Coming home and bringing hopeCorrespondence specialist Moses Kasasira works in his office in Kigali, Rwanda. A former sponsored child, Kasisira was happy for the opportunity to return to his home country and serve in the new Unbound program there.
Son of Rwanda returns to serve
The biblical Moses was born in troubled times and sent to a foreign land for his own safety. He was also ultimately called by God to return to his homeland and serve his people. It’s a destiny to which another Moses, Unbound staff member and former beneficiary Moses Kasasira, can relate.
Kasasira was born in Rwanda. According to the best recollection of his aunt, the year was 1989. When he was a small boy and tensions were rising in his home country, his father decided to take him to neighboring Uganda to keep him out of danger. Kasasira’s mother remained behind. The family has long since lost contact with her and she is presumed to have been killed in the 1994 genocide, which took the lives of an estimated 800,000 people in the Central African nation.
Kasasira grew up in Uganda. Because his father was an itinerant laborer, the boy was never in one place long enough to attend school. Finally, when he was 11, a friend of his father offered to let Kasasira live with him so he could go to school. Two years later, another family friend told Kasasira’s father about Unbound.
Both student and teacher
"[The friend] told my dad, 'Please, there's an organization that is recruiting needy children like yours,'" Kasasira said. "'They know your challenges and they can help.' That was in 2001. I was recruited and then, in 2002, I got a sponsor."
Despite his late start, Kasasira did well in school and, with the support of an Unbound scholarship, entered Kyambogo University in Kampala. As part of his scholarship commitment, he worked with young people in the Unbound program, leading them in community service projects and helping sponsored elders. He also encouraged them to be resilient in the face of challenges.
I always told my youth, 'Don't lose hope. Whenever problems come, don't look like things are done, but always think what’s next.
— Moses Kasasira
What was next for Kasasira was graduating from university in May 2019 and accepting a teaching position at a school in Kampala. While he would have been content to settle into a teacher’s life in Uganda, he soon heard a bit of intriguing news that changed his mind.
The homeland beckons
A friend told Kasasira that Unbound was starting a sponsorship program in Rwanda. He called Teddy Naluwu, coordinator of the Unbound program in Uganda, who confirmed the news and encouraged him to apply for a position on the Rwanda staff that was being formed.
Kasasira felt the time might be right to return to his home country. His father had recently died in a motor vehicle accident and his only remaining family lived in Rwanda. He traveled back there to visit with Anita Kivuye, the newly named coordinator of the Unbound program. After their conversation, he submitted a formal application and was hired.
Kasasira moved back to Rwanda in January 2020 and began his new position as correspondence specialist for Unbound Rwanda. In that role, he oversees all communication between the local office in Kigali and the organization’s worldwide headquarters in Kansas City, including records of sponsored persons and letters between them and their sponsors.
“You know, me working for Unbound is a great pleasure,” Kasasira said. “I really feel satisfied, mostly, working for the [program] that sponsored me from childhood up to where I am. I feel so … happy.”
Moses Kasasira, left, spends an enjoyable moment with his cousin, Bonheur, at a family member’s home in Rwanda. Kasasira, who grew up in Uganda, is pleased to be reunited with his extended family.
Facing a crisis together
Kasasira was settling into his new job just as the COVID-19 crisis began in March. The pandemic hit Rwanda hard, as it did everywhere, and, like every major crisis, had its greatest impact on those living on the margins.
As in every country where Unbound works, most families in Rwanda support themselves through informal jobs. Lacking employment stability, social safety nets or savings, it’s hard for them to withstand even slight shifts in the economy. The pandemic, for many, has been devastating, with the closing of local marketplaces and restrictions in movement.
While there have been considerable challenges, in some ways the Unbound program in Rwanda couldn’t have come at a better time, especially since two of its hallmarks are adaptability to the needs of individual families and the use of direct cash transfers that give families quick access to needed funds.
“We really had to find out all the best ways to see that we assist parents,” Kasasira said. “Mostly, we allowed them to look at what is urgent in the family, to take them through this pandemic, to take them through the crisis … you find out that almost 90%, they are looking at food supplies and they are buying food at least to see how they can sustain themselves now.”
Like his biblical namesake, Moses Kasasira is committed to serving his people for the long haul. He wants the families he works with to have confidence that, with perseverance, good things will happen for them.
“I always tell [the families in the Unbound program], please don't lose hope. Don't think you are alone. You know, you are not alone and, every time, opportunities come along the way.”