“I am a tangible example of impossible becoming possible.” – Olive from Rwanda

“My life has been a song that is spoken and a dance that is walked—this is probably the best way to describe my life.

I grew up in the highly political and war-torn country of Rwanda and I was deeply affected by the Rwandan genocide in 1994. As a result, I experienced a lack of access to quality health care for many years and we lived in extreme poverty, where getting enough to eat was a miracle and getting a meaningful education seemed like an unattainable dream.

I know what it feels like to have nothing. That we did not have food, clean water or a safe place to live has changed the course of my life. I lost many family members due to treatable illnesses such as coughs and flus, or minor injuries. I’ve lived in absolute squalor and I had to fight and struggle very hard to acquire basic education.

As a child I was raped, like many other girls in Africa. I was deeply traumatized. All these early childhood experiences left a deep impression on me.

They paved the way for my passion to be a social worker and help people and communities through difficult times, similar to the ones I’ve experienced. I have a desire to protect and be of service to vulnerable people, particularly young girls and women, so that they are safeguarded from harm and provided with the much needed emotional, social and economic support to improve their lives.

I want to dedicate my life to serving humanity by using my skills and knowledge to speak out for those who have no voice. I want to raise awareness about abuses, highlight inadequacies of the aid system and challenge the diversion of humanitarian aid for political interests.

With the assistance of charitable organizations, I studied Public Relations and Communications at the Mount Kenya University in Kigali. I’ve worked as a health coordinator at the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Rwanda. I helped people with hearing problems caused by explosions and shootings during the genocide. The Foundation provided access to free hearing aids which gave so many people a new lease of life. Just seeing the impact of my small contribution convinced me that I am on the right path.

Most recently, I have been volunteering at the Malezi community centre in one of the harshest slums in Nairobi. I am teaching and mentoring kids who were neglected and grew up in extreme poverty surrounded by crime. I want them to have a better future; a future all children deserve. To empower them and give them a chance to start a new life, I am running computer training. The project has more than 50 volunteers from 13 different countries.

The opportunity to attend the University of Alabama is a life changing moment for me which will open up so many opportunities. It will prepare me intellectually, emotionally and socially for a professional career in social work. This has been my lifelong dream. When I earn my Master’s in Social Work, I’ll be able to stand up for my country and speak up even more loudly. This is the part I look forward to the most: the ability to use my hard-earned knowledge, skills and experience for the betterment of humanity.”

27 year-old Olive Musoni from Rwanda is one of OFID’s 2017 scholars who will pursue her MA in Social Work at the University of Alabama, USA.

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