When The Afrimax Team firstly visited Nsanzimana Elie, he was almost living in a forest. It was evident that his grown hair was uncut for a long time. His m**ntal illness, coupled with his family’s poverty made him a perfect scapegoat for neighbours, who called him ‘a monkey.’
It was a serious problem her mother couldn’t solve on her own, and she would cry with his son whenever he came back crying from beatings and bullying of the neighbouring children.
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It was a tough life, with absolutely nothing to look forward to. Elie could not study in normal primary school and her mother could not afford a designated, private school for his education.
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Their house was nothing but a toilet, their neighbours used to joke, and Elie’s future, together with her mother’s, was quite uncertain.
Then we visited the family. It was a life changing experience. As Elie’s story surfaced around the World, people contributed and we returned to change the life of this sad family for good.
It was a heart-warming experience when we gave Elie’s mother a fully equipped house built in a good neighbourhood, and she couldn’t logically believe the surprise. “Ohh my God, is this really my house?” She whooped to the cheering crowd.
Such excitement resembles what the family went through when we presented a cake for christmas, on our first visit. “It’s so sweet, it’s unbelievable,” they crowed as they devoured this cake for the very first time.
A welcoming end to the misery
On our third visit, we wanted to do what the Afrimax community wanted to do, which is to help Elie get into an inclusive school.
The school closest to him is Ubumwe Community Center, but it is still some five hours away from her home. Throughout the journey to school, you could clearly see how this young man is now so popular among his neighbours, who used to bully him but now cheer him.
Sometimes our car would be stopped and Elie would get out to wave for the cheering crowd. At one point we struggled to pull him out of the surging crowd that wanted to take a selfie with him.
Justin Nshimiyimana, The School Program Coordinator at Ubumwe Community Center, told us about the idea to bring Elie among others.
“We thought about this for a long time. We followed up on Elie and other children. We have found that adding Elie to other children we take care of, can have a good impact on him,” he cheerfully said.
Since Elie is not used to living with many people, which is happening to him for the very first time, he visibly struggles to socialise, and his behaviour was a massive concern to his mother as we reached to the school.
But Nshimiyimana calmed us down, saying it is normal for newcomers to get confused and somewhat behave differently.
“His current behaviour will change as time goes by, step by step, year after year, we might be able to see Elie who is different from who we are seeing today,” he calmly told us.
A new beginning
When Elie’s mother witnessed her son being enrolled inside this prestigious school, she couldn’t hold her tears of joy, however much she tried.
“I thank all the supporters who helped me including Afrimax journalists and the Afrimax community,” she said crying.
She recounts our first visit and the hope the Afrimax Team gave her, even if she couldn’t believe it. “When Afrimax first came to see me, I was in a very bad situation, I was poor and hungry. They advocated for me and I found food to eat and my situation generally improved,” she remembers.
Her long time in a bad life seems to have somewhat made her immune to the good life, and she was also reluctant to accept that we would coordinate a campaign to build her a house.
“They told me they would build me a house, but because of the small house I was living in, I couldn’t believe it. I just said God can make miracles,” she said.
Getting into the school was a life changing experience for Elie but her mother was relieved as well, especially that she actually used to worry a lot whenever Elie was alone among other children.
“I always asked God to help my child to find a school. He was in a very bad life of being bullied every time. Whenever he went out away from my watch, he would be bullied and beaten. Now the time has come for him to join other children. I am so thankful because my child is having a much better life. I thank everyone who supported us and the journalist who came here to visit us,” she said.
Her relief was visible to her face, “My child is at school and he is among other students. I am more than happy and my sorrow has finally faded,” she joyfully said.
Elie was born after her mother had tried for more than four years. When he was born, her mother had been heavily praying to see a child, even if he would be a m**ntally challenged child. That’s why Elie means a lot to her mother.