Last month the TUMC Rwanda team met Charlotte and was privileged to hear her story. Charlotte’s mother died when she was just five years old, leaving her alone to care for an infant brother. Despite their vulnerability to illness and exploitation, she kept her family together for twelve years, adding a daughter of her own, and they survived by begging for food and living under bridges. There was no time to dream when day-to-day life was a nightmare.
Charlotte met ZOE
ZOE’s intentional three year program of community building, asset mapping, business training, and micro lending begins with one question: what do you dream of? “ZOE became like a mother to me,” Charlotte said, “a mother who taught me how to make a better life.”
Over the last two years, Charlotte has worked hard to grow and sell vegetables. She’s sharing what she’s learned about sustainable business practices with her brother, and together, they live in a their own home where they take care of Charlotte’s daughter—and the family cow! Charlotte said, “Each time I achieve one dream, I add another.”
What will she dream of next?
Charlotte is sharing ZOE with others. Last year, she adopted an eight-year-old orphan living in her village. Charlotte welcomed this child into her home because she knows what it is like to be a vulnerable child, trying to survive without the means or skills or advocates to help. She opened her home and family to this young boy because she knows now how to make a safe place for him to dream, too.
Another member of Charlotte’s ZOE empowerment group, Selamani, initially dropped out of the empowerment group—a rare ZOE occurrence. But Selamani said that the first few months, when ZOE focuses on empowerment instead of relieving immediate needs, were difficult. Like Charlotte, Selamani had not ever had a permanent home or even regular daily meals. He wondered, “How can I eat dreams?”
Once she began to realize the benefits of ZOE’s three year program, Charlotte sought out Selamani. She convinced him that the time and effort were not wasted. Charlotte went to their group meeting with a plan. She knew that Selamani, whose life before ZOE was particularly desperate, needed help and encouragement. Together, the empowerment group helped to build Selamani a house using group funds and their own spare time. Now, Selamani lives down the road from Charlotte in a new house with a sanitary toilet and room for the rabbits he raises and sells. Because of ZOE and Charlotte, he is eating—and dreaming.