Nine-year-old Vestina Mukeshimana has endured much loss and change. Her brother and father died in the mid-1990s and in 2003 her mom passed away. Still, she has found joy through Compassion sponsorship.
If it's true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, then Vestina Mukeshimana's soul must be singing. This precocious young girl's eyes literally sparkle. But it hasn't always been the case.
Vestina was born in a northwest Rwandan farming community within Kibuye province, near Lake Kivu. The previous year, in 1994, the country experienced a genocide that claimed almost one million lives, including Vestina's oldest brother. Soon after the war, her father passed away.
Fortunately, Vestina found sponsorship in Compassion Rwanda's child development program. Participation in the program provides a safe haven for her and thousands of Rwandan children experiencing loss after the genocide.
The Influence of Compassion
In 2001, Vestina registered at Rubengera Student Center (RW-536). Compassion met many needs for Vestina, as for all children in the program. Her school fees were paid, she received soap, body lotion, even medical treatment and, occasionally, extra food.
The program also brought light into Vestina's world. "I like to write, play with the other children and even sweep," Vestina said about her experience at the student center. "I have a friend called Beatrice and we play ball together."
Shortly after connecting with the student center, the family learned that a sponsor had been found for Vestina. "When I heard that you chose me from the other children," she wrote to her sponsor, "I felt it was like a dream."
The Shadow of Death
In 2002, another of Vestina's brothers died and her remaining brother soon left Kibuye. Without family in the area, the Mukeshimanas relocated to northeast Rwanda and Vestina transferred to the Rwagitima Student Center (RW-433) and continued in the program.
Tragedy Soon Struck Again
"I am very sad to tell you that my mother died on January 10," Vestina wrote to her sponsor in 2003. "I need your prayers." She then moved to a group home. Fortunately, sponsorship allows project staff to care for thousands of children like Vestina, orphaned by war or disease.
The Resilience of Children
Enduring so much sadness, Vestina still is making remarkable progress. "I am doing well," she wrote her sponsor. "I have started learning Bible verses and stories. I have drawn a picture for you. It is of myself, you and (my best friend) Ivona." The colorful drawing is captioned with the only phrase Vestina can write and pronounce in English: "I love you." Those three words indicate her spirit is healing and through sponsorship, she is learning the language of God's love.
RWANDA AT A GLANCE
Languages: Kinyarwanda (official), Bantu, French and English
Life Expectancy: Male: 38.5 years, Female: 40.2 years
People Living with HIV/AIDS: 500,000
GDP per Capita: $1,200
Population Below Poverty Line: 60%
Number of Compassion Projects: 131
Number of Children Enrolled: 34,000
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