Albert’s biological parents, both mother and father were killed in the genocide. He has four siblings, plus another six half siblings, all older. His middle sister just had twins. We just left the hospital where we met her with her husband, babies and mother-in-law. Her babies are a boy and a girl, weighing in at 4.5 lbs each, delivered by c/section. We have walked over cobbled rutted alleyways to this place on the Congo border. Albert is beaming at our visit. He shows us around after greetings. A bare cement house two room house abuts the main house, a bare kitchen and a bedroom. This is the house where his middle sister lives with her infant of one year. She has no job, having dropped out of nursing school to care for her infant. Next to this, another house, unfinished doorway, rough floor, curtain for the front door, in which lives a man with his son. The income from this modest two room house, about $22 per month, helps to support his sister, for whom Albert, himself a student and unemployed, feels some responsibility as the oldest male member of the family.
The significance of this house can’t be understated. That it is livable at all is a story of illogical and improbable odds. Shelley advertised the Music on the Menu event at our house in early 2012. An English teacher from Kettle Falls was teaching about genocides and asked Shelley to speak to her class. Shelley invited a young Rwandan, Albert, to speak directly to the class in Kettle Falls via Skype. The Kettle Falls class chose as its service project raising money to repair Albert’s house on the Congo border. We are seeing the results of that gift of kindness given by some teenage kids in northeast Washington trying to understand genocide, touched by one life story of how it feels to be orphaned and transition to adulthood in post-genocide Rwanda.
Today, that teacher from Kettle Falls saw Shelley’s post and remembered Albert’s story. Shelley will send a picture of Albert in a yellow painted sitting room, with two of his sisters a couple of the children and an American woman from Colville with a big smile on her face as evidence that their high school project to change the world is paying off. Albert’s house creates stability, gives roots, provides for family. One act of kindness changes the world.
One the way back from Gisenyi on the north shore of Lake Kivu where Albert’s house is located, Albert and I talk about hour homeless project in Colville. He is very interested. He sees how addressing homelessness changes things, gives families hope and a future. He should know. A class of teenage kids from Kettle Falls opened that door for him.