Rwanda: A returnee family rebuilds life with a sewing machine
“We are grateful that the working environment is peaceful. Our family have regained a positive outlook at life again and we hope for a brighter future.” – Joel
Joel, his wife and seven children returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where they have been refugees for more than twenty-three years. Joel fled Rwanda after the Genocide against the Tutsi at the age of 16 years old, and found refuge in the DRC forests.
When Joel and his family arrived in Rwanda in February 2017, they received a cash incentive through a cash-based assistance programme which aims to help Rwandan returnees meet their needs in dignity, facilitate their reintegration in the Rwandan society and become more resilient by engaging themselves in income-generating activities. He finds the cash assistance as a dignified way of feeling welcomed home again. “The cash assistance received was a better way of celebrating the return to my country with lots of opportunities to start over my life. It helped me to meet people and feel how good it was being home again,” he said.
“When we arrived in Rwanda, it was not easy to get a job and I needed to think about the future of my children. The cash received from UNHCR gave an opportunity for me and my wife to become entrepreneurs and start a small business of sewing in our area,” said Joel.
The returned family started a sewing business with only one sewing machine and it difficult for them to make enough money to cover all their needs, as they were earning only two thousand Rwandan francs a day (almost USD 2.5 per day). Joel and his wife started a new approach of working in shifts to make enough money to buy a second sewing machine and earn additional money.
“When we started, it was not easy. I said to my wife: We need to work hard and with perseverance so that we buy a second sewing machine and make enough money for our family. After few months of hard work, we met our target,” he said.
“Rebuilding Life and Dream Big!”
“No dream is ever too big – Our target is to move our workshop to a bigger center and expand our activities,” Joel said.
Joel and his wife make up twenty thousand Rwandan francs monthly saving. With the income generated, they have been able to extend their home and pay school fees for six children and support vocational training to their elder son learning the use of advanced tailoring machines.
“Me and my wife are making enough money for our family but we aim more achievements. Children are studying, we were able to renovate our home and pay our health insurance,” Joel said.
“We are grateful that the working environment is peaceful. Our family have regained a positive outlook at life again and we hope for a brighter future,” he added.
Innocent Urayeneza contributed reporting from Cyangugu, Rwanda