Last sunday my friend Julia went to cover a story here in Kigali about a family of orphans who all connected after the genocide in 1994. She said I could tag along with her and help her translate because most of them only spoke french. I am really glad I got the chance to go with her because it sort of opened my eyes to the concept of family.
Julia’s friend Eric had explained to her that after the genocide so many kids had lost their parents. So they started to create families within their circle of friends. Julia asked to do a profile on Eric’s family.
So Eric met us at one of the local stadiums in town and neither Julia nor I had any idea about how this story was going to take shape. But he led us through the streets, up the hill and through paths around houses until we came to one little house where his friend/brother lived. At first there was only about two or three people hanging around the house. But people kept showing up. Julia and I got a chance to talk to a number of this people and we got a sense of what this was all about.
Basically, after the genocide many orphans were sent to live with uncles, friend’s parents, grandparents, anyone who could take them in. But for many of them this wasn’t really a sense of family. So in high school about seven of them, including Eric, decided to form their own support system, or their own family. They didn’t live together but they talked together, worked together, and helped each other out. And then the family began to grow. These kids would bring more people into the group as they found more people who needed support. And they even nominated a mother and father to hold them all together. Eric was the father of his group, although he was the same age as most of them.
Now Eric’s family includes about 35 people, all around the age of 20 to 30. And anyone who is in the area gets together once every two weeks. They go to each others houses, have sodas and talk about anything and everything. It was really amazing talking to the people because it gave me a whole new sense of family. Family isn’t necessarily someone who shares the same blood as you. Family also listens to you, gives you advice, helps you when you’re down, and cares for you.
It was incredible to see how all this people have shaped a new family and found that support, when most of us automatically come with it!