As transformation took place in the hearts of those in Nyamagabe, practical rebuilding did, too — including a new home for Callixte’s family.
Andrew and Madrine began to hear messages of reconciliation as they worked on World Vision-supervised projects, including terracing hillsides to aid farming and rebuilding the school that was used to house Tutsis before they were killed.
Andrew reels off a long list of World Vision’s support: “They rehabilitated houses that had been destroyed. They provided shelter to survivors whose houses had been completely destroyed. They provided clothes. They provided food for people who hadn’t been able to harvest for three months.”
Callixte had gone to prison in 1995, leaving his wife, Marcella, and two young children. “I struggled,” she says. “It was unbelievable. It was the first time I’d even been alone with children to care for. They all looked at me for support, and I didn’t know what to do.”
In 2000, World Vision began the Nyamagabe development project, supported by U.S. sponsors. (Today, U.S. supporters sponsor more than 26,000 children in Rwanda.) Sponsorship funds continued the important work of healing the psychological wounds left by the genocide. The funding also provided projects to rebuild Nyamagabe—education, water, sanitation and health, economic development, and peacebuilding.
Community volunteers were needed to watch over sponsored children, reporting any health issues and making sure they are going to school. Among those who volunteered: Madrine and Marcella. They still avoided each other. Callixte remained in prison, and Andrew still resented the family.
But in spite of life’s hardships, Marcella wanted to give back. World Vision had built her a house, provided school fees and books for the boys, and opportunities for her to work. “Knowing that World Vision was supporting my children, I stood up,” she says. “I wanted to support other children in my village.”
Both Madrine and Marcella were picked as community volunteers. “[Madrine] didn’t blame me,” says Marcella. “She didn’t look at me with the bad eye. But the hatred between our husbands kept us apart.”
The gulf between the couples kept their children apart as well. Many of the children were of the same age and wanted to be friends. Andrew’s son, Manuel, remembers this troubling time. “We were forced to keep a distance,” he says. “They wouldn’t let us mix. But we wanted to play with everyone.”
Working together on projects, focusing on sponsored children, and learning about peace and forgiveness melted both women’s hearts. “At first I hated her because of what her husband did,” says Madrine of Marcella. “After training and listening in church, I came back to my senses.”
Madrine began to take food to Marcella. She took on a maternal role with the younger woman, healing through helping.