Imagine if your family moved to another country, and left you behind.
Imagine if they left you with a relative who neglected and abused you.
Then imagine trying to keep hope, stay focused on your goals, and finding strength to carry on.
This story is of a young woman’s fight for her education, against all odds.
Apophie was born into poverty- in a family with many mouths to feed and too few crops to grow. Her father took out a loan with the bank, and when he couldn’t come up with the funds to pay back, they went bankrupt. In an act of desperation, Apophie’s parents fled to neighboring Uganda to find work, but they couldn’t afford to take her with them. She was left behind with a distant cousin who did not want the burden of another child to care for.
Life with her cousin was worse than Apophie could imagine. She was forced to work all the time- caring for the younger children, working the land, cleaning the house. Although she was still enrolled in the free public primary school, Apophie was spared no time for studying or homework. Even worse, she knew she was a burden on the family, unwanted, and felt the pain and guilt of being abandoned by her parents.
Apophie heard of Komera through a classmate – and she rushed to the Komera offices on the last day of applications. She cried terribly when she arrived at the office doors, seeing a line of girls applying for scholarships and hearing the application was closed. Komera staff saw the desperation of Apophie and others, and knew they had to extend the application! Apophie narrated her story to Ruth, Komera Social Worker, and showed Ruth her certificate of graduation from primary school. Apophie had passed her exams against all odds! After a home visit and more conversation with Apophie and her relatives, she was accepted as a Komera Scholar with a full tuition scholarship at a nearby boarding school!
Apophie had never been so hopeful about her future. And then in the blink of an eye, her dreams came crashing down when her relatives announced they were moving to the capital city of Kigali to find work.
Apophie had a choice – move to Kigali and continue to lead a life of guilt and sorrow, or find a way to stay to pursue her Secondary education as a Komera Scholar. Homeless but full of hope- Apophie was determined that this was not her story, that she would be more than a domestic house worker for her relatives. She went house to house in her village until a kind elderly woman heard her story, and opened her arms and home to Apophie.
Apophie brought Ruth and the Komera team to her new home, to meet her new guardian and explained her choice. Komera would support her in boarding school and Apophie would stay with the adopted grandmother during school breaks.
Apophie was safe, supported and happy for the first time in many years. Through regular counseling at school and at Komera Leadership Summits, Apophie has come to understand that her family’s choice to abandon her was not her fault, and that she deserves a safe, happy and healthy home life. She has come to peace with her family’s choices, and knows she has the chance to write her own story, and pursue her own path.
Apophie is now studying Math, Chemistry and Biology at Fawe Girls School. Her goal is to become a doctor, and with the support of her guardian along with her new Komera family, we believe she will!