A Heavy Load

A Heavy Load

By: Brandy Campbell, with Briton Kamugisha in Rwanda   |   Posted: February 25, 2009

A 10-Year-Old Takes on Adult Responsibilities at Home
While Ratifa's mother works, Ratifa takes care of the home
cleaning and cooking while she watches over her siblings.

Most 10-year-olds drag their feet in doing their few daily chores. They stuff their clothes under their beds and quickly set the dinner table before running outside to play. But children like Ratifa can't skip their chores to play with their friends. If Ratifa doesn't prepare dinner, nobody eats. If she doesn't draw water from the well, nobody drinks. If she doesn't do her chores, nobody will.

Wishing for a Different Life

Ratifa's mother, Malian, wishes her daughter's life were different. But as a widow (her husband died when Ratifa was 3), Malian has few options. She travels on a crowded bus to a nearby city every day to find work. Some days she sells tomatoes in the market. Every day is long, and by the time Malian arrives home she is too exhausted to prepare the family meal or clean the house. Ratifa understands more than most 10-year-olds would. "I love my mother," she says. "She always works very hard in bad conditions to help us live and grow."

Equipping for Life

Although Malian knew she couldn't relieve her daughter of these heavy burdens, she was determined to find some kind of help for her family. So when Ratifa was 5, Malian enrolled her in the Kamembe Student Center (RW-729). At the center, Ratifa could be a child for a few hours every afternoon. Nobody was depending on her to cook for them or take care of them.

She could run and play with her friends and eat a hot meal that she didn't have to prepare. Since joining Compassion, Ratifa says her life looks completely different. Of course she still helps care for her siblings and takes care of other things at home.

That reality cannot be changed overnight. But Compassion sponsorship has empowered Ratifa. Now she knows how to keep their home clean and prevent diseases from harming her family. She learned to boil their drinking water and to look out for dehydration in her siblings. 

And Malian is relieved that Ratifa has a sponsor someone who can provide food, clothing and an education. Someone who can provide the things Malian never could. Both Malian and Ratifa were surprised, however, at just what sponsorship would mean in their lives.

"I was told I would have a loving sponsor, but I did not know that person would also be a parent to me," says Ratifa. "I am amazed and so happy for my sponsor's support and prayers and love." Ratifa hopes that one day she will go to college and be able to provide for her family.

That she can keep her younger siblings from carrying the adult load that she carries. And through the support of Compassion and her sponsor, she knows that her dream is closer to a reality.

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