Recently we received this news from George, our Rwandan administrator at Hope Vocational Training Center: "Dear all, I would like to inform you that last month, Theophile, one of our carpentry students lost his dad and this past Sunday, many people gathered at his home for mourning with his family."
Life in Rwanda, especially in the rural areas, can be very difficult. In addition, trauma from the horrific Genocide has left deep scars. The brutality of the 100 days of killing in the spring of 1994 has left a generation of survivors with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The aftereffects of the Genocide have not only left the nation devastated by poverty and cultural and family disruption, but for some, a legacy of disease, including AIDS, and the daily struggle of being a survivor of severe physical wounds. These victims are the mothers and fathers of our students.
The news continues, "Some of our students and staff went there to be with Theophile and his family. Our students traveled a great distance from our school. When they arrived, they helped to do the cooking for the gathering and prepare for the burial. We had more than 15 students and staff accompany Theo home and spend a few days with the family."
It is the custom in Rwanda that when a death occurs, the family announces the passing in the neighborhoods and communities nearby. Usually, the burial is done the next day and on the property of the deceased where family, friends, and some from the community have gathered. It is expected that friends of the family come for the mourning period and continue their support well after the burial.
Life on our campus, like any other campus, finds students working hard to learn their chosen vocation and skills necessary to success in their craft after graduation. But on our campus they experience, perhaps to a greater degree, the hardships of poverty and the strain of staying in the vocational program when the daily needs of their family are so great. Many, if not most, live in a one parent family. Some of our students have no living parents and survive because siblings are willing to eke out a subsistence that provides only for the most basic needs. When something catastrophic occurs in their family—like the death of a parent or sibling—everything stops for the student and frequently they must drop out of their vocational training program. Our fellow students and staff, knowing these difficulties only too well, respond with support and care. The HVTC family maintains a closeness because of their common understanding of the realities of life in this nation with such a difficult past.
For Theophile, lossing his father will bring great challenges. As of this writing, we don't know if Theo will be able to continue pursuing his dream of becoming a carpenter. What we are so grateful for is a family of students, instructors, and staff who will offer him genuine support in the days ahead.