Pacifique is a Rwandan orphan who lived at JAM’s Fred Nkunda Life Centre. He remembers his ‘Red Bowl’ and was delighted to receive a new one to use for his breakfast bowl each day.
From the age of 10 and for a period of two years, Pacifique Mahirwe lived on the streets of Kigali, Rwanda after his aunt died. He would do odd jobs to survive and often shout at the foreign NGO employees working in the country after the 1994 genocide, ” Hey Mzungu, (white man) look at how bad my life is, please, help me?” He thought his cries would never be answered.
“One day, I decided to ask the ministry in charge of relocating orphans and street children to help me. I was tired of being hungry, and I wanted to go back to school,” he adds. His decision led him to the JAM Fred Nkunda Life Centre (FNLC). “The first thing I remember was how big the green gates were when I arrived. And when the gates opened, I saw children playing soccer and I knew life would be better,” he says with a smile of remembrance.
“At the FNLC, I was given a chance and Doreen Nkunda, the Manager believed in me. She told me about how Peter and Ann Pretorius, JAM’s Founders, cared deeply for children like me and how they built the centre to give orphans like me, an opportunity to help rebuild Rwanda.”
One evening, he began typing up notes for a friend about being an orphan. Soon he had 12 pages, which became a book, ‘Living with Sadness Makes your Enemy be Happy’ (sic). Doreen helped fund the initial 12 copies and after mailing one copy to the Ministry of Sports and Culture, he received funding to print 500 copies. Finally, he was on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a “superstar.”
The book changed everything for him; soon after this he won a scholarship to university and began appearing on radio shows. He also landed a prestigious job in data management at a hospital involved in HIV/Aids research. Still determined to achieve greater heights, he has continued to study and has published two more books. In 2014, he became the first public speaking professional in Rwanda to use puppets to express his message of hope to young children.
Pacifique is just one of thousands of youngsters whom JAM has helped through traumatic experiences and the toughness of being an orphan. JAM was able to offer him a home and help provide him with a chance and a future filled with opportunities.