TITLE: Kwizera Means Hope
Having survived the Rwandan genocide in which her father and many schoolmates died, guilt now causes sixteen-year-old Cecile Kwizera loss of appetite, migraines, and nightmares. If she can't overcome the symptoms, she won't be able to keep her housekeeping job with a humanitarian organization which allows her to provide for her family, let alone save enough money to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse.
I really did not want to pick tea for a living.
"It will just be temporary," Mama said. "Until you can find something better."
It didn't matter. Since the war, taking care of my family was more important than anything I wanted.
Anyway, how would I find something better if I had to spend all day in a tea field? I sighed and looked up at the Virunga volcano that seemed to float above the eucalyptus trees in the western sky. Another day out of school, another day further from my dream.
"Keep picking, Cecile," Mama yelled across from the next row. "If you don't meet your quota, Mr. Kabuga will fire you."
What she didn't say was that without this job, our family wouldn't have enough money for food. I hadn't been eating much anyway, but Mama needed to keep her strength up for picking tea and to nurse my baby brother. And my little sisters needed to eat, too.
Lucie and Therese came running down my row of tea plants, screaming and screeching, followed by a gaggle of boys and girls who should have been in school. Like me.
I grabbed Therese, the younger one, and spun her around in the air. Her shrill laughter filled the plantation. At eight years old she was still small enough for me to lift over my head. I couldn't do that anymore to Lucie, only two years older than Therese, despite the lack of food in recent months.
"Cecile!" Mama shouted, the frustration evident in her voice.