The Rwanda Seniors Life Centre was founded by Christine Karebwayire. Her passion for the cause was the result of her childhood and her deep devotion and connection to her grandparents.
“In our culture and society, it’s a moral obligation to take care of our elders. Growing up, I found myself living with my grandparents. It was common practice in our society for the grandchildren come to take the place of their parents and look after their grandparents. I felt loved; I enjoyed my grandpa’s stories very much. I would go to my parent’s house just to play with my brothers, and then go home to my grandparents. I was helping with the household chores and everything that a child was capable of helping with around the house, such as fetching water and other simple house holds chores. If there were something that was too complicated for me to do, my Dad and his siblings would come and do it.
When I left Africa for Canada in 1998, my brother and my cousin went to live with my grandparents to help them with house chores; my grandparents always had their grandchildren and their children around them, in fact, all their grandchildren wished they could all live there. What was the attraction? It was the grandparents’ love and care. I really wish all children would have a strong bond with their grandparents because without that bond, I believe they both miss out on something very important in their lives.
I remember when my Grandpa was very sick in 2004, he was admitted to hospital and his last wish was to see me. I was able to visit him, and when I reached his bed, I bent down and hugged him tightly, and he said, “God, thank you for giving me what I asked for, now you can do whatever you want.” He passed away two years later in 2006”
Christine was inspired to form the organization after seeing the need for a senior’s complex when visiting her home country of Rwanda.
“December 2016, when I went back to Rwanda; I saw the suffering of elderly widows who were genocide survivors because their children and grandchildren were all killed. Imagine being in the house alone with nobody to talk to, or to help with the house chores. Some of their houses are not in good shape and when the rain came, it rained on them. The memories of my grandparents’ love and kindness made me fall in love with all elderly people. Whenever I see them suffering it breaks my heart, which led me to ask myself, “What if it was my grandparents were living in that situation? What would I do?” I would do whatever it took to get somebody to take care of them, and make sure that they were safe. I quickly realized that helping many of these widows was not something that I could do alone, and that is why I am asking for help; And that is how I came up with the idea of starting a non-for profit organization so that together, we could help elderly men and women (whom I call my grandparents). My hope is that every widow or widower no longer has to suffer alone.”
In Canada, Christine worked in a nursing home and has loved helping and taking care of seniors. This inspired the idea to create a similar facility in Rwanda for those who are currently suffering.
“Here in Canada, I worked in a nursing home and loved helping and taking care of the elderly. I always treated them as if they were my own grandparents. I loved listening to their stories and enjoyed just being around them. They always asked me to come back once I get time to chat with them and I did so whenever I got the chance. I am married with 3 beautiful children. After my third child, in 2010 I decided to go back to school to become a nurse which was my career childhood dream. In 2012 I graduated as a Licensed Practical Nurse and now works in the psychiatric section of the hospital. I love helping people and care for them on a regular basis, and hope elders in Rwanda get shelters, nurses and health care aides to care for them.