Updated: Apr 24, 2020
It is 7pm in Gikondo, Rwanda and the small café run by Burundian refugees is very busy. Two dozen people are seated in groups, chatting together. They seem to know one another, and they say hi as they pass one another. This evening, four people are serving. Isabelle is at the counter and she receives money as the men bring their orders and take the drinks and the brochette (pieces of meat roasted on a stick). The ambiance is relaxed.
The cafe employee team
But there is something that you would not notice. The café has a back room where refugees can sleep if they have been evicted from their housing, or if they need to come to Kigali for some administrative process. Refugees know that here is a place they can have food and shelter. Someone will greet them at the door and ask them about their situation. That back room, with two mattresses, regularly has five people sleeping in it.
This café, supported in part by Spirit in Action and run by Burundian refugees who have settled in Rwanda, is not really looking for profit. It is there to ensure that employees have a regular income to support their families and to provide a place for other refugees to feel welcome. It is a place for those new refugees to get basic things and, more importantly, to experience human warmth and compassion.
The Philosophy of Ubuntu at work
There is more to the story. As I travelled from Kigali to Gisenyi this summer, I met two people I had not seen in years. Mutore Chantal and Nshimirimana Dieudonné found themselves in the town of Ruhengeri as a result of the 2015 unrest in Burundi. They are a young couple with two children, their second baby born in exile. They are both university graduates, but it is hard to get a job in Rwanda. Chantal is selling children’s clothes and she manages to feed the family and save some money for rent.
Chantal, who fled Burundi to Rwanda, received a grant from the refugee community to expand her clothing shop.
What is the connection with SIA, you ask? When I got back to Kigali after seeing these friends, I told Elvis and his café team about them. One of the café employees suggested that they give some money to the couple so that Chantal can expand her business. The group unanimously and spontaneously decided to give the couple 50,000Frw, which is about $55 USD.
This is Sharing the Gift and it is the Philosophy of Ubuntu at work. Ubantu is the concept of, “I am because you are.” Our lives are all interconnected, as this story shows. The world is a better place because a SIA grantee understands that there is a responsibility that goes with receiving funding. The funding is like planting a seed of hope and the seed keeps growing and expanding.
Rev. Fulgence (pictured centre) is a minister in Saskatoon, Canada.