Using What You Have to Make a Difference
When Erica Matasi arrived in Rwanda from Burundi, her birth country, she felt a call from God on her heart. Every day, she would walk through the streets of Kinyinya, the community that welcomed her so dearly, and see the need. Houses falling apart after storms, leaving families vulnerable to the elements and more. Young children looking after their even younger siblings instead of being in school, sacrificing the education they so deeply deserve. God was opening Erica’s eyes to the need around her, and she knew she had to do something to help.
And so, the Love & Hands organization was born.
Erica opened up the veranda of her home and began teaching kids from underprivileged backgrounds how to read and write. Education had long been an issue in the community, with many children coming from families who didn’t understand the value of schooling. Without access to education, these kids were being denied opportunities for their future. With Love & Hands, Erica provided a place for kids to learn literacy, computer, and life skills. Twenty-five children began to visit and quickly learned the alphabet, how to write their name, and basic English vocabulary.
But Erica felt God calling her to do more. After participating in Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute, she began to dream about the next steps for Love & Hands. Through the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) module, Erica saw a way to engage and grow the wider community. ABCD focuses on encouraging community members to move away from being clients (who wait for external help) to being citizens (who are responsible, contributing members of their community).
When she returned to Kinyinya, Erica’s new training helped her work with parents to identify and use their own gifts to address the needs of the community. Parents started their own community projects to help support their children’s education. Those with farming experience grew produce to help feed the kids. Another parent with tailoring skills took it upon herself to train other women in the community so they could start their own small business. Together, they collected old fabric and utilized two sewing machines to teach income-generating skills to more than a hundred women. Also, when it was identified that some community members couldn’t participate due to sight issues, the tailors contributed to helping them start up businesses that could be sustained even with limited vision.
Erica was incredibly proud of the change she saw in these parents, but she began to wonder: What would it be like if kids were given the same training? If their giftings were recognized and supported in the same way? Erica started working with the kids to help them uncover their talents and taught them how to use what they have to make a difference. With her support and encouragement, the children of the community began to dream—they began to act. One child saved up to purchase a couple of rabbits and began to grow a small animal-keeping business that supports him through school. He now raises and sells rabbits, chickens, and guinea pigs. With this income, he helps to support his family, while also paying his school fees so that he can receive a quality education. Another child with an affinity for art collects sticks from around the neighbourhood to craft model cars, which she sells as toys.
“There is no greater power than a community that has discovered what it cares about.” – Erica Matasi
With both parents and children recognizing the skills and talents they have to offer, the community is being transformed from one in need to one that is flourishing. The community initiatives are improving the quality of life for everyone, as well as providing the resources for healthy meals and a good education for the children. Erica has played a huge role in this transformation. Through Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute, she is being shaped with leadership skills that empower her to serve this community with her love and her hands. By acting as an empowered leader and understanding that everyone has been given a gift or a talent from God that they can use to succeed in life, Erica has cultivated a community of trust and spiritual support, as well as a new excitement from parents in regards to the future of their children’s education.
Wellspring’s Abundant Leadership Institute works with leaders in education who have a heart for transforming their communities. We empower them with the skills to spread their vision to others and to lead by example. You can be a part of their journey too! By partnering with Wellspring, you can help us empower passionate leaders like Erica to become models for effective, servant leadership in Rwanda. Will you join with us today?