Genocide survivors to speak in Victoria
Outreach work of youth group helping children of Rawanda
People of all ages are going to rock the rafters of the Victoria United Church next month during the official kick off for the ShelterThem 100 Days of Change Campaign fundraiser.
“It’s actually a youth rally, a very lively and upbeat service with lots of music and everyone is welcome,” says Sherry Jenkins of Western Bay, who along with her husband Dave, supervises the Victoria United Church Youth Group. “It’s being held Friday April 3 at 7:30 pm.”
Guest speakers for the event are Rwandan genocide survivors and twin sisters, Josephine BurkuruMurphy and Jocelyn Butoyi Alexandre, who now live in Ontario.
The two co-founded Shelter Them, an organization dedicated to providing physical, psychological and spiritual help to the street children of Rwanda.
The Shelter Them 100 Days of Change Campaign, which consists of collecting loose change in a jar, runs for 100 days (from April 6 to July 17) - the same dates that 800,000 Tutsi people were massacred in Rwanda in April 1994 by groups of ethnic Hutu.
As a result of the Rwanda genocide several hundred thousand children were left orphaned and homeless.
Josephine and Jocelyn’s brothers were among the men who went to fight against the genocide.
One of them, Jules, a radio carrier, was shot numerous times and left for dead. However when his friends returned to his body, to get the radio, they found he was still breathing.They picked him up and carried him to a hospital where he remained in a coma for three months.”
About 15 years ago, when the two were 19 years old, they immigrated to Canada.
In September 2005, the girls returned to Rwanda to introduce their husbands to their family. Overwhelmed with the devastation that still existed in the country, as well as the number of children that were left homeless, the two started the foundation Shelter Them.
Sherry and Dave saw the women
Shelter Them on a 100 Huntley Street program last year talking about their life and the organization. Moved by their story, the couple, along with the Victoria United Church Youth Group, decided to host a fundraiser. Before long the entire church congregation was on board and people from the community and surrounding area started donating as well.
Last year’s Shelter Them 100 Days of Change Campaignin Victoria raised $10,000 used to buy food for the children of Rwanda.
The money was presented to Josephine and Jocelyn last July during a Sunday morning service at the United Church in Victoria. This year the Victoria Youth Group hopes to raise enough money to turn a dilapidated building into a cosy orphanage/home for at least 50 children.
“It’s currently in really bad shape,” says Sherry. “It needs a lot of repair work and maintenance.”
Sherry, Dave and Diane Baldwin, another member of the Victoria United Church, plan to travel to Rwanda to help out with the repairs.
“Jocelyn, Josephine and a few members of the Shelter Them team from Ontario are going as well,” adds Sherry.
During the April 3 Youth Rally entitled Love in actionJosephine and Jocelyn will be updating the congregation on what their organization has been doing over the past year.
The sisters will also be speaking with students at Carbonear Collegiate, Persalvic Elementary, Victoria and possibly Cabot Academy, Western Bay, on how they survived the genocide.
“They’ve taken it upon themselves to bring awareness to their organization and the conditions many children in Rwanda are living in,” says Sherry. “They’re very inspiring and their stories are a great learning opportunity for our young people.”
About 25 young people, ages 11-15 attend the Victoria United Church Blast Offyouth group, held Friday nights in the church basement.
“I believe God is speaking directly to this generation of young people,” says Sherry. “They’re the ones he will use to change the world.”
Along with hanging out and having fun members of the youth group are focused on helping people in need.
Over the past year they have served at the soup kitchen on George Street in St. John’s, volunteered with the Bridges to Hope Food Aid Centre and raked and shovelled snow for seniors in the area. They also did their part in the fight against world hunger by participating in the Thirty Hour Famine
“We do a lot of outreach work. We put love into action by making an effort to always help our neighbour,” says Sherry. “But it’s as important for us to help and support those around us as it is for us to help those in other countries. Our neighbour could be someone in another country, another community or the person next door.”
YOUTH RALLY - Twin sisters Josephine Burkuru-Murphy and Jocelyn Butoyi Alexandre, co-founders of the organization will be at Victoria United Church April 3 for a Youth Rally.
LABOUR OF LOVE - Members of the Victoria Youth Group extend a helping hand to seniors in the town by raking leaves off their lawns. Along with hanging out and having fun, members of the youth group are focused on helping people in need
HELPING OUT - From left Rodney Slade, Patrick Jayne and Morgan Clarke, members of the Victoria Youth Group, fill food hampers at the Bridges to Hope Food Aid Center in St. John’s.