I was born in Burundi, where my parents had migrated during to the 1959 war in Rwanda.
My father passed away when I was 2 years old and my mother was pregnant with my younger sister.
Life became very difficult for us because my mother was jobless and didn’t have support.
When I was 6, the 1994 Rwandan genocide started; at the same time there was also a war in Burundi. We were asking ourselves where to go because we could be killed in either country.
We stayed in Burundi. Then, when the genocide ended, we moved to Rwanda.
We arrived with nothing and found that our family members in Rwanda had been killed during the genocide. Life was difficult because we were starting a new life in a new country with nothing — and we didn’t have hope for the future.
The unforgettable day that led to a big change in my life is the day I was selected to be sponsored by Compassion International. Before this ministry, I could not afford a school uniform or school fees.
But with Compassion, my family became stable.
After primary school, I took the national exam and succeeded with good marks. I went on to secondary school.
I thought that the only way to improve my life was to work hard, and I was determined to do so. I wanted to pursue a career that would be meaningful.
I took biology and chemistry in secondary school because I wanted to become a dentist.
To do this I had to work even harder. I did my best not to disappoint myself, Compassion or my family who were striving to help me.
I completed secondary school with good marks, and the government awarded me to continue my studies at the Kigali Health Institute. I am now sponsored by the government as a student in dentistry.
I chose this profession purposefully because, when I was in secondary school, I suffered from oral disease. Through Compassion I received the care I needed and my oral disease was healed.
So I made the decision to work hard, study dentistry and learn about oral disease so I can make a difference in my country. Not only that, but I also want to go beyond the borders of Rwanda to help prevent such diseases and give the care to others that was given to me.
I have already started to give oral-health education classes to children at the Compassion-assisted Gakinjiro Student Center, and I want to continue helping at other child development centers.
I will never forget the great benefits I have received through Compassion International, so now and in the time to come, I will continue to enable others to enjoy the same advantages as I have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurent Hategekimana is a former participant in the Compassion program and is studying dentistry at the Kigali Health Institute.