Below, I’ve transcribed an interview with Beatha, a middle-aged woman, who lives in Kigali. Beatha is a client of HOPE International’s micro-finance partner, Urwego Opportunity Bank. Although Beathe’s story of struggle in the wake of the genocide is heart-wrenching, today, Beatha is a successful businesswoman. She praises God for his help.
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I was once a woman who was happily married, but I became a widow because of the history of this country.
In 1994, the plan to finish off the Tutsis arrived. The genocide took place when I was 28 and had five children. My whole family was killed. The family I had married into was killed except for a very few, who fled outside Rwanda. Among my five children, two died during the genocide. My husband also died. Three survived because we had separated them and sent them to different places. They were still children when we sent them away; the oldest was seven years old.
It’s not an easy story to tell. When I think back, I don’t think humans did those things. They were animal acts.
When they came to kill us at our house, I had my youngest child, who was one year old, on my back. Traditionally, we carry our children on our back. I had the other one by the hand. When the first man shot my husband, I grabbed him. Then I was young, and I was very strong. I held him very tight. My baby was also very tight on me. I could feel it. But I had to let go of the smaller child whose hand I was holding.
They came and started stabbing me with spears in my back. Some of the spears were going through my child into me. I was losing blood, losing strength, and I had to let go of the man who had shot my husband. I, too, was shot and fell down with the baby still on my back. The baby had already died.
I can’t tell you as I wish to tell you, but I do know that when God doesn’t want you to leave your body, you will not leave your body.
The baby on my back was dead. The other child was also shot and killed. A friend who had been visiting our family was killed right there. But I was still alive and stayed in that house for four days. The dead body of my child was still on my back. In those four days, I survived from the blood of those who were killed around me. It pooled on the cement. Because my left hand had been shot, I used my right hand to grab the blood and eat it. I wasn’t hungry but I was very thirsty, and that was the nearest thing I could help myself with.
The dogs came and started eating dead people around me. Dogs were eating my baby on my back and licking my wounds. They ate his cheeks. Because his body was still covered with clothing, they couldn’t eat it, and when they sensed that I was still breathing, the dogs left me alone. The only thing I could do was to shake my legs.
I lived among the dead for those days.
How I was taken out of that situation is a long story and a scary one, but eventually the rebels, who were fighting the government at that time, came. First they removed the dead body from my back, which had already decomposed. They took whatever was left under the clothing. But because I thought they were the killers, I called out, “You did not finish me. Please come and finish me.”
I was taken from there. I became deaf. I couldn’t hear. For over a year, I couldn’t stand on my legs. I lived among the soldiers who were taking care of my wounds. And it wasn’t just me. We were many wounded there. Truthfully, it wasn’t human beings who helped us at the time. It was God. Even when I look back, I see it as impossible.
When God wants to heal, he heals.
Because the killers had destroyed my home, the army had to find a house to put me in. But even when my hearing came back, I did not desire to live. I wondered why I was left.
My children and I were finally reunited. When I saw them, it became a battle within me. I couldn’t provide for my children. I couldn’t lift myself up. And they were so young. In truth, they survived by eating from the garbage.
But I praise God that we have passed that stage.
I learned of UOB (Urwego Opportunity Bank) from women that used to visit me in my neighborhood. One woman came and told me, “We know you used to be a warrior woman. You have these kids, and there is an organization that is coming. They are loaning money – 15,000 (Rwandan) francs. Although the woman didn’t really believe that I could produce this amount, she forced me to take it. Even if I couldn’t pay it back, she would pay it on my behalf. She said, “I knew you before these problems. You are capable. Even if your body suffers, your mind does not.”
But I had wounds in my back, my sides, my bottom. Sitting was a challenge, even leaning back was difficult. They would have to seat me and surround me with pillows. The baby decomposing on my back had really affected me. But I had to ask: what could I do with this money? My hands were capable, although my back and sides were a challenge.
I saw yarn in my house. I started to wonder what I could do with that yarn. So I started to make something like this bag. It took a very long time. I also made small wallets. Then I had to educate my two older kids so that they could assist. I told them, “This is what God has put in my heart. I believe ahead of you. You are going to survive.”
God blessed my hands, even in that condition. I started looking and wondering what else I could do. I wondered if I could create something to be worn. After primary school, I had gone to vocational training. They encouraged us to know how to create jobs for ourselves. I learned sewing clothes. I also learned how to create things. I began sewing clothes.
I made more things. I knew I did not have the capacity to buy materials, so I looked around me and asked myself: what could I create from what I see?
There are many, many different things that I know how to create now. By doing these things, I was able to pay the 15,000 back to UOB. But truthfully it was from God because the woman who told me about the loan also helped me get my goods to the market. Because of my wounds, I could not do it. She would take something that I had finished and sell it on my behalf. She would tell others, “You have to buy this to help a woman feed her children.”
I paid back the loan in 4 months. Then I was encouraged to take another loan. From there, I took 20,000. To me that was a lot of money. Although I was sick at the time, my group trusted me. Our group was 40 members. I became their treasurer.
By using UOB’s money, I have come to see God.
At that time, my kids were no longer street kids. They were fed. I felt my own dignity by working with UOB. I became an example to the point that UOB’s leaders wanted to know me. That’s how I gained confidence, and my wounds were getting healed. God continued to work with me, and he truthfully showed me who I was. Today, I take individual loans, and I have never defaulted.
I really want to inform you that I am a warrior woman – some are surviving on the jobs that I have provided for them. Today I have a home. I have a place.
Help me to thank God.
(Beatha’s initial loan of 15,000 Rwandan francs is equivalent to $20 American dollars.)