nutrition and how to farm. EMBRACE provided a cow, which has already produced a calf. She is able to use the cow’s dung as fertilizer for her garden vegetables.
Today, she plans crops months in advance and feeds her children nutritious meals every day. “The balanced diet they taught us, it was all the food we had in our homes, but we did not know how to prepare them, our children were malnourished.” Pooling savings with others in the village, she’s managed to buy goats. She even shares her produce — beans, beets, spinach, onions, pumpkins, cabbages and more — with her neighbours.
Better still, she shares her knowledge. Perhaps best of all, ADRA showed Gaudance that she could be a leader in the community. Now Gaudance instructs others in her village. Three of her neighbours have already adopted the farming techniques she teaches.
So, when the funding for EMBRACE is finished after 2020, Gaudance and the people of Rubare will continue to benefit. “I thank God for sending ADRA to us; for giving them such caring hearts so that they can improve our minds.”